Instagram Discovery Strategy and Benchmarking UGC

TOPICS: Instagram Strategy, Influencer Marketing, Ambassador Programs, Benchmarking UGC

Instagram has evolved past social media; Instagram is a product discovery tool. In the most adorable of family events or daring travel experiences, users will tag their fave brands as a kind of shoutout to how the brand or product added to the moment. This kind of earned media is invaluable because engagement grows awareness. And marketing is brand awareness – including that Instagram account – but abstract awareness quickly moves to the background to make way for an even more measurable use, product discovery

Whether a conference, brand activation, or product launch, brands understand how social media plays a significant role in campaign success. So, while owned content creation is a tactic, success is defined by virality and increase in earned media, or user generated content (UGC). In a time where ‘likes’ are losing value and algorithms are toying with our ad dollars, let’s discuss how brands can leverage Instagram for its most valuable purpose – discovery – and how to benchmark success. 

An Intro to UGC

The LoudCrowd team joined the Digital Influencer room on Clubhouse to chat about successful Instagram strategies and Dana Bowling had this to say…

“Consistency is key. Instagram should be a mix between a-roll (talk to the camera); b-roll (a walk, pouring coffee); and c-roll (sharing others’ content; something people can learn from or be inspired by).”

She followed this up by naming someone she discovered and began following because every morning, they post their daily coffee pouring ritual. It’s not branded or grandiose; it’s consistent and it’s personal. This kind of personal post is the content brands strive for but rely on their audience to create. Imagine the impact if this person tags the coffee brand…every morning, thousands of followers watch a beautiful ritual, brought to you by (for example) Blue Bottle Coffee. Then times that by hundreds of other customers doing something similar. This kind of ‘word-of-mouth’ discovery – fueled by user generated content (UGC) – is today’s most valuable marketing channel with incredible growth potential. 

Move beyond timeline algorithms and paid ads – a brand’s most valuable asset is customer created content and creating a social gifting program that rewards them for spreading the word. Measuring and growing this highly leverageable digital channel is key to any successful Instagram strategy.

The Value of UGC

Customers and super fans are now creating exponentially more content than the brand itself. Carefully curated, beautifully staged content – engaging an entirely different network than a brand’s reach. Nordstrom posts twice a day but they’re tagged about 200 times a day by fans and customers. A reach far more widespread and impactful than their own account. Similarly, Ryderwear gets well over 300 tagged posts a day with original content from their most valuable customers. Leveraging LoudCrowd, Ryderwear has tracked over 10M impressions and measured a 12X ROI from user generated content. Learning how much their customers were posting and being able to automate outreach and rewards, Ryderwear has amassed an ambassador program they will continue to grow and leverage for content.

This is where measuring impact and benchmarking performance is key. It’s important to understand the average EMV for an instagram post is anywhere between $250 to $950 – based on organic, non-paid impressions. Once a brand can organize and track who is posting and at what engagement, they can build a strategy around growing this digital channel

Benchmarking UGC

There is a lot that goes into benchmarking. It’s not just counting tags and likes – a manual, time consuming task riddled with errors. It’s about understanding the entire strategy and reviewing project milestones to see if things are on the right track. 

With a shoutout to Kevin Shively for the framework, here are the elements to focus on when setting benchmarks for UGC.

  1. Earned: User-generated content: what have your customers and fans posted about your brand that you can leverage? We already discussed how much more content this audience produces than a brand can even consider AND there is a built in trust with word-of-mouth marketing.

LoudCrowd Tool Tip: leverage LoudCrowd to easily, and quickly, organize all organic posts across Instagram so you can determine the value and start to grow the impact of this UGC channel.

  1. Trended: What are the highs and lows of your previous activity? Do certain images or hashtags get better engagement than others? Have your team identify trends within Instagram data and activity engagement. 

LoudCrowd Tool Tip: Measure performance after reposting or surprise gifting a group of customers and see how much more they post and tag your brand.

  1. Competitive: What parts of your competitors social media can you take advantage of? 

LoudCrowd Tool Tip: USE LOUDCROWD as your competitive advantage. Find and engage your top customers and fans, incentivizing more frequent posts and tags in a clean, automated workflow.

  1. Aspirational: What brands do you want to emulate? This is where imagination soars…look outside your industry for inspiration; strong, creative ideas can span all markets. And your customers are a wealth of innovative, fresh ideas. 

Fun Fact: The founders of Method hand soaps wanted to bring the ‘branding creativity’ of Apple to an industry that lacked innovation. Enter beautiful designs and luxury scents.

With these key benchmark concepts in mind, let’s review Instagram stats, benchmarks, and takeaways from the top most engaging industries of 2021.


Key takeaway for alcohol: Engagement rates on instagram are rising; but there’s more and more competition. Focus on top performing factors, not overall followers which can be misleading – you might not be Stone Brewing but you sure can beat out the last contest your top competitor just ran. 

  • Instagram leads in engagement stats – with 10x the engagement compared to Facebook – so focus efforts and encourage engagement on there. 
  • Posts featuring a #giveaway performed 50% better than the 2nd best hashtag. No surprise but get creative with it. Instagram is already charging brands to get in front of their own followers so encourage long tail engagement, organic posts, and stronger customer loyalty.
  • Engagement rates by platform: FB – 0.13%; Instagram – 1.17%; TW – 0.06%


Key takeaway for beauty: Beauty is seeing a slow decrease in engagements – giving brands the opportunity to take advantage of their customers and fans to garner more engagement and attention. And if your goal is to get people to your website, 91% of consumers visit a brands website after following on social.

  • Engagement rates by platform: FB – 0.03%; Instagram – 0.51%; TW – 0.03%


Key takeaway for fashion: Focusing on the Instagram strategy of ‘product discovery’, this is the time for fashion brands to leverage UGC as a top digital channel. Shoppers are moving online and they want to see more than a single pic of a particular kind of model…showcase hundreds of photos of real people to help increase brand awareness.

  • Top engaging hashtag: #newarrivals 
  • Engagement rates by platform: FB – 0.04%; Instagram – 0.51%; TW – 0.03%
  • Top engagement on instagram: photo and carousel posts were neck-and-neck for Health & Beauty brands 


Key takeaways for food & bev

  • Top engaging hashtag: #giveaway
  • Giveaways and holidays are the most engaging hashtags for Food & Beverage brands.
  • Food & Beverage followers favor more visual post types, so grow your photo and video library through UGC.
  • Engagement rates by platform: FB – 0.05%; Instagram – 1.06%; TW – 0.07%


Key takeaways for fitness: 50% of people use social media to record personal milestones; this is a huge opportunity for fitness brands to take advantage of UGC with goal oriented contests.

  • Engagement rates by platform: FB – 0.03%; Instagram – 0.51%; TW – 0.03%
  • Online and virtual training will continue to be top trends in the fitness industry

[All engagement rates from RivalIQ; for more live industry benchmark reports:]

Prioritize UGC

Marketers have become ultra-focused on the “social” aspects of Instagram; time and resources have been stretched, so complacency stepped in. Consistency has been misconstrued. Creativity has been swapped for “best practices”; and engagement swapped for predictability. All to feed the algorithm….not to say you don’t have to feed it because you definitely do, but to build a successful instagram campaign, brands must innovate beyond it. And that means engaging a larger network and their networks, strategizing UGC as a top priority, and engaging with your customers and fans in more meaningful ways.

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