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4 User-Generated Content Ideas (and Tools To Check If They Work)



4 User-Generated Content Ideas (and Tools To Check If They Work)

It’s hard to keep the content on your social channels fresh. Even with a topic calendar, it can be difficult to figure out a new angle, an original take, or something that doesn’t read and look like every other brand-created post.

Luckily, you don’t have to create everything you publish on social media platforms.

Your customers and friends likely are generating content, tagging your brand, or mentioning your products in their tweets, Instagram Stories, and TikTok videos every day. Why not incorporate that user-generated content into your brand’s social media calendar?

You don’t have to take a wait-and-hope approach for user-generated content. You can actively encourage your audiences to develop UGC.

You don’t have to take a wait-and-hope approach for user-generated content. Encourage your audience to create it, says @ab80 (via @CMIcontent) #UGC Click To Tweet

4 types of user-generated content

Several formats and focuses fall into the category of user-generated content. Let’s look at four cases.

1. Reviews

People write posts, upload photos, and shoot videos as they evaluate products they use in real life. If you’re in the cosmetics, apparel, household items, gadgets, books business – or other tangible product industry – reviews are a great source of UGC. Audiences see those reviews as social proof (or disproof) about the products.

In some cases, brands ask their customers to post reviews and even offer a small gift in exchange. If you opt to reward creators for reviews, make sure they note that in their post. It’s important to their credibility and yours.

Ask customers to post reviews of your product, then use them as social proof, says @ab80 (via @CMIcontent). #UGC Click To Tweet

This Instagram post discusses a positive experience the poster had with You Move Me Vancouver. They include the postcard note requesting the review in the image.

User-generated content example showing Instagram post containing review for You Move Me moving company.

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It’s one of dozens of reviews on the moving company’s Instagram account.

Of course, not all reviews are positive. That’s why you don’t want to automatically share or retweet any social post that tags or mentions your brand. In this example, the reviewer posted her analysis of a lip balm from Biossance on Instagram. The caption reads, in part: “Honestly this product did nothing! It didn’t hydrate my lips AT ALL.”

Instagram post containing a not-favorable review of Biossance lip balm.

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That kind of UGC review wouldn’t work well if published by Biossance on its social media channels.

How to encourage reviews

To promote people writing about your brand on social media, you can:

  • Publish review requests on multiple places (a banner on your site, a mention in a post-purchase email, a QR code or sticker on your product package, etc.).
  • Create an incentive such as prizes or discounts on the next purchase for people who participate in a review challenge contest. (All reviews in the competition should note their involvement in the reward game.)
  • Ask for a review via emails or texts to your customers.
  • Post the request periodically on your social pages.

TIP: Always get written permission from the author to republish their review on your site or channels and tag them whenever possible.

2. Tagged photos and videos

Many people tag brand handles and use branded hashtags when posting their content. Some do it organically, and some do it because they’re being paid through sponsor deals.

In this Instagram post, Italian influencer Teagmini wears clothes from and tags United Colors of Benetton while visiting a plant shop in Turtle Island. (She discloses that it’s a paid partnership by using #adv in the caption.)

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Then, United Colors of Benetton used that image on an Instagram Inspiration page on its website.

Benetton website Instagram Inspiration page showing user-generated content of people wearing outfits that include the brand's clothing.

This approach created a double benefit for Benetton. First, the page works as an additional storefront for new buyers (each image includes a clickable link to buy the clothes in the image) where real people – not supermodels – wear the brand’s clothes. Second, it nudges customers to create content — by asking them to upload photos of their new outfits on Instagram and tag @benetton.

How to encourage tagged content

Since social media users crave beautiful and distinctive content for their pages, your task is to create a powerful magnet to attract them. Here is a handful of ideas:

  • Add some originality to your product packaging (think Starbucks’ name cups or Apple’s stylish iPhone boxes.)
  • Create a backdrop or setting at your store or office that people will want to take a picture in front of.
  • Repost photos and videos with your brand mentions in your feed.
  • Host contests, such as the best photo of the month, and require people to tag your brand or use a brand hashtag to enter.

3. Creation challenges

Curating user content doesn’t have to be limited to hashtags and tagging. GoPro frequently hosts video-shooting challenges to recruit new committed fans (and promote its new products.)

This fall, its GoPro Million Dollar Challenge asks people to shoot with its new HERO10 Black camera and submit the unedited footage through the GoPro website. Entrants who have clips selected from their videos for the HERO10 Black Highlight Video split $1 million.


