User-Generated Content for Associations: Part I

By Genny Toddy • March 1, 2023

Welcome to UGC 101! The first of this two-part series will dive into what user-generated content is and how to begin mining for that content. Then, Part 2 will show you how to build your community as a foundation for mining the best UGC.

The pandemic changed the way we approach just about everything in life, but particularly content creation and how we communicate.

Over the past few years, association members and communities took to the Web, as we do in times of uncertainty, and made content – lots of content.

This user-generated content completely altered the way consumers shopped, and brand marketing had to adjust. But what about associations?

The good news is associations are already halfway there. The first step to curating excellent user-generated content is by creating a community. Your association members are your community.

Why Do I Need UGC?

A 2019 survey from Stackla (now acquired by Nosto) found that 51% of consumers found less than half of brand content authentic, meanwhile 92% of marketers believed that content resonated as authentic with consumers. That is a big disparity and shows just how much content needs a refresh.

If the pandemic taught us anything, it is the value of being flexible when the world suddenly shifts. Audiences want creative, engaging and factual content they can apply in real-life situations, and your members are the pros you need.

Experts in the Field

The best people to find for content creation are active in your field. They are boots-on-the-ground sources for what’s happening in the industry, the professionals who know what they’re doing. They know the walk and the talk, but they also know the needs. Who are the members that are meeting those needs? Find them and engage. Your audience will find a fellow community member trustworthy and authentic.

The B Word

Budgets are tight and inflation is soaring, but user-generated content is one of the most cost-effective ways to find unique content. This is a way to not only repurpose content that your users have provided but a way to enhance it for a larger audience. There is so much content waiting for the right eye to find it and tweak it for the next platform. In a study by TurnTo Networks, 61% of respondents said UGC encouraged engagement and 73% said it increases purchasing confidence. So, this content is a way to increase non-dues revenue and encourage active members.

Mine for Gold

Content mining sounds intimidating. If you have an entire community, where do you start? Page one. What part of your member communications is already engaging? Perhaps your Government Affairs column has the most clicks in your magazine’s digital edition. Find the people who engage with that on other platforms. See what aspect of it they’re discussing and find who they’re discussing it with.

Perhaps they’re celebrating the passage of a certain bill. Perhaps they’re encouraging their colleagues and fellow members to join in the conversation. Take time to dig through your association’s socials to find what people are talking about and who is talking.


Great, but how do we use all of this? Ask … but be specific.

Reach out to the members who have content you would like to highlight or repurpose. Let them know exactly where you plan to use this information, an approximate timeline and credit them for the contribution. No member who gives permission to publish their content should ever be surprised to see it. If you plan to use it in your magazine, tell them which issue it will be in (and be sure to alert them if that changes). If you plan to create social media posts, tell them what platforms it will be posted on.

Another way to utilize members for their expertise is by interviewing them. You may already know a hot topic for your industry. Turn your members into thought leaders (or use their expertise if they already are). Ask them to take part in interviews and member profiles. The more engaged they are the better. This will bring other engaged members to the forefront.

Dive In

Now, you know what to look for, but how do you decide what is going to be the best fit? First, go with your gut. If you know certain topics do not resonate with your audience, there’s no need to put resources toward that idea. Then, experiment. The best way to find out what people will engage with and want to see more of is to put it out there. See what works, what doesn’t work and why it does or doesn’t work.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series: Community Building for User-Generated Content.

About The Author

Genny is a digital content specialist with Naylor, a proud pet parent and nap enthusiast. Reach her at [email protected].