How to Collect User-Generated Content via Contests

Effectively marketing your business can be expensive and time consuming. User-generated content, on the other hand, allows businesses to promote original content and connect with wider audiences much more quickly.

If you are looking for an effective marketing strategy that allows you to connect directly with customers, then user-generated content contests are the way to go.

1. What Are The Benefits Of Running A UGC Contest?

The increasing use of social media has led to user-generated content (UGC) becoming more highly regarded by marketers. Creating whole campaigns based around UGC has become more common because of the benefits which it has to offer:

  • Increased Engagement
    User-generated content has the major advantage of creating a higher level of relatability and therefore engagement. Professionally created marketing can struggle to attract sufficient attention by comparison. 
  • Helps To Build Trust
    Generally, people tend to regard content which has been referred from their peers as more trustworthy and more authentic. As a result, campaigns which revolve around UGC tend to have increased social referrals.
  • Connects With a Wider Audience
    One of the major benefits of user-generated content, is that the people who create it will post it on their own profiles. This means that the people who follow them will be exposed to it. This is a fantastic way to raise awareness of your brand, create positive associations with it and most importantly, reach a wider audience than you might have otherwise through traditional marketing campaigns.
  • Increases Growth of Your Community
    By allowing users to create content themselves, you are helping to create a sense of engagement and involvement in your brand. In the long-term, this helps to create a sense of community and by extension, loyalty to your brand. Allowing users to have an active role in your brand will lead to increased growth.
  • Cost-Effective Marketing
    One of the key motivating factors for using UGC is the fact that it is essentially free, especially when compared to traditional marketing strategies. 

2. Identify The Goal Of Your Contest

The first step in creating your own UGC contest is to establish the type of content you actually want to generate. What is ultimate goal of your contest? The most effective goals are those that can be measured. This will help you to determine whether or not your contest was successful.

For example, measurable goals include retweets, increased visitors to your site, increased emails acquired, photo/video/essay submissions or Facebook likes. You might choose to set your goal as increased sales, but usually, where content contests are concerned, users are more interested in the prize itself, rather than purchasing something. You are better off focusing on long-term goals. Consider using your contest as a strategy for increasing brand awareness and developing a relationship with existing and future users who, in the long-term, will become paying customers. 

A successful type of content to generate is product use. Getting users to share your product in action helps to build trust in its use and quality. You can also apply this to services that you provide. For example, encouraging users to take videos, photos or write short text-based content of your service. 

You can also run a contest based on user reviews or testimonials. As well as peer recommendations, online reviews are highly regarded as trustworthy recommendations. You can run a contest to incentivize engaging reviews, through funny text or by getting users to create visually engaging content. Crucially, all UGC will allow you to collect marketing material that will add value to your brand and products/services, as well as help you to win the trust of your audience.

Finally, you might choose to encourage users to create content which allows them to be creative and imaginative. You can set a challenge or idea in which you ask users to engage with a product in an innovative way. For instance, you could ask them to customize a product of yours or take a photograph of them with your product in an unusual or unlikely place. This strategy will allow you to collect a large volume of high-quality images and content which you can use as a marketing strategy. It will facilitate the spread of your brand and its message, whilst engaging with your audience in a fun and creative manner.

The type of content your contest generates should be relevant and beneficial to your brand. 

3. Establish The Rules Of The Contest

You need to make sure that all the rules for the contest are established from the outset and clearly communicated to users.

Firstly, you need to make sure that you clearly outline the personal data that any users will have to submit when they enter the contest. You need to make sure that you have their permission to use it.

Explains John Martin, a marketer at Boomessays and Paperfellows.

Next, clearly set out the start and end dates for the contest. There’s no set rule about this, but a successful length of time tends to be between one to two weeks. Too long and the contest can lack excitement and lead to procrastination, but too short can lead to a lack of quality content. Tell users all the relevant information they need to enter, including any hashtags or @mentions that need to be included, as well as any restrictions, such as age or location. You should let users know that they aren’t required to make a purchase to enter the contest. Finally, clearly explain to users how the winners will be judged.

The contest prize is the main incentive for users to participate. You should clearly state what it is and aim to make sure that it is something which is valuable to your particular user base. It needs to be a prize which is worth the time and effort that users will be putting in to participate.

