In essence, user-generated content (UGC) is any type of content, be it text, videos, reviews, images, that is created by people rather than the brand itself.
Have you ever received a long-awaited purchase and showed it off to the world via your social profiles? Did you snap a picture of this purchase or maybe you filmed an unboxing video and posted it on your Instagram stories or your YouTube channel? Whether you know it or not, we all can be, what today’s modern world calls, an influencer. Although the number of followers on your social profile will deter you from being a professional content creator, we have all been a party to creating user-generated content at some point in our digital lives.
Do you want to know more about UGC? In this article, we will, not only, expand on what user-generated content is, but also touch upon why it is important in today’s digital world (and in the brand trust and reputation economy) and how you can use UGC to your advantage.
What is user-generated content?
While we all know that content is king, we might go so far as to say that in certain digital marketing campaigns, user-generated content is slowly taking the lead in the reign. UGC or consumer-generated content can be defined as original and brand-specific content that is created by customers and published on social media and other digital channels.
This user-generated content can come in a variety of forms, including images, videos, a testimonial, reviews, or even a podcast, amongst others.
Who makes UGC?
User-generated content can come from all sorts of people including customers, brand loyalists, and even employees. Customers, especially those born in the digital age, are incredibly tech-savvy and they are very good at creating visually-pleasing Instagram posts and TikTok videos.
You can get UGC from customers either because you asked for it directly or because your customers have decided to share content organically about your brand. The latter is the aim of the game here.
Customers can turn into brand loyalists and dedicated customers and they will be the ones who are most enthusiastic about your business and about a new release. Employee-generated content (EGC) will help show the value and story behind your brand. This could be in the form of behind-the-scenes photos and videos of your team at work. EGC is very beneficial to showcase authenticity.
Why does user-generated content work?
UGC is used to influence a buyer’s journey and it works! It can help influence, not only, engagement but also lead to an increase in conversions, which is ultimately the goal of any business. UGC can also be used and re-used across multiple channels including email, landing pages, on your own social accounts, etc.
Authenticity is key
While it’s easy for a professional brand to create its own high-quality content, authenticity turns out to be more important and effective for customers than looking professional. This might be a tough pill to swallow for some businesses, but it is true! Authenticity is key. Studies show that more than two-thirds of shoppers are influenced by Instagram photos of a product while user-generated videos on YouTube get 10x more views than branded content.
Your customers will take note of how ‘real’ people use your products and share their passion for the brand. Online retailers, such as Asos and Monsoon, put this authenticity to good use when displaying a ‘Shop The Look’ section on their website, featuring customers who have used their specific hashtag, dressed in their clothing. This kind of imagery enables shoppers to picture how individual items will look on them since they can see it on real people, not just models.
The best thing about this is that, more often than not, UGC has a ripple-effect. If more and more people start sharing their experience on social media about your brand, there is a high probability that other customers will do too.
UGC is cost-effective
If your brand is on a budget, UGC is the way to go. Sometimes, it’s cheaper to search and use UGC content than try to create a piece of content in-house. With UGC, your customers are creating your content for you, bringing in their own audiences as a result.
This leaves you with more budget to tap into other resources. Hand in hand with user-generated content and branded/commissioned content, marketers can create the perfect formula in their content strategy. In fact, some companies even repurpose UGC content for paid social campaigns or integrate it into landing pages.
Using genuine customers proves to be more cost-effective than influencer marketing since hiring an influencer is not cheap nowadays, especially for smaller brands with a tight budget.
UGC can help grow your community
UGC will give customers the opportunity to participate in your brand’s growth instead of simply being a spectator. This has a great impact on brand loyalty and affinity – your success will feel like their success too. Allowing for user-generated content will help your customers feel like they are part of a community.
UGC also opens up a communicative channel between a brand and a consumer and this level of interaction is needed to help build and grow an engaged community. However, building a community does not stop at simply posting on social media – it requires work and you will need to engage with it regularly and in an honest and meaningful way. Building a community and brand awareness takes time and energy and goes beyond featuring posts with a certain hashtag.
Some brands make it a point to share UGC content on specific days to keep the momentum. For example, at the start of each week, the fitness brand Gymshark shares 5-6 tagged posts of their customers wearing their brand. This engages the Gymshark community to keep posting more on social media, and in turn, keep buying their clothing, for a chance to be featured.
User-generated content examples
Here are some of our favourite instances of how brands use UGC in their digital marketing campaigns:
On social media
One of the most classic ways to collect and share UGC is via social media. For example, Gymshark’s Instagram channel is mainly powered by UGC content. According to different campaigns, Gymshark encourages customers to use specific hashtags which allows them to sift through UGC and share and re-use content on social media.
Asos, an eCommerce website, is another brand that uses hashtags to its advantage, powering its Instagram feed with real customers using the hashtag #AsSeenOnMe. This allows Asos to show a refreshing feed of real-life customers wearing Asos apparel and accessories. This allows Asos to secure free advertising while also keeping its authentic image.
Social and digital ads
As mentioned before, UGC has shown to be very effective in social and digital ad campaigns. Parachute, the consumer bedding and bath brand, encourages its audience to use the hashtag #MyParachuteHome when showing their brand on social media. Parachute them repurposes these photos as promotional content, including retargeting ads (shown on the right) which proved to generate a higher click-through rate than when showing a simple image of their product (shown on the left).
Displaying authentic UGC across the homepage of your website will show people the benefits of your product or service.
Mango, an e-commerce retailer, showcases the hashtag #MangoGirls on their homepage which gives their website a more ‘real’ feel to it.
Capella Hotels and Resorts also uses this strategy and integrated user-generated visuals into their email marketing, social media channels, and website, resulting in an increase in online revenue. They encouraged the use of the branded #CapellaCandids hashtag on social media, which they then used to create a ‘Stay Inspired’ section on their website.
Our top user-generated content tips
Now that you know why user-generated content is important and how it will help your business, here are some tips and tricks on how you can start implementing UGC into your business plan.
Ask for permission
First things first – consent is mandatory when sharing content. Always ask for permission before republishing or using a customer’s content. People may tag your brand or use your branded hashtag without knowing that they are participating in your user-generated content campaign. Re-sharing content without permission may do more harm than good for your business. When you ask for permission, you will show customers that you appreciate their content and will get them excited about sharing their post with your audience.
Credit the creator
Asking for permission is not enough – credit the original creator too. Always give credit where credit is due. This includes tagging them in your post and indicating which part of the content is not yours to claim. If you plan to use this content on multiple platforms, check how the user wants to be credited on these various channels.
Set goals for UGC
Make sure that UGC aligns with your existing marketing goals. Tell your customers what kind of content you are most likely to be sharing, that way, they will know what kind of content to create if they would like to be featured.
Make sure that your UGC campaign is in line with your social media goals such as brand awareness, more conversions, etc.
UGC campaigns empower businesses to reach customers in a new way. With the right approach and strategy, brands can engage with customers with a sense of authenticity which, in turn, will heighten attention from other customers, driving real positive business results.
If you’re looking for the best tools that companies use to find and craft authentic and compelling user-generated content, here are our top favourites: