We’ve seen loads of articles pointing out the various ways user-generated content (UGC) campaigns have spectacularly failed but not many with practical tips on how to run a UGC campaign and not slip up. As we have helped several brands run successful UGC campaigns we thought we would share our best tips on moderation and how to avoid an embarrassing #fail.

When you run a UGC campaign you are inviting people to participate so there is always going to be the risk that people will hijack or abuse the campaign. So the first thing you need to think about is your audience and if they are likely to do that.


The most important thing to consider when running a UGC campaign is your audience. Who are they? What do they like to do?

Walker’s Crisps should have learned about moderation already, but they still launched a UGC campaign in 2017 that was hijacked by people uploading pictures of serial killers to their ‘Walkers Wave’. If you look at Walkers’ audience it is very wide, pretty much everyone has had a pack of Walkers at some point.

With such a broad audience, running a UGC campaign is tricky. However, one of our clients, Soap and Glory, has a very select audience so running a UGC campaign for them would be much less risky.

Walker's Crisps should have learned about moderation already, but they still launched a campaign in 2017 that was hijacked by people uploading pictures of serial killers to their 'Walkers Wave'.


This all depends on how you are going to disseminate the content. We recently helped Burt’s Bees run a UGC campaign with a photo wall, which was taking people’s photos and posting them on a living wall on a microsite.

This helped keep away the trolls in two ways. First of all, the photos featured people wearing Burt’s Bees new lipstick, meaning the person who submitted the photo was in the picture. Secondly, the content was reposted from individuals own accounts, with their original name still on the photo.

The Photo Wall that was created as part of Burt's Bees lipstick UGC campaign

So the lesson? Use content that is personal to your consumers and links back to them rather than original content you create using their information or input.

But of course, the content for Burt’s Bees was also moderated.

Which brings us to…


The payoff between more and less moderation is that the content isn’t immediate. Lots of campaigns rely on UGC being immediate and a quick payoff for the consumer.

You have to decide what would happen if your campaign was hijacked, how would that affect your brand? If the audience is less likely to hijack your campaign and the content will link back to them, then you might get away with minimal moderation.

But if you have a broad audience and you are creating content using your brand images or even, as in the case of the National Lottery, a famous sportsperson, then full moderation is always advised.

An image from the hijacked National Lottery campaign, with sprinter Adam Gemili holding a sign reading, "Brexit means Brexit".

The advice we give to clients is that if they have the time and resources to fully moderate UGC campaign before it goes live, then we would say always go for that option. Once inappropriate content has been released on your platform, the damage can be extensive and you are unable to delete things that go wrong.

If you are going to associate yourself with content, especially if you are a brand with a very strong visual identity or a strong image to uphold, it would be risky to have anything less than full moderation.


Even if you are not going for extensive moderation, at the very least you should have a profanity filter in place. This is simply an automatic check for a predetermined list of words in the UGC. If one of these words are found it is changed to another inoffensive word. For example, for Soap and Glory, the profanity filter replaces swear words with soap. Talk about washing your mouth out with soap!

The Selfie-Love campaign graphic from Soap and Glory - This was a UGC that relied on moderation of the content.


Well, the issue with full moderation is that it is not instantaneous. If someone posts something at 3 am then the content will probably not go live until the next day. Will this affect the way your campaign is run?


Both Olapic and Juicer are useful moderation tools, they compile UGC into a social media feed that can be placed on a website of microsite based on a campaign hashtag.

Both of these tools give users the option approve the images or content before they go live.

Olapic is a great moderation tool, it locates earned media, asks the original poster for reposting rights and even allows your customers to buy directly from the social feed. However, these extra features come with added costs. Juicer is a more affordable alternative, it is a simple tool that creates a social feed but with no option to buy from the feed.


As a brand, if you are running a social media campaign, you should already have a community management policy and a governance policy. When we are designing campaigns for clients, we always check they already have both of these in place and if not, we work with them to impose a policy before any campaigns are launched.


According to Ready’s digital director Jake Xu, if you are running a UGC campaign, you simply have to accept that people using your hashtag in a negative way is simply part of the territory. The main advice he gives is to not automatically repost content from hashtags, or use the images or content in a social feed, without moderation. If the content isn’t coming from your social accounts it adds a level of safety to the campaign.

He also suggests not running social media campaigns with hashtags if your company has recently made a mistake or had bad PR. Try to sit down beforehand and work through any way the hashtag could be used, and learn from the mistakes of Susan’s album party and check your hashtag doesn’t read as another word when you take out the capitalisation. #susanalbumparty