Unlocking the Power of User-Generated Content: A Play Cafe Owner's Guide to Incentivizing Customers and Boosting Online Presence

In another recent article I shared how indoor playground and play cafe owners can establish an additional stream of revenue as a user generated content creator. And I started that article by diving into exactly WHY user generated content or UGC is so valuable to businesses in 2023 and beyond.

To summarize, utilizing UGG  is essential for marketing because it enables businesses to leverage the power of authentic, customer-created content to build trust, credibility, and brand awareness.

When customers create and share their experiences with a product or service, it serves as a genuine testimonial that resonates with potential customers, often more than traditional advertising. 

UGC also helps to foster a sense of community and connection with your audience, as they see real people enjoying and benefiting from your offerings. Additionally, user-generated content can significantly boost your online presence, search engine rankings, and social media engagement, ultimately driving more traffic and conversions for your business. In today's highly competitive market, leveraging UGC as part of your marketing strategy is key to achieving long-term success and growth.

So in that recent article I shared the importance of UGC in the context of WHY it can become such a substantial revenue stream– it’s VERY important to modern day marketing so companies place a huge amount of value on it and are willing to pay quite a bit for it.

But today, we are going to flip the conversation on it’s head, and I want to talk about how you can leverage UGC in your OWN business, and I am going to share 9 specific and practical tips on how you can accomplish this as efficiently and as affordably as possible.

Because while we’d all love to have the big budgets of some of these nationwide or worldwide retailers, that usually is not reality.

As another quick refresher, UGC can include photos, videos, reviews, and other content created by customers as they enjoy their time at your facility. It can be someone sharing a snap of their latte, party parents taking photos and videos of their set ups, and everything in between. 

So let’s talk about some practical tips for incentivizing your customers to create and share UGC, ultimately elevating your indoor playground's online reputation and visibility.


1) Design a Share-Worthy Environment

The foundation of successful UGC lies in creating an environment that customers can't help but share. Your indoor playground should be visually appealing, with Instagrammable spots, vibrant murals, and unique play structures that inspire parents to snap photos and videos of their children having fun. The more captivating and engaging your playground is, the more likely your customers will want to share their experiences on social media.

Most people when designing their spaces ONLY think of the experience of those who visit. And while that’s obviously critically important, we also must think of how to make our space as fun to share as possible. Because while things like a mural can be expensive, the amount of additional authentic exposure it will bring your space will very likely end up giving you a positive ROI– not to mention still look beautiful in your space!

A great example of this is Play Maker Society member Cheyanne’s space called Mocha’s and Minis. I linked their instagram account in the show notes, but you’ll see all the pretty backdrops and neon signs that just scream “snap a photo!”.

Other ways to increase the photo appeal of your space is to place fun labels on your drinks, train your team members in latte art, or have a designated photo backdrop!


2) Encourage Social Media Check-Ins and Hashtags

To increase your online visibility and collect more UGC, make it easy for customers to tag your location and use branded hashtags when posting on social media. Display your indoor playground's name, social media handles, and custom hashtags in prominent locations throughout your facility. You might even consider creating a catchy hashtag that resonates with your target audience.


3) Host Engaging Themed Events and Contests

Themed events and contests are excellent ways to generate excitement around your indoor playground and encourage UGC. Consider hosting events like character events, tea parties, seasonal celebrations, or family game nights. During these events, you can run social media contests that reward customers for sharing their experiences using your branded hashtag. Offer enticing prizes, such as free passes, merchandise, or discounts on future visits, to motivate more people to participate.


4) Incentivize Reviews and Testimonials

Positive reviews and testimonials are powerful forms of UGC that can significantly influence your indoor playground's reputation. Encourage customers to leave reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, and Facebook by offering incentives like discounts, exclusive promotions, or entries into a raffle. Make it easy for customers to access these platforms by providing direct links to your review pages on your website, social media, and email communications.

