The Power of Visual UGC: A Guide to Captivating Social Media Campaigns

A growing number of consumers now depend on visual content, such as videos and photos, to inform their purchase decisions. Increasingly, consumers are looking for visual content from other consumers, often valuing them more than a retailer or brand-supplied visual content. 

Photos and videos have become an integral part of modern life. Photography and videography used to be limited to those with fancy equipment and training. However, it’s now accessible to anyone with a mobile phone. 

What is Visual UGC?

UGC stands for User Generated Content. Visual means that it’s in the form of videos, images, and photos. User Generated Content is all content that’s not been created by the owners of an account or page. Instead, it’s made by regular users. 

The creators of this content don’t usually require payment for their work, and it’s often created without any formal cooperation between a company/brand and the user. This means that the company has little control over UGC. However, they may define a framework and encourage specific outcomes.  

The Impact of Visual UGC on Your Social Media Campaigns

  • In a global study, 93% of respondents said that friends and family are the most trusted sources of information on brands and services.
  • 95% of Gen Z shoppers and 88% of Millenials seek out visual content regularly or constantly.
  • When surveyed, 100% of consumers said they looked for visual content before making a purchase, at least occasionally. 

Visual User Generated Content serves as superior marketing collateral. You should, therefore, harness the power of consumers if you want to maximize the impact of social media marketing efforts. 

But what role does UGC play in promoting your brand across social media platforms? There are three ways UGC makes a difference:

  1. Facilitates a dialog between you and your target audience
  2. Boosts traffic, engagement, and conversions
  3. It’s true validation.

Facilitates a Dialog Between You and Your Target Audience

Traditionally, social media marketing has always been brand-led, brand-sponsored, and brand-intensive However, if you choose to include user-generated content, it will facilitate a line of communication between your business and your target audience. 

Listen to the ideas of your target audience, their suggestions, and feedback, and you’ll learn from positive and negative comments. It will also allow you to address some of the main points and take advantage of the dialog to improve customer service and the whole customer experience. 

Boosts Traffic, Engagement, and Conversions

Link with your customers via UGC, and you’re aligning your brand directly with customers. When customers promote or attract attention to your business, you’re turning them into your fans or product ambassadors. The result is that it increases engagement and drives more traffic to your social media pages.

It’s True Validation

When social media is powered by users themselves, it increases brand credibility. Brands get social proof and validation that their products are liked and appreciated by consumers. 

Consumers trust consumer-led content more than they trust a brand-sponsored or created ad. Generally, people find it easy to relate to others similar to them. Shoppers resonate better with a satisfied customer rather than a brand.   

Why is Visual UGC so Important to Customers?

Visual UGC is beneficial for your business, but it’s also good for your customers too:

  • They get to see what a product looks like in real life
  • They’re able to get a better sense of the size or sizing of the product
  • Consumers get to understand how a product performs
  • UGC is more authentic and “real” than imagery created by a brand
  • They can see whether a product fits their personal need
  • UGC builds trust in a product or brand.

Utilizing Visual UGC to Optimize Your Social Media Campaigns

Whether you’re a global retailer or a local business, it’s possible to harness the power of UGC to bolster your brand message, connect with your customers, and celebrate some of your most influential fans. Here are some ideas you might want to incorporate into your UGC strategy and social media campaigns. 

Look for Consumers Who are Already Posting About Your Product on Social Media

Before you start investing in a social media campaign, do some homework of your own. For example, what type of content are your customers sharing organically? You can perform a simple search on social media platforms such as Instagram to find the answer to this question. 

Source: Instagram

Use geography tags to pull in images shared in a physical location. You can also search by hashtags. Start with your brand’s name, a campaign hashtag, or one of your more popular products. 

However, bear in mind that consumers don’t always use branded hashtags and handles when sharing their content on social media platforms. So, don’t limit yourself to analysing hashtags. Keep your options open. 

Repurpose and Reshare, But Always Ask for Permission

Search for high-quality, authentic imagery your customers post on social media and then repurpose and reshare it on your social media pages. This will give shoppers inspiration and social proof and drive more conversions and sales. 

However, never repurpose or reshare UGC without asking for permission. Even if they’ve tagged you in their content, getting their consent will minimize any backlash. Instead, use Instagram messages or comment on their post and ask if you can share it.  

Tag Your Fellow Brand Advocates

A brand advocate is someone who elevates your brand through word-of-mouth marketing. They leave positive reviews about your products, refer new customers, and create content on your behalf. 

With 92% of customers seeking social recommendations before buying, advocates play a powerful part in your marketing strategy. Many types of people can be brand advocates, for example:

  • Customers
  • Employees
  • Business partners
  • Influencers 

You can identify these advocates in many ways Visit review sites and contact people who leave high-quality testimonials. Speak to any partners you might have about a mutual advocacy program. Alternatively, use social listening tools and monitor engaged individuals on your channels.    

Make Holidays a Time for Sharing Visual UGC

When the holidays are just around the corner, it’s time to start planning your social media campaign. UGC has a vital role to play in any plans you make. With an increasing number of people doing their holiday shopping online, you need to make sure your business stands out.

Source: Instagram

It’s not just the major holidays that can make a difference either. Micro holidays allow brands to show off UGC and stretch every photo or video a little further. 

What is a micro holiday? They are unofficial or social media holidays that celebrate moments, things, people, places, or ideas. Typically they are fun, but some are more awareness building. You can incorporate UGC on micro-holidays by hosting a hashtag contest, reposting to your accounts, driving sales with product tags, or showing your support for a particular cause.     

