10 User-Generated Content Campaigns on Instagram That Drive Massive Engagement

User-generated content (UGC) is a goldmine for brands on Instagram. Why? Because it drives unmatched levels of engagement and trust.

Just look at the data:

UGC Statistics Value
Consumers who say UGC influences what they buy 79%
Consumers who trust UGC over brand-created content 2.4X more
Engagement lift of UGC compared to average brand posts 28% higher

Source: Stackla, 2019

Brands that harness the power of authentic, visual UGC on Instagram are getting outsized results.

To inspire your own UGC strategy, we‘ve gathered 10 examples of stellar user-generated content campaigns on Instagram. Learn what makes these campaigns so effective and how to apply their tactics to your brand.

1. Starbucks #RedCupContest

Every year, Starbucks kicks off the holiday season with the launch of its iconic red cups. To build buzz, Starbucks runs the #RedCupContest on Instagram.

Starbucks asks customers to share creative photos of their red cups, with prizes for the most impressive submissions. In 2020, the contest generated over 30,000 pieces of UGC.

Why it works:

  • Low barrier to entry – Any Starbucks customer can snap a red cup photo and enter with a hashtag
  • Clear CTA and incentive (prizes) that encourages participation
  • Aligns with Starbucks‘ friendly, playful brand voice
  • Generates a high volume of on-brand lifestyle content showcasing the cups

2. Apple #ShotOniPhone

Since 2015, Apple has run its #ShotOniPhone campaign showcasing the incredible photographic capabilities of the iPhone camera. Apple repurposes the most stunning user-submitted images in ads across TV, print, billboards, and social media.

The campaign has generated millions of iPhone photos highlighting diverse subjects and styles, from moody black-and-white street photography to vibrant travel shots.

Why it works:

  • Surfaces amazing content that authentically demonstrates product capabilities
  • Frames real customers as artistic heroes and provides major exposure for winners
  • Continual campaign keeps fresh content flowing while building a content library
  • Iconic, flexible hashtag aligns with Apple‘s "Think Different" ethos

3. Aerie #AerieREAL

Intimate apparel brand Aerie champions body positivity with its #AerieREAL campaign. Aerie commits to no photo retouching and features unedited UGC images of diverse women wearing Aerie products on its Instagram.

Followers are invited to share their own unretouched photos with #AerieREAL. For each post, Aerie donates $1 to the National Eating Disorders Association, raising over $100,000 to date.

Why it works:

  • Powerfully reflects Aerie‘s values of inclusivity, body confidence, and empowerment
  • Resonates with Aerie‘s Gen Z female audience that prizes authenticity
  • Tangibly supports an important cause that aligns with the brand mission
  • Creates an emotional connection with followers by celebrating their real, unfiltered beauty

4. GoPro #GoProAwards

To source jaw-dropping content captured on its action cameras, GoPro hosts the #GoProAwards. This monthly contest invites GoPro users to submit their best photos and videos for the chance to win up to $5,000.

Winning entries span adrenaline-fueled categories like motorsports, snow, and surf. GoPro repurposes the content across its social media and marketing channels.

Why it works:

  • Gamifies content creation with a tiered rewards structure incentivizing high-quality submissions
  • Attracts GoPro‘s target audience of adventurers with relevant categories
  • Boosts brand loyalty by celebrating customers‘ epic experiences
  • Provides an evergreen source of on-brand, thumb-stopping visual content

5. Warby Parker #SeeSummitKC

When opening a new store in Kansas City, eyeglasses brand Warby Parker created the #SeeSummitKC UGC campaign. Followers were tasked with scouting the perfect Warby Parker bus stop ad location in their neighborhood and sharing a photo of it on Instagram.

The person who found the best spot won free glasses for a year. The #SeeSummitKC hashtag spread awareness while making locals feel invested in the new store opening.

Why it works:

  • Drives foot traffic to store by engaging local community
  • Cleverly crowdsources ad creative and location ideas
  • Creates buzz and anticipation for store launch
  • Offers a meaningful prize that connects to the brand offering

6. United By Blue #BlueMovement

Sustainable clothing brand United By Blue runs #BlueMovement, an evergreen UGC campaign to spotlight customers wearing the brand on their outdoor adventures.

United By Blue reposts follower photos taken in epic natural settings, from serene lakefronts to rugged peaks. The striking user-created content reinforces United By Blue‘s mission to inspire environmental conservation.

Why it works:

  • Leverages customers‘ passion for the outdoors to source highly engaging content
  • Positions United By Blue apparel as gear for active, nature-filled lifestyles
  • Builds an authentic community united by shared values of sustainability and exploration
  • Expansive hashtag offers flexibility for different activations and initiatives over time

7. Airbnb #AirbnbExperiences

Airbnb‘s #AirbnbExperiences campaign collects and promotes UGC from both guests and hosts related to Airbnb‘s one-of-a-kind bookable activities.