@goproShoot for your share of $1,000,000. The #GoProMillionDollarChallenge is back 💰 Snag your #GoProHERO10 Black + head to to learn more♬ original sound – GoPro

The winners then will share the video using the hashtag #GoProMillionDollarChallenge with their social media audiences, expanding GoPro’s social reach and being seen, liked, and commented on by people, some of whom may become motivated or inspired to buy the HERO10 Black or other GoPro camera.

#GoProMillionDollarChallenge asks customers to submit unedited #UGC videos. If @GoPro uses theirs, creators get a share of $1 million (via @CMIcontent) Click To Tweet

How to do a creation challenge

To run a creation challenge, determine the aspect of your brand it will promote:

  • Product
  • Customer service
  • Customer experience or attitude to your brand

Then, decide what you will ask the audience to do to enter. Don’t make it overly complicated, or people won’t enter but do make sure it’s legally compliant. Determine the prize.

Develop a promotional content campaign to publicize the challenge, from social media posts to owned channels.

4. Unboxing

One of the most-watched video types on YouTube, unboxing content is exactly that – people opening boxes. A few years ago, YouTube said the amount of time people spent watching unboxing videos on their phones is the equivalent of watching the movie Love Actually more than 20 million times – over 2.5 billion minutes.

YouTuber iJustine often features unboxing videos for products from brands such as Sony, Apple, HALO, and more.


YouTube page for iJustine listing her unboxing videos

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Unboxing videos fuel curiosity and create a sense of desire in the viewers, converting them into your buyers. Just remember those holiday gifts you want to unpack, eager to see what is underneath the wrapping and cardboard.

In this example, Reconstruct By Brooke, which sells vintage band and motorcycle brand clothing, sent boxes to Dorothea Taylor, a drummer with over 330,000 followers on Instagram. Dorothea filmed the unboxing with her grandson, spending more than two minutes pulling back the tissue paper, expressing excitement at the gifts, and reading a notecard sent by the shop’s owner.

Instagram post in which Dorothea Taylor opens a box of clothing sent by Reconstruct by Brooke, a retailer of vintage band and motorcycle brand clothing.

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How to encourage unboxing videos

Most unboxing content comes from opening electronics, toys, cosmetics, and accessories. If you work in one of these industries, inspire your customers to unbox something with your brand logo.

To do it well, pay attention to your packaging, including the mailing container. Add decorations to your boxes, use colors, and include a visual extra, such as a branded postcard or a little souvenir, inside the box.

Invite your customers when they make the purchase – and before they open the box – to shoot an unboxing video and share it with your brand. You also can provide products to content creators who already have established audiences watching their unboxing videos.

Encourage #UGC unboxing video #content by decorating boxes, using colors, and including a branded postcard or a souvenir, says @ab80 (via @CMIcontent). Click To Tweet

See what happens with your user-generated content

It is impossible to find and collect pieces of all your user-generated content manually. Instead, you can use social media monitoring tools to detect keywords related to your brand, product, campaign, etc. (You also can use them to identify potential opportunities for UGC through viral trends, popular interests, etc.)

Here are three tools to help:


With Awario, you can track your brand name, branded hashtag, and industry-related keywords. (Disclosure: I am Awario’s founder.) You can use Awario to scrape social networks such as Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube, news sites, forums, blogs, and review platforms and brings all your brand mentions to the custom feed.

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You can sort your discoveries by source, sentiment rate (positive, negative, neutral), reach, and date. When you set up alerts, you also can choose language and location.

Awario enables you to reach out to the author of a post through its app. You can discuss with your brand lovers as well as haters by commenting on their tweets, blog posts, and reviews.


Mention scans Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, forums, websites of media outlets, and blogs, including small and newly started ones. As a result, you give an ordered data set of your brand mentions and keywords you have set to track.

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Additionally, you can use the tool to manage your social accounts. Mention enables you to schedule and post new pieces of content, reply to users’ comments and questions. Its most-used words feature shows what is being talked about most that reveal trendy topics in your niche.


Mediatoolkit is another web scanner that finds your brand mentions anywhere on the Internet. It examines websites, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, and forums to bring you real-time mentions. With the tool, you can track multilingual content created by users from different countries.

Image source

Using its keywords combination speeds up the search and brings you relevant brand mentions only. Then, you break down the search results by source, authors, queries, and tags.

