How to Create a UGC Contest to Generate Buzz (w/ Examples)

Manu Sheen
Manu Sheen
Customer Success Manager at Insense

What is a UGC Contest?

A UGC contest is a competition with the goal of inspiring users to create content on their social media platforms about a brand in return for a chance to win a valuable reward.

A UGC buzz driven by an incentive is usually fun and engaging. 

There are many ways a UGC contest can work. 

For instance, through Instagram hashtag challenges where users are required to create video, audio, or text content using a hashtag. In this case, the goal is for the hashtag to be trending, which causes even more people to participate just to join in the fun. 

Some contests also work by asking users to create content using a tagline or concept. It could be an Instagram photo or selfie that relates to the concept. This is a UGC campaign that works every time. 

For instance, Coca-Cola’s share a Coke campaign made it easy to get everyone in on sharing a photo of a coke with their name on the bottle.

Everyone wanted to create content with their personalized coke bottles. 

An example of a UGC campaign that inspired organic brand awareness.
Coca-Cola’s share a Coke campaign
Image source: Coca-Cola United

Instead of just sharing the content on their social media accounts, you may require participants to submit their contest entries or tag the brand when they post. Then, you can repost the submissions.  

It could also be sweepstakes where winners are chosen at random and rewarded.

Rewards can range from gift cards or cash prizes to coupons, product giveaways, branded merchandise, and free tickets to events.

Traditional influencer marketing cannot compare with the results of a UGC contest because it doesn’t encourage as much creativity, a wide range of social media engagement, and brand awareness. 

People can sense originality, and UGC gives room for that as users are encouraged to be honest and true to themselves even while creating for the brand.

The benefits of a UGC contest are many for the brand and even for the users. This marketing strategy works well because there’s something in it for everyone. 

It’s not a forced connection. 

Brands can build trust and credibility while interacting with their audience on a deeper level. At the same time, users can stand a chance to win prizes they love. 

In the long run, even after the contest has ended, these social media posts serve as social proof for the brand.

Keep scrolling for more benefits of UGC contests.  

5 Benefits of UGC Contests for Brands

There are many benefits of organizing UGC contests. Let's explore some of them.

Benefit #1: Authenticity

A lot of the time, sponsored ads don't really affect people’s purchasing decisions. This is because the viewers don’t think what the ad portrays is true or authentic since it was created by the brand itself. 

UGC sells better!

This is because when a user just like the viewer recommends the product through their unsponsored social media posts, their opinions are trusted. 

A study by Reevoo shows that UGC is 60% more influential compared to professional content

Customers have been saturated with brand promotions, so when a user promotes a brand, it’s authentic enough to turn their social network into potential customers of the promoted brand.

Because user-generated content highlights a user’s experience with a brand, it is more credible. Brands also don’t have to regurgitate old, overused marketing ideas when UGC contests can help them with fresh, trendy ideas. 

With UGC contests, you promote innovation and diversity. 

Every user is allowed to participate irrespective of their demographics. The only thing that qualifies or brings them all together is that they use your product or service. 

People appreciate this authenticity and want to be associated with your brand. 

Benefit #2: Wide reach

When a brand prompts users to create content, it’s like a snowball effect with each user’s content reaching a different audience and multiplying engagement.

Let’s say an Instagram hashtag UGC contest has 1000 entrants. This means that the brand would reach the followers of these 1000 different social media accounts. 

With a wider reach, your brand is subconsciously imprinted in the minds of many people who may have just come across the contest posts. 

Also, because UGC contests inspire users to be creative, the posts end up being engaging and entertaining and receive more screen time. This in turn makes the algorithm favor the content and put it out to a lot more people.

If your contest rules require you to select a winner from a post with the most engagement, creators go out of their way to gain engagement on their posts. 

They encourage people to like, comment, and even follow depending on the metrics used in the contest. That triples the effectiveness of user generated content contests.

Benefit #3: Cost-effectiveness

Brands spend a lot of money on planning, creating, and distributing each content piece. 

Now imagine how much that would cost if they had to create hundreds of branded videos. Luckily, there’s a better way (and cheaper too) to go at it—UGC contests.

UGC contests are cost-effective because brands don’t have to spend so much money creating and promoting content. 

Even though the rewards for the contests usually cost something, this cannot be compared to what your brand gains through the contest. 

You get high-quality content by investing a small amount. This is especially beneficial for startups and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

A small business cannot afford to budget and put out hundreds of content pieces at once. 

Even if they do, they are not guaranteed a high return on investment (ROI) from the content they create as they still have a small audience. 

However, with a UGC contest, they can get results that would have been otherwise impossible for them. 

Benefit #4: Better conversions

According to a study by Business Wire, UGC is 85% better at increasing conversion rates than branded content due to the higher authenticity and credibility UGC offers. 

Conversions can be measured with different metrics, such as an increase in followers, email sign-ups, and website traffic, especially for e-commerce brands or even sales in the long run.

Let’s say the contest is geared at generating traffic for a landing page or your e-commerce site, you’ll still get increased traffic every time someone new comes across the contest, even after you have given out the prizes. 

Also, you can get lots of profile visits if users have to tag your social media profile as part of the rules. A lot of people who love your product would want to see more and would go to your page. 

Benefit #5: Brand advocacy

The greatest marketing goal for a brand is that customers become loyal brand advocates. 

Everyone is linked to family, friends, colleagues, followers, and acquaintances, and UGC capitalizes on that.

With a UGC contest, your users develop a deeper level of understanding of your brand. 

You imprint your story in their minds, and they conduct their personal research to find the best ways to portray your brand. 

That way, your followers know the cause you stand for. They know how to represent your brand in the best way, whether online or offline.

