User-generated content (UGC) is immeasurably valuable. Why? Because your fans are your most genuine ambassadors. And sometimes, you’ll find that they sell your product in the most creative of ways. Who better to sell your product than the people who love it most?

But while we know it works, curating content from fans is not always as simple as searching your brand’s geotag. Sure, you can find some great content there. But once that content runs dry, how do you keep the UGC fountains flowing? From social media contests to campaign hashtags to in-store promotions, we spell out exactly how to get the content you’re looking for.

1. Did someone say “prize”?

There’s nothing like incentive to get your fans’ creative juices flowing, and a social media contest is the perfect platform to offer it. And whether you provide a physical giveaway, like a free product or service, or something as simple as the chance to be featured on your brand’s blog, fans will participate. After all, who doesn’t like a little shameless self-promotion? In 2017, EVR ran a contest offering a $1000 first place prize for video submissions on what life in New Hampshire meant to them. From scores of video clips submitted, we created this video that perfectly encompassed “College in the 603” for the New Hampshire Community Colleges.

And the best part for you is, you’ll get more than just their content. A social media contest will help increase your brand exposure and reach as well. So how do you run a UGC contest on social media?

  • Set some ground rules. How will people enter? Do you want them to send submissions directly to your social media page? Would you rather they email entries? Or maybe they post a photo to their page and tag you with your brand’s hashtag. No matter which option you choose, make rules for participation short and easy to follow.
  • Design a piece of content that stands out. Don’t just repurpose a photo, slap a logo on and write “Contest” or “Giveaway” on it with the rules in the body of your post. Design a graphic or lightweight video specific to your contest that is on-brand and lists the rules (in short form) to catch the eye of the scroller.
  • Pick your prize. Select something that will be easy for you to give away to a winner so you’re not scrambling once you pick one. Build a prize pack, provide a free month’s subscription or a gift card, offer the chance to be featured on your blog or social media pages. The opportunities are endless—you just have to decide what UGC is worth to you.
  • Launch your promotion. Once you’ve done the above, you’re ready to launch your promotion. Pick your platforms and make sure you research any contest rules specific to them, then get ready to watch the UGC waves roll in.

2. A UGC content library? Don’t mind if we do.

Hashtags are a great way to promote what your campaign represents—your main message. But even more than that, they’re an immensely helpful tool in helping build your UGC content library. There are over 652,000 Instagram posts with #ShareaCoke from Coca-Cola’s campaign. And despite Lays’ #DoUsaFlavor contest not running the last several years, the brand still receives posts from the hashtag on Twitter in 2020. So how do you start a successful hashtag campaign?

  • Know your audience and platform. While it’s encouraged to promote your brand across a variety of platforms, keep in mind that someone on Facebook or LinkedIn might not be searching a hashtag the way someone on Twitter or Instagram might be. And if someone isn’t searching it, they’re probably not likely to implement it in their own posts. Save more professional hashtags for LinkedIn and consider getting a little more fun on Twitter or Instagram.
  • Do your research. Before settling on a hashtag, see what competitors are doing and make sure your hashtag is appropriate for the landscape while maintaining originality. Find what people are searching for. Play on trending topics. Keep it short and sweet.
  • Engage with your audience. Encourage users to add your hashtag to their posts, and when they do, interact with them. Fans are seeking a payoff as much as you are.

3. Have a storefront? Use it.

Storefronts can be tremendously helpful in getting customers to engage with your brand. If your brand hosts an in-store event, you’re sure to find photos of it online, either through brand geotags, location geotags or hashtags. But beyond that, you can create opportunities where you might not know they exist.

  • Work with influencers. If your goal is to get people in your store, influencers are a great way to do it. When you consider that 91% of millennials trust online reviews as much as their own friends and family, you have a massive opportunity to build authenticity and trust for your brand. Work with influencers to create in-store content to drive users down the purchase funnel.
  • Use the tools at your disposal. Are you a retailer with a dressing room? Post signs or write on your mirror about a discount for uploading a photo to social media and tagging you. Are you a bar or restaurant? Use check inserts to offer a free drink or appetizer for snapping a photo of your meal.

No matter your product or service, you can find a way to use UGC to your advantage. And by using these tips, you’ll have an arsenal full of it at your disposal.