Mediatoolkit analyzes the engagement and sentiment rates of each post, helping you know which user-generated content is most attractive for your followers. Also, you can track current industry topics and find your brand advocates on social media networks.

Benefit from user-generated content

UGC can be a valuable asset for your brand for several reasons. It helps you publish fresh content on your social channels without having to start from scratch. It expands your audience reach as the users who create also share and promote that content on their channels. Use it wisely as a secret weapon that helps you persuade prospects, improve your product, and tackle current marketing tasks.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

 Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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The Ultimate Guide to Storytelling



The Ultimate Guide to Storytelling

Storytelling is an art.

Not a process, method, or technique. And — like art — it requires creativity, vision, skill, and practice. Storytelling isn’t something you can grasp in one sitting, after one course. It’s a trial-and-error process of mastery.


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How to Blog When You Have No Time



How to Blog When You Have No Time

Finding the time to blog is a frequent challenge for many marketers. Marketers often wear many hats and it can be difficult to focus long enough to churn out quality articles when you’re pressed for time.

How to blog when you have no time? We spoke with author and marketing expert David Meerman Scotton how to avoid common time management mistakes by developing a routine.

No matter what you’ve got on your marketing plate, it won’t get done without proper time management. Learning how to make the most of your time will greatly affect your productivity and overall success as a blogger.

Why is blogging time management important?

When it comes to creating content, maintaining consistency is key. This is why blogging time management is so important. You may not always feel motivated to create on a regular basis, but establishing a schedule will help you to stay consistent with your blog output.

For example, you may find that you’re better at writing in the mornings. So you can set aside 2 to 3 hours each morning to work on writing based on how many articles you’d like to produce each week.

Create a content calendar to help you plan your content in advance and set reasonable deadlines. Make note of holidays or seasonal events that may impact your content schedule.

Getting organized will help you set and achieve goals for your blog. If you’re starting from scratch, check out our guide to starting a blog.

How to Blog When You Have No Time

1. Use blog templates.

An easy way to jump-startyour creative process is to start with a template. Why suffer through writer’s block staring at a blank document if you don’t have to? HubSpot’s free blog post templatescan help you format your article and get started writing faster than starting from scratch.

[Include screenshot]

Templates function as an easy to follow outline where you can organize your thoughts and start to flesh out your content. HubSpot’s offer includes six templates ranging from how-to posts to pillar pages and infographics.

2. Develop a blogging routine.

In many ways blogging reminds David of exercising. In order to be successful at it, you will need to develop a routine. “It is programmed in,” David says. “It is about building it into your life and making it a second nature, like running in the mornings or doing yoga after work.”

Dedicate time each day to writing or allocate one to two designated writing days per week. Block time off on your calendar and turn off messaging apps to avoid interruptions while you write.

Once you’ve gotten organized and created a routine, you may find you had more time to write than previously thought.

3. Keep a list of ideas.

One way to save time coming up with content is to make sure you always have a running list of fresh ideas to work with. That way you’re not scrambling at the last minute for worthy topics.

Creating topic clusterscan help you flesh out your blog content strategy. A topic clusteris multiplearticles grouped by a shared topic or related topic. For example, you may have one pillar page that gives a broad overview of a topic. From there, you can create more in-depth, specific articles on related subtopics.

This will not only help you plan content but organize your site architecture as well.

4. Perform research prior to writing.

It’s much easier to write when you have all the pertinent information you want to include in one place. Research your chosen topic before sitting down to write and organize the information in a quick outline.

Include any keyword researchin this process so you can ensure your content aligns with what readers are searching for online. This way when you sit down to write, your only job is to write — not look up new facts.

5. Don’t edit while writing.

When writing it’s very tempting to want to stop and make corrections. Don’t do this. It breaks your writing flow.

Instead, write a rough draft withjust pops into your mind first. Follow your train of thought without stopping to fix typos or edit. The goal is to just get your thoughts on the page. Once your initial draft is written, you can always go back and make changes.

6. Perform article updates.

Another strategy is to build upon existing content by performing an article update. Giving your older content a refresh is not only good for SEO and your readers, but it can be a quick win for adding new content in a time crunch.

With older content, you may need to include additional research and update it for accuracy, but it generally takes less time than writing a new article from scratch. Review your existing content. Are there articles you can do a deeper dive on? Have there been industry advancements you can include? Is there a new angle to explore?

