What Is User-Generated Content (& How To Use It in 2024)
Wake up, digital marketers! User-generated content (UGC) is your golden ticket to tap into the power of the masses.
UGC is a successful method for businesses to boost customer loyalty, brand engagement, and conversions.
And brands have been incorporating UGC in their digital marketing campaigns since Gangnam Style was a thing.
“Why am I only just hearing about this now?” you ask.
We know you’re looking for epic new ways to be seen.
And UGC is revolutionizing content creation in 2023.
So, what is UGC, and how does it work? And how can you leverage it to achieve your marketing goals?
We’ll dive into all that and throw in some examples for good measure.
Let’s get down to brass tacks.
What Is User-Generated Content?
UGC is original, brand-specific content created by your loyal customers, employees, and brand advocates.
We’re talking about unpaid or unsponsored social media posts that consumers share on a social network to rave about your product or service.
When someone Tweets about a phenomenal hotel experience they had this summer.
When your favorite brand reposts a user’s Instagram Story.
When a consumer shares a video on TikTok about the latest tech gadget they can’t live without…
Yep, you guessed it – that’s UGC.
And the best part?
It costs you absolutely nothing.
85% of people say UGC influences their purchasing decisions more than visual content created by brands.
Now that’s a stat you want in on.
Here are some more mind-blowing user-generated content statistics:
- Social media posts that include UGC have a 4.5% higher conversion rate than posts that don't.
- 48% of consumers claim UGC is a great way to discover new products.
- 30% of Millennials have unfollowed a brand because they believe its content to be inauthentic.
- Over 90% of consumers are influenced by UGC – like customer reviews – when shopping for a product or service.
- Conversely, 92% of consumers experience analysis paralysis when there are no customer reviews to justify their purchase.
The Importance of User-Generated Content
Compared to brand-pushed marketing material, UGC is regarded as dependable, trustworthy, and authentic.
But it’s how brands leverage UGC is what gives the medium its firepower.
As consumers, we tend to automatically assume that advertisers lie.
For example, take a look at the BS the advertising industry tries to feed us regarding fast food:
We’re sick of the lies, and we demand authenticity and transparency.
As a marketer, can you see why UGC is a crucial aspect of content marketing?
Here are some tips from brands with successful UGC campaigns.
1. Helps establish brand authenticity
UGC can establish brand authenticity because it comes directly from real people.
Not from a brand's overworked marketing department.
When consumers see how your product or service is genuinely helpful and valued by others, it builds trust.
2. Builds brand loyalty
When brands use UGC in their content marketing, they’re demonstrating their appreciation for their customers.
As a result, consumers feel more invested in the brand and increase their emotional attachment to it.
Harley-Davidson is an excellent example of a brand showing the love to its customers.
3. Promotes brand trust
Plenty of brands have promised a high-end experience and failed to deliver on those promises.
Anyone remember the Fyre Festival?
The festival relied heavily on influencer marketing to promote the event.
It was advertised as a “luxury music festival in an idyllic tropical setting on a private island in the Bahamas.”
But, instead of luxury villas, guests were expected to camp out in rain-soaked tents.
Instead of local seafood, Bahamian-style sushi, and even a pig roast, guests were served up cheese sandwiches.
And, to make matters worse – there was no running water.
And this, people, is why we generally don’t trust marketers or advertisers.
So, you need to harness UGC to prove your commitment to transparency, authenticity, and customer satisfaction.
Which all help to build trust and loyalty.
4. Increases user engagement
UGC campaigns create a more personalized, emotional, and participatory user experience.
It encourages people to become brand ambassadors, helping to spread your message and reach a wider audience.
And thanks to UGC, you have continuous access to on-point content creation.
Incorporate that content into your UGC marketing campaign and refine it to be more engaging and valuable to your audience.
5. Validates social proof
You’re shopping for a new office chair. You’ve narrowed down your online search to three chairs based on the pictures and features.
One has over 600 product reviews with an average rating of 4.8 stars.
The second has 170 reviews and a 2.3-star rating.
The third has no reviews.
Naturally, you’re drawn to the chair with the highest number of satisfied customers.
This is due to a psychological phenomenon called social proof – or informational social influence.
In fact, Sprout Social tells us that 95% of shoppers read reviews and recommendations before making a purchasing decision.
Social media users are much more likely to believe the experiences of real people over claims made by a brand.
Seeing others using and enjoying your product or service can persuade people to trust your brand and whip out the plastic.
6. Suited for an omnichannel approach
An omnichannel approach to UGC spans various channels to increase the number of touchpoints with your customers.
Your customers will create content – for free – for you to use in:
- Social media advertising – to help boost authenticity and relatability.
- Your website – include customer photos to show how the product looks when used by a real person.
- Email marketing campaigns – feature UGC to engage your subscribers and increase your click-through rate by 73%!
7. Cheaper than hiring influencers
One of the most significant benefits of UGC is that it’s created and shared on social media channels at zero cost to you.
So you don’t need to invest in large-scale brand awareness campaigns such as influencer marketing.
Users create content because they genuinely have immense love for your brand or product.
And they want others to get the feels for your brand, too.
8. Highlights diversity and creativity
With users from different backgrounds, ages, and locations sharing their unique perspectives and experiences, it helps to promote diversity and inclusivity.
And fosters a sense of community and belonging.
Plus, UGC can spark your own creativity, inspiring you to explore new content ideas.
As a result, you’ll have an unlimited supply of fresh, unique, and engaging content that resonates with your audience.
9. Increases conversions and revenue
The real-life examples of people using and enjoying your product or service help persuade other users to make a purchase.
