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5 Startups Utilizing the Power of User-Generated Content

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by Startacus Admin

5 Startups Utilizing the Power of User-Generated Content

Consumers, particularly millennials it seems, trust other consumers more than they trust the words and cleverly-crafted imagery of a business’s advertising campaigns. It makes sense, as customers have no particular bias or reason to stretch the truth. Because of this, user-generated content is becoming more and more effective as a means of advertising, creating brand awareness, and simply interacting with customers, current and potential.

Here are some startups that are particularly clued-in to the power of user-generated content.


theSkimm is a newsletter providing its subscribers with a daily breakdown of the news, in a bite-size, amusing but informative (obviously) way. They combine user-generated content with an ambassador programme, in which users promote the brand in exchange for a variety of benefits. These range from physical things like tote bags to actual interaction with the company’s headquarters, the opportunity to provide feedback, and first access to any job listings, among others.

Ambassadors spend a fair amount of time promoting the product and posting photos of real-world ambassador meetups or of themselves posing with the aforementioned ‘swag’. In order to qualify as an ambassador, a user has to sign up at least 10 other users to the newsletter. And given that the number of ambassadors has gone from 80 in 2014 to now over 13,000, we would say theSkimm is utilising user-generated content pretty well.  Check out the founders of theSkimm talking about starting a business below. 


Founders of theSkimm talking about starting a business


5miles is a US local marketplace app that allows users to easily see what is being sold by other app users locally, as well as services, housing, and jobs on offer. Since its launch in January 2015, the app often finds itself in the top 10 of all shopping apps on Google Play, and has already seen more than $1 billion worth of transactions. While this counts as pretty good, rewarding use of user-generated content, it isn’t why they are on the list.

In May, 5miles teamed up with Billups, another fast-growing startup for out-of-home media, for a month-long billboard campaign. 13 digital billboards around the Dallas–Fort Worth area showcased items for sale on the 5miles app in real-time. Each item displayed was, of course, within 5 miles of each billboard. This was paired with a social media hashtag campaign and geo-fencing advertising with the billboards as its centre, in all, allowing 5miles to reach a great deal more potential customers and raising awareness of the brand. This was just the first such campaign, with more planned.

5 startups that are utilizing the power of user generated content

Freshly Picked

We all know how much parents love sharing pictures of and stories about their children. Freshly Picked knows this too. The maker of leather moccasins for children have a hashtag on their social media platforms called #FPmccmemories, a campaign to engage their customers and allow those customers to connect with each other.

As well as letting their customers get on with their interactions, Freshly Picked spotlights stories these parents share. This spotlighting is done carefully and effectively, with some profoundly touching stories and memories. One such spotlight we came across was a simple image of a little pair of moccasins with footprints firmly ingrained on them, alongside a mother’s account of what those shoes mean to her. This kind of thing is markedly more effective than any conventional marketing campaign, as it uses parents to tap directly into the hearts and minds of other parents.

5 startups that are utilizing the power of user generated content

Warby Parker

Warby Parker sells glasses – the spectacle/eyeglasses kind. They have been using the same social media user-generated content campaign to great effect since 2010. Shoppers can pick 5 different pairs of frames, all of which will be posted to them to try. They are encouraged to post pictures of themselves on social media and to show friends, family, co-workers, etc., to get opinions. After 5 days, the customer makes their choice and returns the other 4 pairs.

This is a simple but effective way of raising brand awareness in a customer-centric way. The social media sharing is, ostensibly, for the benefit of the customer, not the brand. What better way for a business both to be caring of their customers and to spread word of their brand?

Warby Parker

Warby Parker- Try for 5 days campaign

One Third Stories

One-Third Stories hasn’t got going yet, but they are already making great use of user-generated content, in a sense. To put the business simply, they make beautifully illustrated children’s books that help children learn other languages.

The founders started ‘kidsourcing’, with over 1,500 children submitting story ideas. Each of these children received a certificate and a warm fuzzy feeling. Not only does this include the children in the creation of these books, but it encouraged parents to subscribe to the newsletter and could well have secured a good deal of customers for when the first book comes out – parents will be thrilled to get hold of something their children helped create, after all. It could also be the reason that they so easily surpassed their Kickstarter goal by more than 300%.

5 startups that are utilizing the power of user generated content

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Published on: 23rd August 2016

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