Building brand advocates with user-generated content

McKenzie Gregory

These days, buying clothes from a particular label or drinking a certain brand of beer isn’t just a matter of preference; every product you choose says something about who you are. And now that social channels have taken over mainstream media, more and more people are using those platforms to share their self-image – and, as a fundamental part of that, the brands they love – with the world.

Introducing user-generated content

Apps like Instagram, VSCO and Afterlight have led to an increased availability of high-quality photos distributed by everyday individuals, so marketers now have unprecedented access to their consumer’s real-life product experience. This user-generated content (UGC) has become a force to be reckoned with within the marketing community. Did you know that UGC is 50% more trusted by users than traditional media (Ipsos Millenial Social Influence Study)? Or that only 15% of people trust recommendations from brands, while a whopping 84% of people trust recommendations from people they know (WeRSM)?

Leveraging UGC should be a no-brainer for the modern marketer. It allows you to build a loyal following of brand advocates that are eager to make their voices (and your brand’s message) heard. It encourages engagement and produces a steady stream of incoming content, minimizing your own day-to-day workload. And, perhaps most importantly, it promotes authenticity: A consumer is much more likely to trust a friend’s Instagram photo of your hotel than the glossy, Photoshopped images they’d find in a brochure.

While Instagram isn’t the only platform that brands use to reap user-generated content (think Twitter, Vine… even uber-transparent customer reviews on Amazon), it does lend itself to some seriously sexy marketing campaigns. Here are a few examples we love:

See it in action

REVOLVE Clothing




In this example from REVOLVE Clothing, the team nestled their email signup form underneath a block of user-generated images pulled from an Instagram hashtag. That way, they were able to take advantage of user-generated content in a useful way that encouraged individuals to subscribe to their emails.




And when a user signed up via the form, this is the first email they received: more user-generated content. This smart tactic helped REVOLVE create a cohesive through-line from their website to the inbox, helping the brand establish trust with their subscribers from the very beginning of their relationship.

Maggie Sottero

Bridal designer Maggie Sottero features a section on her retail website called “Maggie Brides,” which pulls Instagram photos that show real brides wearing Maggie Sottero gowns into a clean, attractive gallery format.




Let’s be real: People already love sharing their wedding photos, and this campaign provides a great way for brides-to-be to see what Maggie Sottero dresses look like on real women. 64% of people say the customer experience is more important than price when it comes to making purchase decisions (Gartner), so by making the “Maggie Bride” experience more accessible to consumers, Maggie Sottero paves the way toward higher conversion rates.





Contests encourage consumers to provide user-generated content for your brand by providing them with a juicy incentive. In this example from Dramamine, the brand asked users to hashtag their best outdoor photos with #NaturalMoments (tying it to the idea that Dramamine Non-Drowsy Naturals would keep them from missing out on the beauty of nature due to motion sickness). And they spiced up the deal to make it worth the effort: Each person who participated in the campaign was entered to win a $3,000 Travel Prize Package.

How to use UGC in your own marketing:

1. Curate existing photos by hashtag. You may already have a ton of ready-to-use UGC – you just haven’t found it yet! Search Instagram and Twitter for hashtags you think your customers may have used to reference your brand and, if you find anything you like, ask the user for permission to feature their image or tweet. We’re willing to bet that, more often than not, they’ll be thrilled about the recognition.

2. Promote a hashtag in key areas to begin collecting content. If you want to begin curating content relevant to a specific campaign or product release, develop a unique hashtag that customers can use to indicate their participation. Be clear about how you plan to use the content (“We’ll be featuring our favorites on our company’s blog”), and promote the hashtag in key areas: on your website, in your emails, at your brick-and-mortar store or through social media influencers.

3. Integrate social feeds into your emails. Build loyalty with the power of social proof using our Avari integration, which allows you to embed live social feeds that update with every open of an email (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and more!).

About the Author

McKenzie Gregory

McKenzie Gregory is a senior content manager on Emma’s marketing team. A Nashville native, she can be found covering all things email on the Emma blog, debating hyphenation rules, and watching obscene amounts of Netflix without a trace of shame.

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