6 Interesting Ways to Encourage User Generated Content on Instagram

Promoting and encouraging user generated content (UGC) can be a cost-effective tactic that yields a variety of benefits from enriching customer experiences to building a stronger community. According to Nielsen, 43% of consumers are more likely to purchase a product after learning about it on social media, a common distribution channel for user generated content.

While there are multiple social channels to promote user content, Instagram has been an increasingly popular platform for brands interested in visual storytelling and can be an effective network for both large and small businesses to encourage users to generate content.

From having an on-site photo booth in your retail stores to running a social contest or integrating Instagram photos in your web properties, there are many ways to encourage your customer base to take and share images of your products and offerings on Instagram.

Learn from the following strategies and how these brands promoted and drove unique user generated content campaigns on Instagram to expand their content’s organic reach, increase social proof, and create visually compelling stories.

Build a Fun On-Site Photo Booth

In Australia, the beverage brand Fanta took their billboard advertising to another level by building a small photo printer into one of their billboard advertisements. The ad instructed passersby to take a selfie and publish their content to Instagram. After participants published their images and used the hashtag, #FantaTastesLike, they were rewarded with a printed and branded copy of their photo to take with them.

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Fanta encourages user generated content with a creative billboard advertising that entices social sharing.

A photo booth can be a creative and low-cost option to generate user content at company branded events, in your retail stores, or through other means such as billboard advertising. By creating a fun user experience and enticing their audience with a small reward, Fanta was able to create more branded mentions on Instagram.

Consider giving your fans the option to submit photos and video content in a fun and inviting manner such as through a photo booth, a selfie cam or other methods to help cultivate media rich content for your brand.

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Source: JCDecaux

Share Real-Time User Generated Content from Live Events

Live feeds and social streams from popular events may seem like a perfect campaign for Twitter users, but Instagram has also become known for having users share their favorite moments from events such as concerts, festivals, and other live occasions. Camera manufacturer GoPro recently began promoting #GoProMusic, which highlighted fan photos submitted from their GoPro cameras at the Bonnaroo Music Festival.

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GoPro influences fans to share content from the Bonnaroo Music Festival.

GoPro leveraged the excitement of the popular event by creating a real-time marketing strategy designed around promoting user generated content as fans shared their favorite moments. Ask your followers to share their experiences from an event and actively participate in the excitement by republishing their content on both Instagram and responding with real-time feedback from the event.

By sharing real-time user generated content from events that relate to your business, your brand can capitalize on trending topics that your audience can more easily relate with, which can help you better maximize your marketing efforts in the process.

Leverage Popular Hashtag Trends to Drive Reach

Following a similar concept to real-time marketing, using popular hashtags can also help your brand encourage user generated content and expand your reach by aligning your brand with popular and trendy events.

For example, Walgreens created a campaign around the popular #TBT or #ThrowbackThursday hashtag on Instagram and aligned the event with graduation season, an event on many of their customers minds. Their campaign encouraged followers to share old or embarrassing photos of the graduates in their life with hopes of being featured on Walgreens’ social channels.

It’s important to note that Walgreens also added a branded twist to the TBT hashtag by asking users to promote their content with the #tbtWalgreens hashtag, which could help their marketing department measure the success of the campaign afterwards.

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Walgreens #tbtWalgreens campaign shares user generated content based on the popular Throwback Thursday trends.

Taking advantage of trending hashtags can help your content reach a much broader audience which can increase the likelihood that your campaign will attract more impressions and participants. You should also consider adding a custom hashtags that are unique to your brand to help associate the themes that your regular series of content address.

Design Contests to Inspire User Content on Social

Promoting sweepstakes and contests through social media is not a new tactic, but the marketing department at Pepsi MAX designed a campaign that uniquely inspired thousands of fans to create user generated content by showcasing their fan entries throughout the contest.

The MAX It Now challenge sought to find Pepsi sponsored driver Jeff Gordon’s biggest fan. Contest participants were awarded points for completing daily challenges that involved publishing content to their social networks until a top ten was announced. This 24-day campaign continually engaged fans and generated approximately 16,000 posts on social media.

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While not every company has the resources that Pepsi had to maintain and market a campaign of this magnitude, Pepsi used a variety of actionable techniques to drive the success of this contest. When managing a contest to promote user generated content consider the following:

  • Require contestants to use a specific hashtag or mention your brand in their content. This can help you monitor the results and share great content while your contest is live.
  • Make it easy for your customers to join in your promotions by using an easy to remember hashtag that is associated with your brand or contest. Advertise this message on social media, television and other advertising mediums to make your efforts more recognizable.
  • In addition to giving away a prize, acknowledge your engaged customers by sharing their content and rewarding them for participating in your promotion. Recognizing your fans can be a strong motivating factor for them to share more branded content in the future while also encouraging others to share content with hopes of a shout out from your brand.

Marketing Trendy Social Issues to Evoke User Generated Content

Addressing cultural and social issues can be a challenging but rewarding tactic for brands to tackle. When executed properly and with careful tact, these topics can evoke customer emotion and encourage user generated content.

Organic food and drink manufacturer, Clif Bar & Company, began the #MeetTheMoment campaign to raise awareness about environmental concerns by donating to several non-profits for each hashtag mention that their Instagram account received.

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When addressing cultural issues or starting a social movement as the marketers at Clif Bars did, consider supporting a campaign that aligns with your business offerings or products as it relates with your brand. For example, Clif Bars, which has positioned themselves as popular supplier for outdoor enthusiasts, focused their campaign around outdoor adventure, which made their #MeetTheMoment campaign more relevant to their fans and target audience.

Additionally, your campaigns should remain genuine by focusing primarily on your users content and the issue that you are addressing, rather than your brand. The goal is inspire your audience by emotionally tying them into your brand and making them feel like they are a part of a bigger picture.

Publicly Recognize User Generated Content to Encourage Others

In general, people enjoy being acknowledged for their contributions and efforts on social media and sometimes a simple, “way to go!” can encourage a customer to continually interact with your brand. While all of these examples have been from larger organizations, it’s important to note that you do not need to have a huge brand presence to drive quality user generated content.

When looking to develop brand awareness and increase tourism income, the city of Truckee California turned to social media and their avid fans to help deliver the message. #TruckeeMoments is an ongoing campaign developed by local agency Out&AboutMarketing that highlights local residents and tourists enjoying Truckee.

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What began as a 30-day contest to drive attention to the area during peak tourism season, evolved into an ongoing social movement, all without the presence of a large brand or organization. The campaign focused on republishing user generated content that was tagged with #TruckeeMoments and the results grew exponentially as word-of-mouth and impressions grew over time. Over 1300 photos have been submitted to date, with 603 new Instagram followers, and a 64% increase in website traffic.

As a key takeaway from these brands and campaigns, focus your attention on your target audience and reward their efforts by sharing their content, interactions, and social conversations with your brand. By publishing, regramming, or sharing their user generated content to your Instagram and other distribution networks, you can better recognize your brand ambassadors and encourage others to share their content.

In what ways has your brand encouraged the creation of user generated content? How would you go about sharing your user’s content on Instagram? What marketing benefits have you derived from your user’s content? Write your answers in the comments section below.


  • atrain714

    Great blog post Brian, I really like these UGC campaigns. Another area I’d add is monthly subscription boxes. They have grown like crazy in the past few years and a big component of them is the “unboxing experience” and getting their customers to create UGC and share out to their friends and family. I wrote about how Warby Parker encouraged UGC here: http://www.postano.com/blog/10-great-examples-of-user-generated-content-campaigns

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