Got some cool new clothes that you’re ready to show off to the world? Chances are you’ll snap a pic and post it on your social profiles. Or maybe you’ve received a fancy new product, and you post an unboxing video to your YouTube channel? Whether you know it or not, both of these examples are user-generated content (UGC).
Not clued in just yet? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
In this article, you’ll learn what user-generated content is, plus a few other things:
- understand the benefits of using UGC in your campaigns,
- see how big and small brands execute UGC,
- Get actionable tips to help transform your user-generated content into more engagement and conversions for your brand.
Bonus: Read the step-by-step social media strategy guide with pro tips on how to grow your social media presence.
What is user-generated content?
User-generated content (also known as UGC or consumer-generated content) is original, brand-specific content created by customers and published on social media or other channels. UGC comes in many forms, including images, videos, reviews, a testimonial, or even a podcast.
An example of user-generated content from Calvin Klein.
Where does UGC content come from?
Think unboxing videos shared on TikTok or praise-filled posts on Instagram. Your customers are usually the most prominent cohort you’ll look to gain UGC from, either because you’ve asked for it or because they’ve organically decided to share content about your brand.
Loyalists, advocates, or fans. However you label your most dedicated customers, they’re typically the group that’s most enthusiastic about your business. Since loyalists are so passionate about worshiping at the alter of the brand, this audience segment is ripe to reach out to and ask for specific UGC content.
Employee-generated content (EGC) shows the value and story behind your brand. For example, photos of employees packing or making up orders or a video of your team talking about why they love working for your company. This behind-the-scenes content helps establish brand identity and works across social and ads to showcase authenticity.
A UGC creator is someone who creates sponsored content that appears authentic but is designed to showcase a specific business or product. UGC creators are not creating traditional organic UGC — they’re paid by brands to create content that emulates traditional UGC.
Why is user-generated content important?
UGC is used across all stages of the buyer’s journey to help influence engagement and increase conversions. The customer-centric content can be used on social media and other channels, such as email, landing pages, or checkout pages.
Takes authenticity to the next level
Nowadays, brands have to fight to be seen online, and competition is fierce for audience attention. As a result, buyers are more selective about the brands they interact with and purchase from, especially the notoriously fickle Gen-Z.
And it’s not just consumers who are passionate about authentic content. 60% of marketers agree that authenticity and quality are equally important elements of successful content. And there’s no other content type that’s more authentic than UGC from your customers.
Don’t be tempted to fake your user-generated posts or campaign. Audiences will quickly sniff out the false sentiment, which could seriously damage your brand reputation. Instead, always ensure that your UGC comes from one of three cohorts: your customers, brand loyalists, or employees.
People ultimately trust other people, so it’s essential to think of UGC as the modern-day word of mouth.
And with consumers 2.4 times more likely to view user-generated content as authentic compared to content created by brands, the time to invest in an authenticity-driven social marketing strategy is now.
Source: Business Wire
Helps establish brand loyalty and grows community
UGC gives customers a unique opportunity to participate in a brand’s growth instead of being a spectator. This influences brand loyalty and affinity in a big way because people thrive off being part of something greater than themselves, and creating UGC allows them to be part of a brand’s community.
UGC also opens up conversations between a brand and consumer, and this level of brand interaction helps build and grow an engaged community.
Sharing audience content also works to develop and deepen audience/business relationships, driving more brand loyalty.
Acts as a trust signal
Remember when Fyre Festival was marketed as an “immersive music festival over two transformative weekends,” but the event was actually rain-soaked tents in a field with no electricity or food? This is why people don’t trust marketers or advertisers.
Brands need to work harder than ever to establish themselves as trustworthy. And with 93% of marketers agreeing that consumers trust content created by customers more than content created by brands, this signals that UGC is the perfect format for businesses to level up their trust score.
Audiences turn to UGC as a trust signal in the same way they’d ask their friends, family, or professional network for an opinion. Over 50% of millennials base their decision to buy a product on recommendations from their family and friends, so this is where UGC can shine since it is precisely that: a personal recommendation.
