First we had pop-up blockers, then banner blindness. Is content apathy next? As consumers are becoming increasingly discerning of brand marketing and advertising, content created by customers provides a solution for content marketing your audience actually wants.

Marketers are increasingly realizing they need to find better ways to connect with consumers, and customer created content, also known as user-generated content, is proving to be a viable answer. Of course, customer content marketing is by no means new. Big brands like Coca-Cola and Doritos have been using it for years for good reason: the science and psychology behind marketing with customer content proves it’s effective.

As marketers strive to create content their customer base actually wants to engage with, customer content marketing is increasingly becoming a mainstream marketing staple rather than a one-off campaign. Moreover, it’s one of the few content marketing tactics that is showing positive engagement levels among hard-to-reach Millennial shoppers.

Even with user-generated content’s plentiful benefits, making the switch from brand marketing and advertising to customer content marketing isn’t always easy, but it’s becoming increasingly important for brands to adapt before it’s too late. Here’s why marketing with customer content is a necessity, and how you can integrate it in your marketing successfully.

Why Should You Care About Customer Content Marketing?

The Internet has changed everything about the brand-consumer relationship. For advertisers, the Internet has given great opportunity to offer much more personalized content. Instead of consumers seeing ads that may or may not be relevant to them as they page through a magazine or pass a highway billboard, brands can use advanced algorithms to get their advertisements in front of the people who are most likely to want to see them.

For consumers, the digital age offers them a chance to be much more vocal about how they want brands to interact with them. There has been a dramatic shift to more personalized, targeted advertising, but surprisingly, there has also been an increase in consumers simply not paying attention to ads.

In consumers’ quest to make the Internet work for them, they are becoming adept at ignoring content that isn’t beneficial to them, showing a preference to not be interrupted in their online browsing or distracted from their social communication unwanted brand interference.

Advertisers and marketers can run themselves into the ground trying to find new ways to stick their messages in consumers faces, but no matter how discrete or well-intentioned: if consumers don’t want to listen, all the marketing genius in the world isn’t going to get through to them.

This is where customer content marketing comes in. User-generated content is inherently engaging, because in order for it to work, a consumer has to participate. Additionally, customer content campaigns allow brands to connect with and hear from their consumers, giving brands valuable insight into what their customers want and how they want it.

Furthermore, user-generated content fuels word-of-mouth marketing and is better received by consumers because it doesn’t seem as forced as obvious brand marketing. Without further ado, we’re going to help you get started so you can see the benefits for yourself. Here are 6 foolproof steps to successfully implement customer content in your marketing.

6 Steps to Successfully Implement Customer Content Marketing

1. Identify Your Goals

This is the step that too many people fail to execute properly. Like any campaign, user content marketing needs to have clear-cut objectives; otherwise, you will be unable to measure the campaign’s success. While user-generated content is created by the people, for the people, it needs oversight so that the content collected is worthwhile.

Have direct goals on what you want your user content marketing campaign to achieve and the message you hope to communicate before getting started.

2. Choose the Right Type of Content

User-generated content is diverse: from Pinterest boards and YouTube videos to blog comments and tweets. Not all audiences use these content types equally. Perhaps your crowd is primarily older and less social media savvy.

You’re probably going to want to proposition them for reviews through email requests or blog posts. In contrast, if you have a Millennial crowd, consider what social networks they’re most active on; don’t just guess Facebook or Twitter and launch a campaign. Do you have a lot of DIY Pinterest lovers? Or is your audience primarily designers who love to share their portfolios on tumblr?

3. Maximize SEO Benefits

User-generated content provides search engines with a consistent stream of fresh content, and it can be incredible for building long-tail keywords and increasing overall SEO. However, it’s important to know how to use customer content for SEO properly. Make sure your content — especially reviews — are indexable by Google, and always launch campaigns in a way that makes it as easy as possible for the content you collect to be SEO-friendly.

Put caps on maximum title and description lengths on user-submitted content to avoid spammy or vague content, and offer suggested tags and categories that they can use to submit the content in the most relevant way.

4. Know the Legalities of UGC

Brands who collect customer content need to protect themselves. Ensure you’re including the proper small print so that you can use submitted content and repurpose it as you wish across other campaigns. Never assume that just because your users willingly gave you content that it’s yours to use as you wish.

5. Get Customer Content

Now it’s time for the fun part...get your customers to contribute content! Too often, we hear people complain that their audience simply doesn’t want to submit content. Once we teach them that they’re simply not creating clear call to actions, built in virality, and incentives, they understand that their customers are happy to create content, they simply need to ask the right way.

Think about creative ways to ask your customers for content — and ask everywhere. In addition to your main campaign, include CTAs on social media, in email marketing, and even on your blog. The more you make your campaign known, the more likely users are to interact with it.

But simply advertising your campaign isn’t enough — if you’re not a big brand with tons of clout, like Coca-Cola, then you’re going to need to push a little to get a response.

Add an incentive that is equal to the request you’re making of them: for example, perhaps you give an initial coupon for writing a review or submitting a photo, and an additional coupon if the customer shares it on social media. Building graded incentives slowly eases your customers in to contributing more. Or, if you’re asking for a big contribution, like a video, offer an enormous prize, like an all-inclusive trip or a chance to meet a celebrity. The bigger the reward, the bigger the response. But your request and reward must be equal.

Those who only need to submit their name and email address to a sweepstakes know that their chances of winning are slim since the barrier to entry is so easy. However, requesting a video in exchange for a 10% off coupon doesn’t give enough of a reason for users to put in the time creating content.

6. Get Your Content to go Further

As with any campaign, it’s vital to measure your progress and adjust as necessary. Remember, if you’re not getting results, it’s not because your audience doesn’t want to create content. You simply aren’t asking correctly. Do more with the content that you get — repurpose it across marketing campaigns, use it in advertising, on social media, and more. Stop thinking your brand voice needs to come through — it’s time to use your customers’ voices to communicate.


Your consumers can (and should) be your best marketing tool. Integrating user-generated content in your marketing efforts has benefits across the board: it boosts word-of-mouth marketing, engagement with Millennial shoppers, and increases the results from all current efforts in SEO, content marketing, and social marketing. User-generated content is a formidable force, and it should form a basis for your future content marketing efforts if you want to create content that your customers want to listen to.

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Aimee Millwood Aimee Millwood is a writer by day, bookworm by night. She covers marketing, growth, and engagement for the Yotpo Blog.
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