If you can, you should try to relate it to the services or products that you provide. In this way, when you promote the contest you will also be promoting your brand and its products.

4. Choose The Appropriate Platform

There are several platforms to choose from, so you need to use the one which is most suitable for the type of content you want to generate. 

As the aim is to incentivize the creation of user-generated content, you need to choose a platform in which participants are able to see each other’s submissions and interact. For this reason, social media sites are most successful. Additionally, they will also help your following to grow. Crucially, you need to choose a platform which will generate the best response for your business.

You have the option to run your contest across multiple platforms and choose a winner from each, but this may prove time-consuming and costly. Instead, you might choose to run the contest on one platform – the most suitable or the one where you have the biggest following – but promote the contest across all the other platforms and distributions channels at your disposal. If you are using a hashtag, make sure that it is memorable, unique to your brand/product and contest and that it is simple. 

So, which platform should you use?

  • Twitter – hashtags originated on Twitter. If you are looking to run a text-based UGC contest, then Twitter may be the best platform for you.
  • Instagram – this will be the better platform if you are running a video or image-based contest. Make sure that you ask users to use the relevant hashtag, as well as to tag your business via @mentions. 
  • Facebook – you may choose Facebook if you want users to generate a mixture of content, or longer text-based content, as they are not restricted by character limits as they are on Twitter. 
  • Website – you may decide that you want to accept submissions directly via your website. You can have links to it via your social media platforms, but direct users to upload or share their content via a submission form on your business’ website. This has the added benefit of increasing traffic to your site, as well as offering the opportunity for you to gather additional user data, such as emails. Ensure you always gain explicit permission from users for this.

5. Promote Your Contest Across Multiple Platforms

The contest will only be successful if users know about it. As such, you need to promote it across all the different channels you have access to.

The easiest way to promote your UGC contest is via social media. You should have accounts across multiple platforms.

Says Carol Blaisdell, a content manager at Case Study Writing and State Of Writing.

“As well as the initial post announcing the contest, you should give users regular updates and even highlight some submission examples to help give them inspiration and encourage them to get excited and enter it. The other key form of promotion is via your subscriber list. These are your existing customers or followers. They are the people who will be interested in your contest the most, so tell them about it! Whether you have a blog or a newsletter or even a video channel, make sure that you promote your contest on all the different types of platform you have access to. If you’re willing to spend a bit of money, then you can always get paid ads to help spread the message. Or you can also try to get some extra exposure from other content creators or influencers. You can get them to promote the contest to their followers in exchange for a product or money. It’s a good way to reach new audiences who might not usually engage with your brand.”

How To Choose A Winner

You should have made it clear how the winner will be chosen when you started the contest. You can choose to have someone on your staff, or yourself, choose the winner. This method gives you the greatest control over the process.

Alternatively, if you want to involve users more in the process, you can select the winner via voting on social media channels. For instance, it could be the content that generates the greatest number of Likes, Retweets or Repins. The upside of this method is that it encourages users to share the content with friends and family, so it helps to promote your business and brand even further. 

Announce The Winner

Once the winner has been chosen, make sure that you share the news with your followers. You could do a short video interview with the winner and share it on your website and social media platforms or write a short blog post about them and how they are planning to use their prize. 

Announcing the winner across multiple platforms will not only allow the user to feel a sense of satisfaction and praise, but it will also legitimize your contest. Sharing the winning entry and who the person is will allow users to know that it was in fact won by a real person, a fact that can be verified by checking the winner’s profile or referring to the entry. This will help incentivize other users to participate in contents you run in future, as well as help create a loyal following.


There are multiple benefits to running user-generated contests. Primarily, they help to build awareness of your brand, promote your business to a wider audience and in the long-term, help to drive sales.

The key is to decide the type of content you want to generate, the platform you will run the contest on, and to share the rules of the contest and how it will be judged with your users.

Select a prize which is relevant and valuable to your target audience. Make sure you promote your contest across all the social channels available to you and encourage comments, likes and shares.

Finally, make your winning user feel valued! Not only will you be able to generate high-quality content from your contest, but you will also be able to develop more long-term relationships with users and customers.

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