What Is UGC (User Generated Content) and How to Leverage It
Brands are always looking for innovative, effective ways to reach new and existing customers. Alongside traditional marketing tactics, one of the best methods to improve brand visibility and build trust signals is leveraging user generated content. This form of content brings a level of authenticity and social proof that can’t be replicated through brand generated content.
What is UGC? How can you use it to promote your brand and boost conversions? We’re exploring these questions and more below.
What Is UGC?
UGC is any form of brand-specific content created by others that incorporates your product, services, or brand. From a brand perspective, organic UGC can be anything from a posted review to a TikTok video someone creates showing them using your product. Brands may also engage in paid UGC, where they’ve sponsored content for a creator to make, for example.
There are also UGC creators who make a living being paid to create content for brands. Unlike influencers, who are hired specifically to share branded content to reach their audience, UGC creators are individuals who offer content creation as a service. UGC creators may or may not post this sponsored content to their own accounts, but brands will use that content across their own marketing channels.
Some brands will also find organic UGC being shared by customers who enjoy their product and are creating content to review or showcase it without being solicited. These are loyal brand advocates who are excited to share a brand, product, or experience with their personal audience, and are another effective avenue to reach new customers.
Example of a UGC Campaign
Brands of all sizes are using UGC to bolster their marketing efforts. One of the most famous user generated content examples is the Coca-Cola “Share a Coke” campaign from 2011. While this campaign happened in the early days of Instagram and before TikTok, it was an immense success in over 80 countries around the globe, with people sharing photos of themselves and others drinking Coke with their names on the bottle.
A more recent user generated content example is Apple’s #ShotOniPhone campaign, which has been a major UGC marketing campaign for them over several years to reinstill users’ faith in the iPhone camera.
User Generated Content vs Brand Generated Content
UGC is different from traditional brand generated content because it taps directly into the digital landscape of how consumers prefer learning about products and how they share products they like with their personal audiences. Where traditional marketing feels bloated with more moving pieces like budgets, timelines, production schedules, and the people involved, using UGC can run a bit leaner. Brands can find user generated content online, work directly with UGC creators, or launch UGC campaigns to generate content without deploying as many resources.
Traditional marketing also feels less authentic than user generated content. Reports have shown that 31% of consumers say ads featuring UGC are more memorable than brand generated content. UGC allows brands to engage directly with new and existing customers on a human level, bringing authenticity and trust to the forefront of their interaction.
It also prevents the pitfalls of traditional marketing speaking at consumers versus to or with them. UGC shares the perspective of the consumer, making it a more trustworthy source of information for viewers.
Benefits of User Generated Content for Brands
Whether organic or sponsored, there are many benefits of user generated content for brands. Building on the authentic voice of UGC versus traditional marketing campaigns, UGC can also:
- Provide social proof and validation as a trust signal to consumers
- Be more cost effective than working with an ad agency or using in-house resources, especially for larger campaigns
- Build brand awareness and expand reach to new audiences via UGC creator followings
- Understand which products would benefit most from traditional marketing if popular with UGC
- Provide a look into the words and phrases people are naturally using to describe products, which can help with traditional marketing copy.
- Give brands fresh content to share to stay consistent and relevant
- Show social listening and consumer engagement
- Improve sales conversions and influence consumer purchasing decisions
Other benefits of user generated content include the potential for it to be more effective than influencer marketing.
A recent report showed that “79% of people say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions" making UGC “9.8x more impactful than influencer content when making a purchasing decision.”
Types of User Generated Content
UGC takes many forms. Different types of user generated content examples commonly seen across websites and social media platforms are:
- Reviews and testimonials (on websites, social media, and third-party sites)
- Video content featuring products and brands on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and more
- Photo content featuring products and brands on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, etc.
- Blog content
- Live streams or podcasts
While those are conduits, there’s a number of ways user generated content is created and shared using the above.
For example, content creators may organically create content on their own to share with their audience (such as unboxing videos, product reviews, or travel vlogs), discuss a brand/product on live streams or podcast episodes, write a blog post comparing different products, or create sponsored content in conjunction with a brand.
While still effective, sponsored content is hashtagged or labeled as sponsored content, to which some consumers won’t respond as strongly as organic UGC.
