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How to use user-generated content to grow your business

User-generated content is one of the most effective ways to promote your small business. Here are some top tips on how you can make UGC work for you.

PosterMyWall free class: How to use user-generated content to grow your business

Nothing is better for your brand than to have customers publicly rave about you! Whether you call it user-generated content (UGC), social proof, or third-party validation, it’s one of the most powerful and cost-effective techniques for growing your small business. 

In this PosterMyWall free class, marketing expert and principal at Hello Fancy Media, Monica Farber, showed us real-life examples of user-generated content on social media. She also shared valuable tips on how to motivate your best customers to create and share content praising your brand.

Here’s what Monica had to say:

What is user-generated content (UGC)? Why is it important?

If a company advertises itself on social media, you might believe them or you might not. But if a friend, a family member, or an influencer you follow raves about a certain product or service–you are far more likely to believe them because it comes from someone you trust. This is UGC and it’s one of the most effective and lowest-cost marketing techniques.  

According to studies, 55% of consumers trust user-generated content over other forms of marketing. 

How to use user-generated content 

Here are some great user-generated content examples that you can adapt for your own business:

Example: Belle and Ten

Belle and Ten is an Atlanta-based boutique that sells jewelry, accessories, and bags. When they found out Monica was headed to the Bahamas, they sent her their brand new beach bag. When she took a picture of herself with it in the Bahamas, the company immediately shared it on its Instagram. 

1. Ask your customers to show your product in action

In this marketing tactic, showing their bag being used by a customer at a beach was effective and far less expensive than shelling out thousands of dollars for a professional photo shoot. 

Example: McDonald’s 

When McDonald’s released their spicy chicken nuggets last year, they sent Monica a gift card and asked her to use it to buy some nuggets, then post something for them. She wanted to have some fun with the post so she placed some nuggets in an empty chocolate box, set up the background really nicely, posted the picture on Instagram, and tagged McDonald’s.

2. The best kind of UGC can be re-used again and again

McDonald’s shared Monica’s post on their page–so they got content practically free from a reliable source (i.e. a customer). Monica received exposure for her page. It was a perfect win-win situation. What’s more–McDonald’s can reshare the post again when they want to promote their nuggets–without having to make any extra effort!

Example: Clermont Hotel

3. Get micro-influencers to talk about your product online

Clermont Hotel is an Atlanta-based hotel that was looking to attract customers during the winter. They hosted an event on their rooftop deck and invited some influencers, who were encouraged to bring a friend with them. Monica attended as a +1 and posted about her experience on social media. So did dozens of other people. In Monica’s post, she talked about why she liked being on the roof deck and encouraged people to visit. This way, the hotel reached new audiences without having to make a lot of effort.

Example: Bartaco

Bartaco’s user-generated content marketing campaign is truly unique. This is an Atlanta-based taco restaurant, and every month, they launch a special secret taco that coincides with the season. Then they invite a bunch of small-scale influencers to come and try the tacos–for free. They don’t have to pay these influencers. These are micro-influencers with followings in the hundreds or low thousands. But they still make an impact when they post about their experience. 

Example: Starbucks 

Starbucks is a good example of a big company routinely using user-generated marketing campaigns to advertise new drinks and food items. In this particular example, a regular Instagram user created a reel showing off her new Starbucks drink. She may have done this to get Starbucks’ attention, to increase her likes and followers, or simply to show people what she’s drinking. 

Regardless, it was a win for Starbucks.

4. Re-share UGC to reward participating customers with exposure

Starbucks reposted the reel, which created free publicity for them and also increased the customer’s social media following. This demonstrates that often brands don’t even have to pay customers to post content for them. Just drawing attention to their account is enough to motivate and reward many customers.

Example: Westelm

Westelm is a furniture store that encourages people to create content that shows how they have styled their home or office with purchases from the store. If someone’s proud of their interior design skills or an aspiring lifestyle blogger, they’re going to be motivated to share their pictures. 

People used the hashtag #MyWestelm to share their creations, which allowed the business to easily find and share them. 

Example: De Choker

5. Gather customer reviews and post them online

De Choker is a company that makes a little plastic device that parents can use to aid a choking child. Their approach to UGC was to gather real reviews from satisfied customers and share them on social media. The campaign was a success because people are much more likely to trust the word of parents who have tried and tested a product than they are a company that has a financial stake in the product.

