Tips and Tricks for Sourcing Usable User-Generated Content

User-generated content is powerful. And lately, while filming new content has involved limitations, user-generated content has become even more popular with brands worldwide. 

User-generated content is not without its challenges, though. One difficulty in sourcing user-generated content is that you never know what kind of content you’re going to get back from your audience. You have no control over the content’s message, quality, or format, which can make it less likely that the footage will work for your final use case. 

Thankfully, there are some tips and tricks you can use as you begin to source content that will make your life easier down the line. Here are our tips. 

Give Clear Guidelines

Our first tip is to provide really clear guidelines when you make your content ask. The more open-ended your request is, the more likely you end up with content that isn’t quite what you wanted.

Skincare brand Supergoop did this well in a recent Instagram story request for content about a recently-launched product. Rather than making a vague ask like, “Tell us about your experience with our Unscreen Sunscreen,” they give three specific, fill-in-the-blank sentences that provide direction for participants. This also helps spark inspiration for anyone making a submission as they have mini-prompts to get them started. 

Note than an exception here is if you want to be surprised or have considerable variety in the responses you receive. In those cases, an open-ended ask would be fine. Just know that if that’s the route you choose to go, you should be prepared for the responses to lack unity. 

Provide Filming Tips

Next, use this opportunity to provide tips for filming usable content. When sourcing content from your audience, it can be easy to forget that your average person is not especially skilled with video production. 

Left to their own devices, people make production mistakes that detract from the quality of the content. And this is to be expected! If you didn’t have experience with the production process, why would you know many of the tips to getting great content?

That’s why your team needs to fill in the gaps when you make your ask. Again, we’ll use Supergoop as an example. In the same Instagram story thread where the company made its initial ask, it followed up with this post offering tips for getting a good clip. 

The information isn’t overly detailed so it doesn’t overwhelm participants, but it covers the basics well enough that the lighting and background contrast will likely be higher-quality than they would have been otherwise, and the length specification saves the brand from watching ten-minute videos. That’s really the point of this step; you’re saving your team from having to spend time poring through unusable content later. 

Show an Example

To really hit your points home, consider making an example of the type of submission you’d like to receive. You could have someone within your company do this by making a fake submission that follows the criteria you have set. This eliminates some of the doubt that might occur from people interpreting guidelines differently (or incorrectly), and it provides a visual example for anyone who learns best by seeing the content in action. 

Explain Where You Want to Receive Content

Even if your audience has enough information and guidance to create perfectly usable content, you’re missing out if you don’t know where to access it. And without providing a clear channel where you want to keep track of submissions, you might get some clips sent to social media channels, others in various email inboxes, and others as responses wherever you make your initial ask. Some people might tag your brand, while others will use a branded hashtag. As you can see, this project quickly becomes a search nightmare where you’ll never quite feel like you’ve found all the content you were supposed to be reviewing. 

Eliminate this possibility by providing explicit instructions about how to submit content. Give people an email address, a submission form, a hashtag you’re tracking, a brand account to tag, or a forum to post a link to. If you have multiple options you’re prepared to monitor, give all of the options. Just be careful not to leave it up to chance by failing to provide this information upfront. 

Make Yourself Available for Questions

Finally, offer an avenue for people to reach out to you if they want to participate but have questions. Whether you encourage them to email a specific support address, DM your social team, or call your office, don’t leave people in the dark if they’re still uncertain after reviewing all of your information. 

There you have it! By putting these tips and tricks into practice, you’re much more likely to end up with user-generated content that checks the boxes you were looking for when you dreamt up the project in the first place. Plus, your video editors will thank you for the high-quality clips. Trust us. 

Alexa Nizam

Alexa Nizam