Increase conversions and influence purchasing decisions
User-generated content is incredibly influential in the final stages of the buyer’s journey, where you’re looking to convert your audience and influence them into making a purchase.
UGC acts as authentic social proof that your product is worthy of buying. For example, your audience sees people just like them wearing or using your product, which influences them to decide to buy.
You can even show your non-human customers using your product, as Casper does in this UGC post of Dean the Beagle.
Adaptable and flexible
UGC can be used off social in other marketing campaigns, making the strategy an omnichannel approach.
For example, you could add UGC images in an abandon cart email to help nudge the prospective buyer to make a purchase or add user-generated content to key landing pages to help increase conversion rates.
Calvin Klein even created a landing page just for UGC content. By showing real examples of customers styling their Calvins, shoppers see other consumers endorsing the brand and showcasing how the products look on actual humans instead of overly styled models.
More cost-effective than influencer marketing
The average cost of hiring an influencer can run into millions of dollars. The average cost of asking your customers to share posts of them enjoying your product? Next to nothing.
UGC is a cost-effective way to scale your business and introduce a new marketing strategy to the mix. There’s also no need to invest dollars in hiring a flashy creative agency to produce brand assets or content for your campaigns.
Simply connect with the most important people in your business: your audience. Most will be excited to be featured on your channel.
For smaller brands or those just starting out, UGC is cheaper and easier to manage than investing in larger-scale brand awareness campaigns.
Works in harmony with social commerce
The future of online shopping is social commerce, a.k.a shopping directly on your favorite social channels. The main draw of social commerce is that it allows audiences to convert natively within a social media app, rather than going off-network to complete a purchase.
Let’s say you’re scrolling through Instagram and pause on a cute new bathrobe. You tap to learn more about the product, decide to purchase, and complete the transaction in the app. That’s social commerce in action.
UGC and social commerce work well together because UGC is influential in driving conversions. Nearly 80% of people say that UGC impacts their decision to purchase, making user-generated content and social commerce a match made in heaven.
Types of user-generated content
User-generated content is this season’s must-have strategy for social media marketers, and it comes in many styles and formats to help you find the right fit for your brand.
- Social media content (e.g., a Tweet about your brand)
- Product reviews
- Live streams
- Blog posts
- YouTube content
Best user-generated content examples
No matter their size, brands use user-generated content to drive awareness, increase conversions and social engagement, expand their reach, and cost-effectively grow their business.
Video equipment company GoPro uses UGC to sustain its YouTube channel, with its top three videos all originally filmed by customers. As of December 2021, those three videos have racked up over 400 million views combined.
Not bad for content that cost GoPro nothing to produce.
Video UGC content for the GoPro YouTube channel.
Not to be confused with multi-level marketing company LuLaRoe, the Canadian athleisure brand LuluLemon is primarily known for its expensive leggings and yoga clothing. To increase company reach across social media, they asked followers and brand loyalists to share photos of themselves in LuluLemon garments using the #thesweatlife.
Not only did this result in a treasure-trove of easily searchable UGC content for LuLuLemon to repurpose, but it also organically expanded the company’s brand awareness and reach across social media as they shared content from brand ambassadors.
In a similar strategy to LuluLemon, sparkling water brand La Croix also uses a hashtag (#LiveLaCroix) to mine for UGC on their social media channels. But, La Croix relies less on brand loyalists and shares content produced by anyone, no matter their follower count.
This makes their user-generated content hyper-relatable because audiences will see themselves reflected in these photos, rather than brand ambassadors or loyalists with higher follower counts.
UGC isn’t just for larger, well-established brands. Smaller companies also use UGC in their social campaigns. Well Traveled is a community-driven travel brand that uses member-generated content to highlight the perks of membership, the quality of property partners, and other exclusive offerings from brand partners.