Which naturally leads to a and mo’ money in the bank.
In fact, brands featuring UGC on their website report a 29% increase in conversions.
Which can inform future content marketing strategies.
Types of user-generated content
User-generated content is essential to a kick-ass content marketing strategy. And it comes in many styles and formats to fit your brand.
Incorporate a mix of the following in your UGC campaign:
- Video content
- Social media content (e.g., Tweets, Insta posts, etc.)
- Customer reviews
- Live streams
- Blog posts
- YouTube content
So, what is an example of user-generated content?
Why stop at one? Here are five.
Examples of user-generated content
Apple's campaign encouraged users to share photos taken with their iPhone using hashtag, #ShotOniPhone.
Apple then chose the best pics to feature in their digital marketing campaigns, billboards, and advertising.
The campaign resulted in a massive increase in social media engagement while showcasing the iPhone camera’s quality.
#ShotOniPhone has gained immense popularity since, with over 15 million posts on Instagram alone.
GoPro: Million Dollar Challenge
GoPro's Million Dollar Challenge is a popular annual contest where customers can submit their best GoPro vids.
Each UGC creator is in the running to be featured in a compilation video and win a share of $1 million in prize money.
The branded content showcases the badass capabilities of GoPro's products.
Moxy Hotels: #AtTheMoxy
Moxy Hotels’ ongoing campaign motivates followers to post pics of themselves using the hashtag #AtTheMoxy.
By doing so, they’re in with a chance to be featured on the brand's social media platform.
This approach helps Moxy connect with its target audience and create content that aligns with its brand.
Since the campaign was launched, it has had tremendous success, with over 70,000 photos posted using the branded hashtag.
Demonstrating the tangible benefits of a physical product is pretty straightforward.
But what if your business is serviced-based? How do you get your hands on user-generated content?
Adobe tackled that challenge with its hashtag, #MadeWithPhotoshop.
The UGC campaign aimed to illustrate the software’s capabilities while showing off its users’ creative talents.
The hashtag has been used in over 268,000 posts, with the top submissions placed on the brand’s official Photoshop page.
Burberry's user-generated content marketing strategy aimed to give the company’s aging brand a facelift.
Their UGC campaign encouraged customers to share photos of themselves wearing Burberry, using the hashtag, #ArtOfTheTrench.
As a result, Burberry’s social commerce sales surged 50% year-over-year following the campaign launch.
Tips for user-generated content
1. Get permission first!
This is not the time when asking for forgiveness is better than asking for permission.
Always ask before republishing or using a consumer’s UGC video or picture.
Even though they shared it on their platform, they might not be open to having it on yours.
Reach out through their DMs or email so you’ve got it in writing.
2. Give credit where credit’s due
As a follow-up to asking for permission, give the original content creator clear credit.
Doing so shows that you recognize and appreciate their work.
It also makes it easy for fans and followers to verify that someone outside your company created the content.
3. Encourage your customers to share
If you’re still wondering, “How do I get user-generated content?” you can start by creating a branded hashtag.
A branded hashtag is unique to your brand or campaign. It encourages followers to share their experiences with your product or service.
Once your fans know you're seeking high-quality UGC, they may up their game by taking better pics and vids.
Which leads to free quality marketing material that meets your brand's needs.
Make it easy for users to share their UGC by providing clear instructions on using your branded hashtag.
Or create a simple form on your website where they can submit their content.
4. And reward them when they do
The opportunity to be featured in a brand’s social content is already a mammoth incentive for consumers to post UGC.
But a rewards system can kick-start greater consumer participation.
Offer incentives, such as a discount or a chance to win a prize.
Let’s take a look at an example.
Fenty Beauty held a giveaway for their Fenty Parfum line. The brand encouraged participants to create UGC videos to win.
Thousands of people used #SmellHoweverTFYouWant on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.
The campaign aligned with Fenty's brand values of inclusivity and individuality.
As a bonus, it generated significant brand awareness and positive consumer sentiment.
5. Get your employees in on the action
Your employees are the heart and soul of your brand.
Their hard work and dedication deserve to be showcased in a way that truly captures the essence of your company.
Employee-generated content (EGC) may include photos of your team in action – packing and making orders, for example.
Or videos of them sharing why they love working for your company.
Brand messages shared by employees on socials have a 561% greater reach than if you were to share the same message on your brand’s social channels.
This behind-the-scenes content is an authentic and engaging way to showcase your brand's identity.
6. Make a plan for dealing with negative UGC
Dealing with negative user-generated content can be challenging for a brand.
You may like to pretend it doesn’t exist, but you must address it promptly and professionally.
Assess the situation to understand its nature, source, and the extent of its impact on your brand’s reputation.
Acknowledge the user’s feedback and offer a solution or explanation where possible.
Get it right, and you’ll give value to your consumers and turn a negative situ into a positive one.
7. Measure and analyze your results
Measuring your UGC efforts is necessary to achieve your goals and understand what's working and what's not.
Whip out the big guns and implement a social listening strategy.
Social listening tools are a powerful way to understand the chatter happening around your brand.
Using these tools, you'll also uncover new sourcing opportunities for legendary user-generated content.
Take User Engagement to the Next Level
Your marketing success depends on consumers.
That means now is the time to make user-generated content your top priority.
UGC provides fresh and diverse content that engages your audience while fostering a sense of community and trust around your brand.
But, UGC requires careful curation and management to ensure the content aligns with your brand’s values and messaging.
Follow our tips, and you’ll be equipped with the tools to unleash a titan content marketing strategy going forward.