Engaging with customers through social media is essential to building your brand. But with the glut of companies trying to make their mark, it’s important to continually foster brand advocacy with creativity and a willingness engage.

Through user-generated content (UGC), you retain control over what populates your social media feeds while allowing brand advocates to produce interesting and potentially viral content for your social channels. It’s a strategy that’s proven to be beneficial to B2C and B2B brands, and we believe it could jumpstart your 2017 social media efforts.

Examples of UGC

In case you’re unfamiliar, user-generated content can be (but is not limited to) photos, videos, stories and company reviews provided by your social media followers. Often times, it’s in response to a hashtag campaign, like Lululemon’s #thesweatlife. This particular UGC campaign featured the yoga brand’s customers photographing themselves on Instagram using its products.

Another popular option includes running a contest, like Lay’s wildly successful “Do Us a Flavor” campaign that offered a million-dollar prize for suggesting a new chip flavor. Nearly 3.8 million followers submitted ideas and then voted for the winner.

UGC is simply a brand asking for input and then showing it’s listening by displaying the results on its social media channels. You’ll see UGC on all major social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat.

UGC for B2B

B2B companies might struggle with the concept of UGC, since they don’t necessarily have a consumer product to showcase. Service providers can put their own spin on the strategy by focusing on the lifestyle or industry associated with the brand.

HootSuite’s #IWorkFromHere campaign asked users to upload a photo of their workspace, especially if it overlooked a vacation spot. It was an engaging concept for customers of the company, and through fairly creative means, it helped foster brand advocacy.

Tips for UGC

UGC is most effective when it’s structured to be brand-consistent. For example, Lululemon sells yoga wear, so #thesweatlife campaign was appropriate. On the other hand, Lululemon running a campaign titled #IWorkFromHere might elicit responses, but they would do little to increase awareness of the product and engage customers. Therefore, brand consistency is important.

Another simple, yet powerful tip is to schedule regular check-ins with followers at various stages of the UGC campaign. For example, Lay’s first asked for entries. Then, they encouraged their followers to vote for the winner. Similarly, HootSuite’s #IWorkFromHere campaign offered a weekly prize, encouraging customers to enter more than once and compare their own snapshots with the prize-winning photo.

When done right, user-generated content can increase brand advocacy and help ignite a viral marketing campaign that furthers your business objectives while providing a creative outlet for fans. So, start brainstorming. There’s a fun and creative UGC campaign for your brand just waiting to be launched.