Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that most people spend a lot of time on the internet—since you’re reading this on our blog, we can guess that probably includes you. However, while this post is an example of content created by a company, a good portion of what you see on the internet is actually media created by your peers, much of which is user-generated content (UGC).

So, what all does UGC entail? According to Duct Tape Marketing, user-generated content includes “any form of online content such as a Tweet, Snap, Facebook status, Instagram post, or blog that contain authentic opinions about a service or product as experienced by a non-professional.” Some other examples would be YouTube product reviews or the feedback on Amazon that you browse through before you hit “submit” on your online shopping cart.

The average person spends a lot of time creating and consuming user-generated content. The Ipsos Millennial Social Influences Study found that UGC makes up an average of 30% of total millennial media consumption, which comes out to roughly 5 hours a day. Additionally, user-generated content was rated as more memorable and trustworthy when compared to marketing in other types of media. This is probably because UGC is created by normal, everyday people expressing their genuine reactions. And now, with devices like smartphones and tablets, it’s easier than ever for anyone to create content on a multitude of social media platforms.

The prevalence and sincerity of UGC creates a prime opportunity for companies to engage with consumers in authentic and entertaining ways. Because our strategic marketing approach is all about keeping things fresh, we’ve explored some examples that illustrate the exciting benefits of user-generated marketing content. Read on to find out how these innovative approaches can help you.

  1. Turn things around. While UGC campaigns can be a huge opportunity, they can also open the door for a lot of negativity. But there’s an upside: according to The Retail Consumer Report, 18% of consumers who posted a complaint or negative review after holiday shopping got a response from the retailer that, in the end, successfully converted them into loyal customers and lead them to buy more.
  1. Interact in real time. In the wildly successful Old Spice advertising campaign, ‘Smell Like a Man, Man,’ the initial ad was so popular that the company decided to follow up with a completely new approach. The ad’s actor, Isaiah Mustafa, was filmed personally responding to user comments as they came in. This unique interactive experience prompted an enthusiastic response that propelled the campaign into viral internet history.
  1. Encourage participation. With UGC, consumers can personally take part in your campaign via social media. In April 2014, Marc Jacobs announced on Twitter that he was casting “real people” in his next campaign. Within the next 24 hours alone, excited followers uploaded over 15,000 selfies with the hashtag #CastMeMarc. Later, Marc Jacobs released a follow-up video showing interviews with the winners.
  1. Share stories. Brands constantly tell consumers about the benefits of their products. But how about letting customers be the ones to illustrate how their purchase has improved their life? For their “Fix in Six” campaign, Lowe’s invited customers to share how they approach home improvement by tweeting with the hashtag #FanFixInSix. Select tips were used to create inspiring six-second videos on the (then up-and-coming) Vine platform.
  1. Gain insight. In 2014, users were invited to craft their own break-up letters to their mobile carriers when they switched to T-Mobile. Not only did this give customers an opportunity to be creative, it also helped T-Mobile find out what issues were most important to newfound customers so that T-Mobile could improve its approach to its own service.
  1. Stimulate creativity. UGC campaigns have the potential to put power into the hands of the consumer. In Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” campaign, customers invented new chip flavors and voted on their favorites via social media. The huge customer response prompted Lay’s to make the campaign an annual event. This UGC campaign structure captures the idea of user-generated content marketing because it’s easily adaptable and puts the focus on customers by allowing consumers to contribute ideas and make decisions about their favorite brands (that’s you!).