These users give testimonials of your business for free and can encourage others to buy from you. 

Now you know these benefits, you should be excited to see some brands that aced their UGC contest. You may learn a thing or two to implement for your brand. 

Let’s get right into it. 

3 UGC Contest Examples to Get Inspired by

In this section, we explore three UGC contest examples, what they entailed, and the results they got. 

Example #1: Starbucks

Starbucks’ UGC contest was a photo contest where users needed to upload a creative photo with the hashtag #redcupcontest. 

The best photos were then uploaded on Starbucks’ Instagram feed, and 9 people stood a chance to win $500.

Winning contest entry posted on Starbucks' Instagram feed
Image Source: Instagram

This contest was very effective for many reasons. 

First, Starbucks wanted its users to be creative in a simple way. Just with an Instagram photo. A selfie even. 

It was a kind of storytelling that portrayed users as being part of their own coffee story. They had to come up with original designs and ideas that represented their feelings or ideas about coffee. 

Also, Starbucks used a hashtag that pointed to the brand and would still point to the brand even after the contest was over. 

They also built a deep connection with their users by featuring them on the Starbucks page for millions of viewers to see. It showed that Starbucks valued their customers and saw them as part of the brand.

Also, it was the holidays and Starbucks used the contest to inspire excitement for the holidays and the weather. 

The results of the contest were amazing. 

Starbucks had an increased brand awareness, as the hashtag was used by over 36k users and one Instagram post even got up to 302k likes.

Example #2: Chobani

The Chobani UGC contest was a Tiktok hashtag challenge encouraging users to create videos using the hashtag #switchthechobaniflip. 

The prize was a special product that wouldn’t be sold in stores. 

UGC contest entry posted by a Chobani follower
Image source: TikTok

The goals of the campaign were to increase their audience on Tiktok and use the platform to reach fun-loving, vibrant users who were active there.

In return, they weren’t just promising them a new product. They were selling a feeling of exclusivity by rewarding with a gift that would not be sold in stores. 

A different pot of Chobani Flip that had the cookie dough crunch snack in the bigger compartment and greek yogurt in the smaller compartment instead of the other way round like in the regular Flip. 

This limited edition was enough motivation for their users to get creative.

Also, Chobani wanted to increase the awareness of their usual Flip and they got it as more people wanted to know what the usual Flip was to tell the difference. 

The contest was effective as the videos had over 2.6 billion views and sales increased rapidly. 

Example #3: NISSAN Australia

Nissan used a branded hashtag challenge to inspire a TikTok trend. Because TikTok thrives on trends, it was easy to get people to participate. The reward was worth the contest requirement. 

User-generated content submitted as an entry for NISSAN's contest
Image source: TikTok

Users were to create an original car commercial voiceover and get the chance to be featured in a JUKE commercial on TV. JUKE was a new car NISSAN wanted to launch.

The contest was a pre-launch strategy to increase anticipation for the new car. 

The results were interesting and beyond their expectations. The contest had almost 34k video entries and millions of diverse viewers. 

A lot of people also watched the JUKE TV commercials when it was finally released to find out which entries eventually won the prize. 

Now that you’ve seen all these examples, let’s go right into simple steps to creating your own UGC contest. 

How to Create a UGC Contest Step-by-Step

Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating an effective UGC contest for the best results.

Step #1: Choose the right social media platform

Choosing the right social media platform for your UGC contest is the most important step to creating a buzz-worthy contest. 

You should choose a social media platform that your potential customers use. 
If your brand sells fitness and wellness products to professionals in their forties, your best bet would be Facebook rather than TikTok. This is because that's where your potential customers are. 

If you sell skincare products to a GenZ audience, you’ll want to choose a platform where they are active, like Instagram or TikTok. 

Also, the kind of content you want to use for the contest would determine the social media platform. For instance, a TikTok UGC would be exclusively videos since that’s what the platform supports. So, you would have a contest where users have to create video content. 

Step #2: Identify your objectives

These could range from objectives like increasing brand trust, social sharing, and endorsements to specifics like increasing follower counts and increasing engagement metrics such as likes, comments, and shares. 

Identifying your objectives would help you know how to go about the contest and what calls to action to promote through your contest. 

Step #3: Choose the right concept

Brainstorm the right concept to use for your contest. 

For a hashtag contest, you need to choose one that is catchy for the audience, users, and brand. The hashtag should be easy to remember and use.

Here’s an example of a UGC contest concept for a fictional beauty company that sells cruelty-free skincare products to a Gen Z audience. 

First, they have to come up with a big idea. For this brand, their campaign ‘big idea’ would inspire their users to express their identity through skincare. 

So, they can have options for a hashtag campaign like #yourskinisyou or #skindeep. 

The contest can then be for users to create videos of themselves using the skincare product that best describes who they are and post them with those hashtags. 

You also have to make sure that your concept is unique, suitable for the social channel, and relevant to your product or service, especially for future social media search optimization. 

Step #4: Offer incentives

The right incentives would encourage participation and even inspire more creativity. 

Remember, the more valuable the incentive, the more people will participate. So, you have to choose an incentive that is valuable to your audience.

You cannot have an audience of millennials and offer a ticket to a GenZ concert as your incentive. You also can’t organize a campaign on your Facebook page and reward winners with shoutouts on your Instagram page. 

The incentive should be relevant and motivating.

With these steps, you should be on your way to making your brand the talk of social media. 

Let’s wrap things up. 

Now Over to You

User generated content campaigns can bring that big marketing break that would establish and grow your brand.

So, you must get it right using high-quality creators that would set the pace for your user generated contest. 

Wanna learn more about UGC? Read more here.

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Manu Sheen

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