Brands trying to connect with new prospects ought to look toward their current customers for inspiration. Here are four examples of great user-generated content.

What’s the only thing better than compelling, original content? According to lots of customers, it’s user-generated content. By some measures, it’s 50 percent more trustworthy than regular blog posts, news stories and in-depth resources. So even if UGC is making the same point, sharing the same information or using the same style as branded media, the fact that people just like your readers are responsible for it gives it that much more marketing power.

As Brafton reported, there are different types of user-generated content, and they serve different business functions. Case studies, testimonials and reviews offer value at different points in the sales funnel, but it doesn’t mean marketers can’t get creative when it comes to UGC – no matter what their industry is. Here are four examples of excellent user-generated content that helped brands market themselves.

1. Solicit an audience’s personal stories like Pregnancy Magazine

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One of the most straightforward places to encourage user participation is on social media. Facebook is particularly conducive, as people can comment on posts and share them with friends for in-depth conversations. Pregnancy Magazine uses this approach to generate engagement by encouraging people to tell stories of their own personal experiences.

This is a fantastic deployment of UGC because it jibes extremely well with the company’s target audience. Pregnancy is an extremely personal experience, so mothers naturally want to share what happened to them. At the same time, readers going through their first pregnancy may have questions that only mothers can answer, making this the perfect situation in which to publish UGC.

2. Exchange ideas for niche readers like SalesForce

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Running business of any kind isn’t always easy. A brand may be able to tell struggling SMB owners how to find vendors and organize supply chain management, but the advice is even stronger when it comes from someone else who has grappled with the same issues and can share what they’ve learned.

Enter the Idea Exchange. This is SalesForce’s innovative information-sharing platform chock to the brim with user-generated content. This is another great example of providing exactly what readers are looking for. It also establishes that a company like SalesForce provides support to a diverse array of organizations.

3. Promote a brand lifestyle like Forever21

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A lot of B2C brands, such as those in the fashion or home industry, have to walk a fine tightrope. On one hand, they’re trying to sell a specific style or aesthetic, but they also need to appeal to a broader group of users. Unlike B2B enterprises, they have a larger number of smaller-revenue customers, rather than a small number of big-ticket buyers.

This is perhaps where UGC is most often seen at play. A brand like Forever 21 can use a hashtag (in this case – #f21xme) for Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pictures that show people wearing Forever 21 clothes. It’s a great mix of personalization and branding, as Forever 21 can rely on users to be advocates for the company’s style. On the flipside, potential buyers can see the sorts of fashionable, real people they want to identify with  rather than relying completely on models and branded content to recruit more customers.

4. Have a sense of humor like Doritos

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Some of the most effective content is fun and humorous – and that goes double for user-generated content. Brands that already have light-hearted personas on social media and on the pages of their own blogs should produce UGC to match. Doritos Canada had a campaign this year doing precisely that.

For a limited-time only, the company produced Doritos Roulette bags, which contained a ring of six chips – one of which was incredibly spicy. Users were encouraged to play Roulette with them and post pictures of their reactions using the hashtag #BURNSELFIE. It may not have specifically boosted sales of the novelty bags, but it certainly raised the business’ profile among potential customers, and more importantly, it gave a compelling reason to become a loyal follower of the chip company.

User-generated content may take some tried and true forms like testimonials and case studies, but it’s most effective when it bridges the gap between current customers and business leads. While the regular content types are effective, brands with unique business needs or customer bases should always try to think outside of the box. After all – if they’re trying to bring in new business, no one understands that journey better than the people who made the same journey themselves.

Alex Butzbach is a Marketing Writer at Brafton. He studied Communications at Boston College, and after a brief stint teaching English in Japan, he entered the world of content marketing. When he isn't writing and researching, he can be found on a bike somewhere in Metro Boston.