7. Find content ideas wherever you go.

By making blogging a life routine, you will come across creative content ideas much more frequently. Keep an open mind, observe new things that interest you personally and find ways to turn them into fodder for a blog post. By noticing world dynamics that get you excited and relating them to your audience, the process of blogging becomes a lot more natural and fun.

Accumulate content ideas from different situations in life and find ways to apply them to your industry.

8. Hire a freelancer.

Sometimes your workload is just too heavy and your efforts can be better used elsewhere. If you have the resources and budget to do it, hiring outside help may also be a great option.

Sites like Upwork, Contenta, and MediaBistro make it easy to find writing professionals. If looking to generate content on a larger scale, consider working with a content agency.

Blog Like A Pro

Creating content with a consistent cadence is an obstacle busy marketers frequently struggle with. Creating a schedule and mastering blogging time management will allow you to create even when you’re short on time.

This article was originally published in December 2010 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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How clean, organized and actionable is your data?



90% of marketers say their CDP doesn't meet current business needs

A customer data platform (CDP) centralizes an organization’s customer data, providing a single 360-view of each consumer that engages with the company. Yet there are still data-related considerations that organizations have to make beyond what the CDP does.

“[CDPs] were designed to fill a need – to enable a marketer to easily get to the data they need to create their segmentation and then go on and mark it from that point,” said George Corugedo, CTO of data management company Redpoint Global, at The MarTech Conference. “But the issue is that CDPs really don’t take care of the quality aspects of the data.”

Maintaining data quality also impacts segmentation, campaigns and privacy compliance challenges for marketing teams that use this data.

Data quality

The data in a CDP depends on the quality of where it came from. Therefore, an organization using a CDP must also consider the quality of the data sources and reference files used to build out the CDP.

“The inevitable question is going to be, how good is this data?” said Corugedo. “How much can I trust it to make a bold decision?”

This is something that has to be on every organization’s radar. For instance, when identity resolution is used, the issue depends on the quality of the third-party reference files. If they are provided by a telecommunications company or credit bureau as the data partner, those files might only be updated quarterly.

“It’s just not an optimal solution, but every single CDP on the market uses some form of reference file,” Corugedo stated.

It’s up to the data scientists and other team members working within the organization to own the accuracy of these data sources.

Read next: What is a CDP?

Segmentation and other actions

The quality of the data using specific reference files and sources will vary and will impact the confidence that marketers have in creating segments and using them when deploying campaigns.

Marketers have to make this decision at a granular level, based on the trustworthiness of data from a particular lineage.

“If they have a campaign that is reliant on suspect data, they can actually delay that campaign and say maybe we wait until that data gets refreshed,” said Corugedo.

Otherwise, marketers are just “spraying and praying.”

Using rules instead of lists

The advantage of having a CDP is unification of all data. But the data is being updated all the time. Instead of deploying campaigns based on a fixed list of customers, the use of rules to define segments allows marketers to update who they engage in the campaign.

“A list, as soon as it’s detached from the database, starts to decay because it doesn’t get any updates anymore,” Corugedo, adding that using lists takes longer to execute a campaign.

Lower quality from data that isn’t updated can have serious implications for healthcare and other industries, where accuracy is essential. 

“Instead, rules are passed through the campaign just like they would be with a list, but those rules reevaluate every time there’s a decision point to make sure that only the qualified people get the particular content at that point,” Corugedo explained.

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Privacy and regulatory compliance

Maintaining data quality through a Redpoint Global dashboard, or a similar combination of tools and data personnel, will also help an organization manage privacy.

The crucial point is that people on the team know where the data came from and how it’s being used in campaigns. The stakes for sending out relevant messaging are high. Privacy and compliance issues raise the bar even higher.

If you’re using a CDP, you can save headaches and extra labor by using a tool that has compliance and privacy baked in, so to speak.

“What we’ve done is embrace some of this complexity and absorb it into the environment, so the marketer never even sees it,” said Corugedo. “What we do is with every implementation, we will implement a PII vault that keeps PII data super secure, and we can anonymize the marketing database.”

This way, personal information of individual customers (PII) is never violated.

“Marketers ultimately don’t necessarily need to have visibility to PII,” Corugedo explained “They like to see it for testing purposes and making sure that it looks right and everything, but the truth is we can do that in other ways without revealing PII.”

Having a handle on data quality adds to the confidence marketing teams have in creating segments and executing campaigns, and it can also help protect the customer’s privacy and guard against regulatory infringements.

Facts not fiction: Beyond the CDP from Third Door Media on Vimeo.

About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.

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