Example: TaskRabbit

TaskRabbit is a company that connects consumers with handymen who can fix things around their homes e.g. put in a new ceiling fan or change a light bulb. People share photos and videos of their TaskRabbit makeovers in their homes, and the company shares them on its page. This is real-life content, and people can see exactly what kind of results the company is able to generate, making this approach far superior to a traditional commercial. 

How do you motivate people to create and share content for you?

Offer incentives. As we’ve seen with the examples shared above, people will create and share content for you when they know they’re going to get something out of it, whether that’s likes, followers, or free stuff. 

6. Incentivise your customers to create and share content for you

Examples of incentives include:

Trade product for content

Per the Bartaco example, the restaurant traded one free meal in exchange for Instagram posts or stories. All parties benefited. 


Rather than offering small compensation to everyone who participates, you can set up a competition to win a larger prize. For instance, if you’re a furniture company like Westelm, you could award a free chair or gift certificate to the person who posts the photo of the best-looking living room. 


Incentivising for reviews ensures that you get lots and lots of useful feedback on your products or services. You can offer a 10% off coupon, a gift card, or free ice cream to everyone who posts a review.  

Once you’ve gathered enough reviews, you can compile them into a nice-looking collage using PosterMyWall’s collage maker, then post them to your social media as De Choker did. 

7. Allow less tech-savvy customers to participate as well using QR codes

This is a great option if your customers aren’t very tech-savvy. All you have to do is generate a QR code that leads to your Facebook or Instagram page and paste it somewhere near your cash register where people will see it. Then ask people to follow you on social media and share pictures of their purchase. If they’re stuck, all they have to do is scan the QR code and they’ll be taken directly to your page. 

The incentive lies in the ease with which people will then be able to engage with you online. You can pair this with more incentives like a 10% off coupon for everyone who shares pictures. 

Here are some examples of incentives that brands have shared with their customers:

Example: Woo Skincare Cosmetics Atlanta

Woo is a luxury skincare and cosmetic boutique in Atlanta that asked its clients–high school girls who got their hair and makeup done for prom–to share pictures of their finished looks. They also came up with a custom hashtag for the campaign and asked people to tag them. 

When people shared their pictures, Woo re-shared them on their social media. The customers got exposure and social clout, while the boutique got new clients who were the friends and family members of their clients.

Example: Wayfair

Wayfair is a home decor store that followed the same UGC promotional method as Woo and Westelm. People shared their decorated bedrooms and living rooms using the hashtag #WayfairAtHome, which Wayfair then reshared on their own pages. 

Example: Chobani

Greek yogurt company Chobani used UGC in an extremely creative way. They created the Chobani Flip Challenge, a TikTok challenge that people could enter for a chance to win free yogurt. 

8. Start a TikTok challenge

This is a great example of a company using a trending platform to start a challenge everyone can be a part of. All the entries are essentially free publicity, and the cost that the company puts in is only for the one person who wins. 

9. Use hashtags to boost your UGC campaign 

If you accompany a user-generated content marketing campaign with a hashtag that people can use when they share their posts, you’ll be able to look up the hashtag, find the relevant posts, and select the ones you want to share. 

At the same time, your customers will be able to look up the hashtag to go through the content and get ideas to create their own. 

10. Always ask for permission before reposting content on social media

This is important: make sure to ask permission before sharing other people’s content on your feed. They will most likely say yes (which is why they created it in the first place), but better safe than sorry!

As long as you give credit to the person who originally made the post you are sharing, and you have permission, resharing is legal. That’s why, when you repost a post to your story, Instagram automatically has the account’s username displayed under the post. 

The best practice is to ask permission and keep a record of the content generator’s consent so you can avoid complications in the future. 

Start promoting using user-generated content today!

You can adapt any of the examples Monica shared above to make them work for your business, be it a challenge, gift cards, QR codes, you name it. So start reaching out to your customers and encouraging them to create content for your business.

To help you get started, Monica has shared a guide to using user-generated content to promote your business. If you’re new to PosterMyWall, you can use our range of PosterMyWall templates and create quick designs to promote your UGC-related challenges, giveaways, and more.