It’s not just brands that are using UGC; average folks like you and me use UGC in wonderful and unexpected ways every single day – whether we’re driving, eating, running or spinning some tunes.

We take a look below at some of the most fascinating and useful ways people use UGC in their daily lives, and what brands can learn from them.

1. Keeping up with… whoever

Humans are silly. We like to be part of a group, but we also love to compete. A handful of brilliant new fitness apps are satisfying our desire for both with clever uses of UGC.

Apps like Strava allow buff exercisers and exercise buffs alike to record their running routes and biking trails across several data points like speed, duration, distance, and frequency, then upload them to an active social network where other users can send encouraging comments, friendly challenges, and even attempt the routes themselves to try and beat their times.

And here’s a cool thing from Strava Labs – a global heatmap based on 170 million rides and runs people took the app along for in 2015.

UGC is helping folks get in shape, stay connected, and challenge themselves and one another. That’s what we call a real workout.

2. Saving the planet

There’s one product all of us are users of, and that’s the Earth. When it comes to caring for the environment, resourceful eco-champions all over the world are harnessing the power and scale of UGC to be better stewards of the planet.

For example, at America’s protected Point Mogu State Park in Malibu, California, the National Park Service has installed signs like these that allow visitors to help park rangers track the ecosystem’s recovery from a recent wildfire. By placing their camera phone in the provided brackets and tagging their Twitter and Flickr photos with the appropriate hashtag, the park service will create time-lapse images with all the gathered photos to help measure how the flora and wildlife have been returning, and how they continue to recover.

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Who would’ve thought that a little UGC could save the world!

3. Playing games

We all love to play together, even if *together* means *connected by a high-speed internet connection*. Our natural inclination to collaborate to create and play games has gotten new life in the age of video games thanks to UGC.

With users able to connect to one another via their gaming consoles, games like LittleBigPlanet and ModNation Racers allow players to create worlds, cars, tracks, and just about anything their hearts and thumbs can imagine. They can then upload these user-generated nuggets of awesomeness to the games’ servers, and invite other users across the globe to play in, on, with, and against their creations.

When it comes to video games and UGC, there are no winners and losers, but plenty of high scores.

4. Going back to school

Back in the dark old ages (let’s say, before YouTube), if you wanted to learn how to do something like install a shelf or tune a guitar, your only options were to go to the library and find a guide book, or ask your sage, wizened old neighbor. Now, a user need only to type their query into a search bar to find a thousand other users showing them how.

YouTube channels like eHow and Howcast are a treasure trove of user-generated help and how-to videos. So, if you’d like to know how to use Spotify Premium, or how to pick the right sized needle for circular knitting, check them out.

Thanks to UGC, if you want to know something, all you have to do is ask (and type).

5. Facing the music

Music videos are no longer the territory of million-dollar budgets and champagne on yachts. Fans are connecting with the musicians they love, and vice versa, thanks to user-generated content.

English singer Ellie Goulding got attention for asking her fans to create her music videos for her. Goulding has popularised the concept of releasing a song, advertising a designated hashtag, and then crafting the accompanying video by mashing up videos, photos, and artwork her fans post to social media. Goulding gets an awesome avant-garde UGC music video, and her fans get to enjoy a powerful, meaningful reminder of just how much their love means to the star.

So go ahead: plug in, tune up, and stand out with UGC for music.

6. Snacking

We may not all have connections at major multinational food producers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a say in what wacky flavours we get to enjoy in the supermarket. More and more companies are inviting customers to vote with their tongues.

Frito-Lay, the parent company of Lay’s potato crisps, made waves when they asked users to submit their best ideas for new flavours with their ‘Do Us a Flavour’ contest. Users wrote in their wildest dreams, everything from ‘Sriracha Barbecue’ to ‘Liver and Onions.’ The most popular new creations as voted on by fans were actually produced, and sold in stores.

However, they weren’t all in good taste…

The next time you find yourself in the snack food aisle, remember that you have people power either to thank or to blame.

7. Driving round the bend

If there’s one thing nearly every motorist can agree on, it’s that we hate traffic. One person is at the mercy of the cruel and fickle traffic gods, but crowd-sourced UGC apps can help swing the balance of power in favour of the drivers.

The Waze app allows drivers to quickly and easily report accidents, traffic jams, delays, and even lurking police traps to the app’s servers, which then shares this up-to-the-minute information with all users. By keeping millions of drivers abreast of real-time traffic situations, lucky motorists can plan alternate routes, avoid congestion, and generally maintain their levels of happiness and manage their levels of hair-pulling stress.

UGC that can help take the sting out of traffic? Now that’s a brilliant idea.

8. Transferring money

Social media is the ultimate UGC immersion; theoretically, social media is only users, and all content is theirs. Since people have a tough time trusting money transfer services, the next UGC frontier is the transfer of money via social media.

Facebook recently began allowing users to send money to one another via its Messenger app if both users are located in the same country, and Fastacash, the Singapore-based company behind the technology, has its sights set on Twitter and WeChat, as well. This social media-centric transfer of funds may not be strictly user-generated, but by removing the appearance of a middle man, users certainly feel like the transaction is far more user-to-user, and less user-to-bank.

Sending money is quicker and easier than it’s ever been, and the UGC revolution has its fingerprints all over it.

So what does that mean for brands?

By studying the ways people gladly and willingly use UGC every day to improve their lives, brands can learn just what makes UGC so effective, and how they can employ it in their marketing.

In all its permutations, especially those listed above, user-generated content is primarily about the trust users have in themselves and each other. Any opportunity to replace the influence of ‘experts’ or ‘big corporate marketers’ with that of fellow users is pounced upon. Further, brands that understand the valuable transparency UGC gives to otherwise opaque processes like money transfer, instruction, and product development, can understand how injecting a user-generated aspect improves everyone’s understanding, familiarity, and comfort with the process. Understanding leads to trust, and trust leads to sales.

How you use UGC every day is how brands should be using UGC themselves – as a natural compliment to the conversation. The proof is in the planet.

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8 weird (and useful) ways we use UGC