Include Visuals With the Review Process

Shoppers are more likely to buy a product if reviews include photos and videos, and written text. Make sure you ask shoppers to submit their photos and videos as part of the review process.

If you send out post-purchase emails, make sure you mention that you want the shopper to share visual content in their reviews. Making it easy for them to do so will increase the likelihood of it happening. Provide the features to upload content directly from their computer,  mobile device, or social media profiles.

You might also want to check whether the shopper is more willing to leave visual content before or after they’ve provided reviews. Whichever option generates the highest volume of user-generated visual content is the one to stick with.    

Social Media Strategy for Getting Consumers to Share Visual UGC

Here are some more tips to help you improve your UGC and social media strategy.

Run Hashtag Contests

Contests have been taking place on various social media platforms for many years, and they’re still just as effective. This is particularly true for UGC. What better motivation is there than being able to compete with other users and possibly win a prize? 

Source: Screenshot from Instagram

Partner with Influencers

Among their social circle, digital and social influencers are viewed as leaders. There’s a very valid reason for this. Typically, they boast large and active followings, and eyecatching photo feeds. 

When consumers view their images, they’re more likely to participate in the conversation and add their own snapshots too. However, partnering with influencers isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy. Be mindful of the following before considering how to engage influencers:

  • Audience alignment: Is the influencer’s audience aligned with your own? What demographic do they cater to? What type of content excites their fans?  
  • Digital presence: Are the influencers dedicated to the same social media channels as you are? For example, if you’re optimizing your Instagram bio and page for an upcoming campaign, there will be little point in partnering with an influencer with a massive Twitter following. 
  • Credibility: The influencer might have a good eye and a large following, but will they have any clout within your target community?  

Utilize the Power of Stories

Stories are very popular across many social media platforms and are particularly suited for UGC. You’ll need to get your follower’s permission before using their content. Use photos or videos with your products, pictures that were very successful in a contest, or just images that suit a particular topic. 

Start a Reels Challenge

Instagram Reels allow users to create a 30-second video that’s separate from regular posts and Stories. It’s a type of contest for thoroughly engaging your audience.

To take part, participants publish a video on their accounts with a branded hashtag. At the same time, they also tag one or more friends in the caption, suggesting they take part too. You can also ask participants to follow your account or sign up to your list if they want to. 

You choose the person who publishes the best or most engaging video as the winner and give them a prize. You will, however, need to publicize this challenge early on and decide on a prize.

Challenges first became popular after the phenomenal success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It trended on networks such as Twitter and Facebook and raised $220 million.  

Use Contests and Giveaways

Contests and giveaways that rely on user-generated content help companies rapidly scale and promote original content in a fun and engaging way that benefits them and their audience.

It’s very easy to encourage your audience to help you generate original content with well-designed contests and awards of cash, free service, merchandise, and even recognition. 

These contests and giveaways also help you build your business and deliver value to your customers. In addition to bolstering your social media campaigns, UGC is also food for Google.  

Create Quizzes

Running quizzes on social media is a great way to encourage your fans to create UGC. One good example comes from Dove. 

Source: Dove

To help promote its “Real Beauty” message, this brand called on Facebook fans to share why their friend “represents real beauty.” Fans were asked to fill in the names of their friends and list two things that make them beautiful.

The response from fans was overwhelming. If you’d like to run a quiz, here are some tips:

  • Define the objective, type, and timing of your quiz
  • Write the rules in clear, plain language, so there is no confusion
  • Make your quiz mobile-friendly and use an eye-catching image
  • Incentivize the sharing of your quiz
  • Add an urgency factor to the quiz
  • Make sure you follow the platform rules regarding such promotions

You can use quizzes not just to boost social engagement, but to also make lead generation fun, as DoFasting does here. It places a quiz at the end of every blog post. After the quiz people can sign up for its email list to get a free report. Quizzes can also help you segment leads better, this way you can promote highly relevant offers.

Engage With Your Followers

Engaging with your followers is important if you want to be noticed and shared. It’s also crucial if you’re going to increase UGC. However, to get more engagement, you first have to engage with your followers. 

What can you do to increase that engagement? Incorporating visuals provides endless engagement possibilities. It has been found that images have an 85% interaction rate and can generate a 35% increase in shares.

Visual content that performs well will include a person in the image. If, for example, you have a nice photo of a customer using one of your products or an employee performing one of your services, you should post it on your social media channels. 

For the engagement to be successful, the video or photo must be of good quality and in focus for the viewer. If you don’t take the quality of the photo you’re posting into consideration, you may come across as neglectful of important details.

Images have shown they can bolster high engagement and share numbers, so try to incorporate visuals into your posts whenever they fit. Of course, you have to be careful to maintain a balance, but if a video or photo fits the content, find something nice to use in place of a simple text post.  


If you’re looking for a secret weapon for your social media marketing campaign, UGC could prove to be the best thing since sliced bread. In an age where consumers’ mistrust of advertisements grows, personal exchange, and authenticity are becoming increasingly important.

Before you start, think about how you can find the right UGC created by your users, how you intend to use it, and what your goal is. 

Author bio:

Georgi Todorov is the founder of ThriveMyWay, a website dedicated to teaching successful digital marketing strategies. Georgi is regularly called upon by companies seeking to develop and enhance their SEO and link-building strategies to achieve hockey stick growth. When Georgi isn’t working, you can find him getting close to nature, learning online, or traveling.