I also love adding QR codes throughout your space to make it as easy as possible to leave a review. Many indoor playgrounds will utilize a QR code to make it easy for guests to sign their waivers– but don’t forget this ease and convenience can be extended to the review leaving process.

And while you technically can’t incentivize leaving specific reviews (you can't REQUIRE that people leave 5-star review to participate or claim a certain bonus), you CAN incentivize reviews in general by offering something like a free drink pass if someone leaves a review and shows a team member.

You can also ask for reviews in follow-up automated email sequences after someone visits, attends an event, or has or attends a party.


5) Showcase Customer Content on Social Media and Email Marketing

Social media and email marketing are effective channels for encouraging customers to create and share UGC. Regularly share customer photos and videos (with permission) on your own social media channels, and tag the original poster to show appreciation for their content. This not only encourages more UGC but also fosters a sense of community among your customers which can really make an impact when it comes to sales. Additionally, use email marketing to share UGC, announce contests, and request reviews from your customers.

You can even create a specific weekly or monthly email campaign featuring customer stories, photos, and videos, encouraging subscribers to share their own content.

My favorite way to share UGC is also through blogging and YouTube– it allows me to share something like a party theme on a deeper and more personal level, since I can sprinkle in fun photos, quotes, and anecdotes that relate to a specific party we had. This helps showcase not only the level of detail our parties can include, but also just how important every single family is to us. And it can really help someone envision how that particular theme or party type could work for their family.



6) Display User-Generated Content On Your Website

As long as you get proper permission, be sure to sprinkle in authentic user-created images and video on your website when appropriate. While I prefer to have cleaner, staged photos on your main pages, it can be a great idea to show action shots on pages showcasing your camps, events, and parties where parents really care about the socialization aspect or the experience of their guests attending, The easiest way to do this is to link your instagram account to show up on your website, which is easy to do if you use something like Wix or Squarespace. 


7) Set Up a Photo Booth or Offer Branded Props

A photo booth or branded props can be a fun and creative way to encourage customers to take pictures and share them on social media. Set up a designated area with an attractive backdrop and provide props that feature your indoor playground's logo or theme. This will not only make for memorable photos but also help create brand awareness as customers share their images online. And while your facility may not have the space to have this 24/7, at least consider adding it during special events.

You can also partner with a local professional photographer to help add value to your event tickets AND create your bank of UGC for future promotions! 


8) Train Your Play Cafe Staff to Be Brand Ambassadors

Your staff plays a vital role in encouraging UGC. Train your team members to be brand ambassadors by teaching them the importance of UGC and equipping them with strategies for engaging customers. Encourage staff to interact with guests and offer to take photos for them, suggest fun photo opportunities, and remind customers to tag your playground and use your branded hashtags when sharing on social media.


9) Consider Displaying UGC In Your Indoor Playground Space

To further encourage users to create content, share images with permission in-person as well. Tiffany from My Play Cafe utilizes mixtiles to share policies and specials but also to share user-generated content along her walls. This again acts as a snowball effect and encourages further content creation in the hopes the kiddos and families visiting can next see THEIR smiling faces hung up. 

To wrap this one up, just a quick reminder: as always, providing exceptional customer service and memorable experiences is the BEST way to ensure customers will be likely to share their positive experiences and recommend your indoor playground to others.

But these 9 tips will help to accelerate and amplify this process so you can create a library of user-generated content to mix in with graphics and professional photos to help all of your online platforms appear more authentic and engaging to potential customers, leading to more conversions and an increase in revenue.

If you would like hands-on help with expanding your business, regardless of the path you choose, I welcome you to join us inside of Play Cafe Academy and Play Maker Society using the link here!


50% Complete

Can I Send You My NEW Free 2024 "What's Working In The Indoor Play Industry" Guide?

I asked 11 Play Cafe Academy and Play Maker Society members what is working RIGHT NOW in their businesses to attract customers and grow sales. I want to send you their answers in my FREE newly updated 2024 "What's Working" Guide!