The hashtag aggregates content showcasing everything from pasta making classes in Rome to street art tours in London. Airbnb shares standout photos and videos on its Instagram to pique followers‘ wanderlust.

Why it works:

  • Spotlights Airbnb‘s unique, immersive experiences around the globe from real travelers‘ perspectives
  • Transforms customers into inspirational tour guides that build trust with followers
  • Subtly markets Airbnb‘s offerings without a hard sell
  • Taps into followers‘ desire to discover under-the-radar gems when traveling

8. Fenty Beauty #FentyFaces

Rihanna‘s makeup brand Fenty Beauty is all about celebrating diversity and inclusion. Its #FentyFaces UGC campaign invites followers to share selfies of their Fenty Beauty looks.

Fenty Beauty features a range of skin tones, ages, ethnicities, and makeup styles in the UGC it spotlights on Instagram. This vibrant digital tapestry of beauty reflects the breadth of Fenty‘s customer base and product accessibility.

Why it works:

  • Proves Fenty products work for everyone by showing them on real, diverse people
  • Empowers customers to confidently express their unique beauty and creativity
  • Consistently reinforces Fenty‘s brand ethos of "Beauty for All"
  • Creates a safe, uplifting space for beauty lovers to connect over a shared love of makeup

9. Framebridge #Framebridge

Custom framing startup Framebridge showcases customer framing projects on Instagram with the #Framebridge hashtag. The UGC images – which span everything from classic oil paintings to concert tickets – provide endless inspiration for ways to use the service.

Framebridge‘s community of interior design lovers and DIY decorators submit a constant stream of stylish content showing how Framebridge transforms their spaces.

Why it works:

  • Visualizes the many use cases and benefits of the product through authentic customer examples
  • Gives followers achievable home decor and styling ideas
  • Targets Framebridge‘s key audience of hands-on design enthusiasts
  • Implicitly encourages followers to purchase by featuring aspirational images

10. REI #OptOutside

Every Black Friday since 2015, outdoor retailer REI has closed its stores and invited Americans to #OptOutside by enjoying nature instead of shopping. REI encourages UGC posts from followers spending time outdoors with the #OptOutside hashtag.

The campaign has generated millions of pieces of UGC showcasing followers hiking, camping, biking and more. #OptOutside embodies REI‘s core belief that experiences in nature are more rewarding than consumerism.

Why it works:

  • Boldly communicates REI‘s mission and differentiates the brand
  • Rallies followers around a meaningful movement aligned with their values
  • Inspires followers to live REI‘s ethos and share their outdoor adventures
  • Generates massive organic reach and brand affinity

Ultimately, the best user-generated content campaigns on Instagram have several elements in common:

  1. They make participating quick, easy and fun for followers
  2. They incentivize customers to create and share on-brand content
  3. They ladder up to the brand‘s larger mission and values
  4. They empower customers to be the heroes and faces of the campaign
  5. They help the brand source a high volume of authentic, engaging assets

By incorporating these UGC best practices into your own Instagram strategy, you can build a community of passionate brand advocates and power your marketing with irresistible user-created content.

Ready to kick your UGC efforts into high gear? Follow these steps:

  1. Define your campaign goal and target audience. What do you want to achieve – brand awareness, engagement, conversions? Who are you trying to reach and activate? Use these inputs to guide your campaign strategy.

  2. Brainstorm a theme and hashtag. Develop a campaign concept that aligns with your brand story and will resonate with your target audience. Craft a unique, memorable, easy-to-spell branded hashtag.

  3. Determine the right incentive. What will motivate your audience to participate? It could be a contest with coveted prizes, the chance to be featured on your page, or supporting a cause they believe in.

  4. Promote across channels. Get the word out via your website, email list, paid ads, influencer partnerships, and everywhere your audience spends time. Make sure your hashtag and CTA are front and center.

  5. Leverage a UGC platform. Tools like TINT and Pixlee can help you efficiently source, get rights to, and repurpose high-quality UGC. Focus on surfacing diverse content that tells an inclusive brand story.

  6. Repost the best UGC everywhere. Amplify standout UGC across your social media, website, paid ads, emails, offline displays, and more. Always give clear credit to the creator.

  7. Measure, learn, and iterate. Track key metrics like submissions, reach, engagement rate, traffic, conversions, and sales lift. Use these insights to continually optimize your UGC strategy.

When you make UGC an always-on pillar of your Instagram marketing, the benefits can be transformative for your brand. You‘ll never run out of high-performing creative assets, you‘ll build deeper customer relationships, and you‘ll grow a community inspired to champion your brand.

So get out there and start activating your audience to be your greatest content creators. Authentic, thumb-stopping UGC is within reach – you just need the right strategy to unlock it.