Well Traveled’s Director of Partnerships & Brand Marketing, Laura DeGomez, says, “as a service in such a visual industry, the “proof” provided by member content is immeasurable. The beautiful trips discovered, planned, and booked on Well Traveled are a phenomenal marketing and retention tool.”
DeGomez uses UGC to not only visually engage members or prospective members, but also to increase brand awareness, expand reach, and build community.
She goes on to say, “no one tells our story better than our members. The Well Traveled community is the key here, whenever we can let their experiences shine, we do.”
User-generated content isn’t limited to Instagram. Soccer media company Copa90 used UGC across Snapchat to raise awareness about the 2018 FIFA World Cup held in Russia.
To connect with younger soccer fans, the company connected directly with them on Snapchat by sharing relevant and exciting story-driven UGC that made the audience feel they were present in Russia. They also encouraged their audience to “swipe up,” which drove traffic from Snapchat to other channels.
The result? A massive 31 million unique users over the space of 45 days, with 40% of viewers swiping up to view more.
User-generated content tips
Always request permission
Consent to share content is mandatory. Always ask before republishing or using a customer’s content.
People may use your branded hashtags without necessarily knowing you’ve tied them to a user-generated content campaign. Unfortunately, re-sharing that content without explicit permission is a surefire way to kill goodwill and annoy some of your best brand advocates.
When you ask permission, you show the original poster that you appreciate their content and get them excited about sharing their post with your audience. You also keep yourself out of hot water regarding copyright concerns.
Credit the original creator
When you share user-generated content on your social media channels, make sure to give clear credit to the original creator. This includes tagging them directly in the post and indicating whether you’re using their visuals, words, or both. Always give credit where credit is due.
London fashion brand Lazy Oaf crediting the original poster of the image.
If you plan to share user-generated content across social media platforms, check for how the creator wants to be credited on the various channels. For example, if you want to share a photo from Instagram on your Facebook page, ask the original creator if they have a Facebook page you could tag.
Providing proper credit is an important way to recognize the work of content creators and helps make sure they stay excited about using and posting about your brand.
It has the added benefit of making it easy for fans and followers to verify that the content truly was created by someone outside of your firm.
Be clear about what kind of content you’re looking for
UGC creators want you to share their content. That means they want you to tell them what kind of content you’re most likely to share.
Only 16%t of brands offer clear guidelines on what kind of user-generated content they want fans to create and share, but more than half of consumers want brands to tell them exactly what to do when it comes to UGC. So don’t be afraid to get specific and make it easy for people to share content that fits your needs.
Be strategic and set goals
How will you know what type of UGC content to ask for if you don’t know how it fits in with your campaign strategy? Sure, it’s nice when people tag you in pretty pictures, but how can you use that content to support your marketing goals?
Firstly, sit down with your social media strategy document and look for ways UGC aligns with your existing marketing goals. Then, create a simple statement based on that information that tells users specifically what kind of content you’re most likely to feature.
Once you have a clear UGC ask, share it anywhere people are likely to interact with your brand:
- your social channels bios,
- in other user-generated content social media posts,
- on your website,
- in your physical location,
- or even on your product packaging.
UGC strategy goes beyond understanding the types of content you need from your customers. You also need to align your UGC campaign with broader social media goals.
For example, are you looking to increase brand awareness or drive more conversions (or both?)
Measure the success of your campaigns using a tool like Hootsuite Analytics or a social listening tool such as Hootsuite Insights to understand brand sentiment and trust.
The short video below shows how Hootsuite Insights can show you your brand sentiment, among other valuable metrics.
If you’re serious about scaling UGC, invest in a UGC management platform such as TINT to help uncover relevant user-generated content and insights for your campaigns.
User-generated content tools
Looking for more tools to help you craft authentic and compelling user-generated content? Here’s our pick of the bunch:
Ready to start displaying authentic user-generated content across your social channels? Use Hootsuite to help manage your campaigns with our advanced Streams, Analytics, Insights, and integrations with TINT and Chute.