How to Get UGC
We’ve answered the question, “what is UGC?” now let’s talk about how to get it. Creating a UGC campaign integrates an authentic marketing strategy while giving brands fresh content to select from for their own traditional marketing campaigns.
Brands seeking to encourage UGC can:
- Create contests that require photo/video submissions
- Reward consumers for sharing their purchase or experience
- Create an Instagram takeover campaign
- Ask for reviews in emails
- Encourage consumers to share experiences or product usage with a featured hashtag
- Launch a TikTok stitch/duet campaign
- Use a platform that connects brands with UGC creators (typically for a fee)
The best way to encourage UGC is to know where your audience is active and engage with them in a unique, authentic way. For example, brands with an audience on TikTok can challenge users to stitch or duet their post with their own spin or reaction. Social media contests that encourage tagging, sharing, and posting content with specific hashtags are another great way to gather UGC if your audience is more active on Instagram.
Important Note: Be sure to read and follow current rules for hosting social media contests to ensure compliance.
How to Use User Generated Content
Social media has made it easy for brands to directly engage with consumers, so take the time to ask if you can use their image or post before you do if you’re intending to use it as part of a traditional paid marketing campaign. Once they’ve given you consent, you can use that content per the terms of the agreement. You may need to pay consumers to use their UGC in advertisements, so be aware of current laws at all times. Paying for UGC, however, is much more cost-effective than studio productions for shooting professional ad content.
Not all instances of using UGC require permission. For example, sharing social media posts or spotlighting customers in newsletters doesn’t typically require permission. Brands should also note that UGC posted with campaign hashtags are considered to be posted with consent to be used as a willing participant in the campaign.
Once you’ve obtained permission, if needed, there are a number of ways for brands to use UGC. These include using:
- Spotlight features in newsletters or on social media for appreciation and social proof
- UGC storytelling to show new customers what they could experience (The brand @getawayhouse on IG does a great job of this)
- UGC on product pages or in a website’s general image gallery to boost conversions
- Social media to republish UGC (i.e. regramming, stitching, or dueting)
- Ads highlighting user generated content
- Brand advocates and loyalists to create tutorials for your website or social media
With statistics showing UGC ads having upwards of 4x higher click-through-rates than traditional marketing and UGC posts getting 28% more engagement, the benefits of user generated content are too significant to risk losing out on.
Things to Consider When Using UGC as a Brand
Before you start searching for user generated content examples for your brand, be aware of the rules that go along with using it. Consumers publishing UGC do not necessarily give brands the right to use that content without permission. There are nuances to the rules surrounding UGC rights, some legal and others ethical. It’s best to err on the side of caution and stay on both the legal and ethical side of UGC usage at all times.
To maximize the benefits of user generated content without accidental fallout, be sure to:
- Always have the proper permissions to use content
- Credit the original creator
- Follow sponsored post regulations, including any platform-specific regulations
Brands intending to modify UGC should also consider informing the original creator at the time they ask permission. You don’t need to disclose your marketing campaign strategy, but getting permission to make modifications is the best way to avoid any grey area over what is allowed. Furthermore, it’s good practice for engaging with brand advocates and keeping them on your side.
Benefits of UGC for Creators
The benefits of user generated content aren’t limited to brands using it for their own marketing purposes. There are also benefits for social media creators. For creators who enjoy reviewing products, sharing different experiences such as travel, or bringing new brands to the attention of their audience, becoming a UGC creator is an option that may prove lucrative.
Some of the benefits of UGC for creators are that they can:
- Create UGC to attract brand partnerships, paid sponsorships, or collaborations
- Develop opportunities for affiliate partnerships
- Target brands they love and approach them about loyalty or advocate programs
- Attract free products or significant discounts from brands
If you’re a creator looking for additional resources, there are a number of different tools for content creators that can help create high quality content for UGC, and more guides here: Content Creator Resources.
A thorough understanding of what UGC is and how to leverage it is vital to marketing in today’s world. Consumers want authentic interactions with brands and are heavily influenced by the opinions of other customers over brand generated content. Integrating UGC into your overall marketing strategy will boost awareness and increase conversions.