Imagine that you have no money for marketing. But you want to grow your brand and your sales.

Is this possible?

Let’s consider GoPro. My kids and many of my friends use GoPro cameras for skiing and mountain biking as it is synonymous with point-of-view footage for extreme sports.

If GoPro had been backed by venture capital, they likely would have put out very traditional (and boring) advertisements. A spokesperson would have held up the camera and pointed out its features, telling you why it was so great. You would have seen its specs and told that it is rugged enough to take anywhere.

But GoPro was founded by 26 year-old Nick Woodman who retreated to Australia after an entrepreneurial failure. Just ten years later the company is worth 2.25 billion dollars! This was done on the back of UGC or user generated content.

Here is an example:

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But testimonials are not the only thing that GoPro users submit. They like to show off what they use the camera for. Here is a compilation from this past year:

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The most incredible part is not the amazing scenes that are captured in this video or that it has over 6 million views. The most incredible thing is that the company gets their customers to market for them – for free!

And even better – consumers trust content that is generated from other customers more than from the brand itself. That is what UGC is all about.

“But I don’t sell something as cool as a GoPro,” you might be thinking. “How can I use User Generated Content in my business?” That’s the point: you have to be resourceful! It doesn’t matter if you sell clothing, coffee, or donuts. Let your users create your content – you will be amazed at how creative they are. Just take a look at Apples #ShotOniPhone campaign. Or “FedEx in the Wild”. Or #HiltonStory. Any brand can benefit from a well-designed UGC campaign.

The trick is to create a contest with rewards that customers will go out of their way to create great content for. Winning free merchandise is a pretty strong incentive for many people. GoPro awards are ongoing challenges that tap into its community and supply’s a steady stream of quality content. This program involves several content challenges that reward contestants with gear, exposure, and cash. You too can create awards for your users. Just be sure to err on the side of caution – don’t use content without getting the user’s permission.

If you have a WordPress website, RafflePress and SmashBalloon are two plugins you can use to collect and show off your user’s content. But a plugin is not required. You can just create a form and ask people for the link of where your content was posted, like this. The advantage to the user is that they also get exposure. When users create content for GoPro, they are showing off their adventures, not making a commercial for GoPro. The customer is the hero of the story. The same is true for any user generated content. For example, if you create content for WebStores Ltd., you get to talk about your company and we will promote it for you.

Encourage your users to use a hashtag. You can’t “own” a hashtag like you own your website’s domain name, but you can register one on twubs.com. Just be sure to use it – a lot! Also, be sure to set up a Google alert so you know when people are posting about your brand.