Last updated: User generated content: Definition, benefits, examples

User generated content: Definition, benefits, examples

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With the wild popularity of social media like TikTok, user generated content has become a key tool for savvy marketers looking to elevate their brand.

The organic nature of UGC provides instant credibility and authenticity. Studies show that organic content is more effective than branded content in swaying consumers to make a buying decision.

While people pay attention to what their peers say about a brand, they’re apt to tune out branded marketing content, especially if they receive too much of it.

Done right, building marketing campaigns around UGC can make them much more powerful. Here’s what you need to know about this hot marketing trend.

What is user-generated content?

User generated content (UGC), also known as consumer-generated content, is a marketing term for any publicly facing brand-specific content created by users themselves rather than by brands.

Social media like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook are common places to find UGC, but it can pop up on other digital platforms like blogs, user forums, and e-commerce sites.

There are many types of UGC, including:
  1. Videos
  2. Images
  3. Product reviews
  4. Customer testimonials
  5. Forum comments
  6. Blog posts and blog comments
  7. Audio clips and podcasts

Who do you believe? Comparing UGC to influencer marketing

Don’t confuse user-generated content with influencer marketing. While related, they’re not the same thing and aren’t seen as equally authentic by consumers.

Because UGC comes directly from peers who – presumably – aren’t compensated for their public opinions, consumers trust it.

Influencer commentary, on the other hand, is often sponsored. Therefore, it isn’t always considered objective. If Internet celebrities like Lele Pons, Charli D’Amelio, or Huda Kattan post something to Instagram or Tik Tok, people generally know someone might have lined their pockets to do it. Even if you’re a fan, you probably take their recommendations with a grain of salt.

In fact, Stackla says only 10% of consumers consider influencer content to be authentic compared to 80% for UGC.

5 benefits of content generated by users or UGC

Aside from striking a more credible chord with consumers, UGC offers several other benefits for marketing programs, such as:

  1. Cost efficiency. Marketers pay nothing for UGC creation. All UGC campaign investment relates to what brands do to leverage UGC.
  2. Time savings. Because users do the work to conceptualize, write, edit, and post their opinions, marketers save considerable time. Again, their only time commitment relates to the hours spent trying to leverage what consumers are saying.
  3. Timely customer feedback. By tapping into – and even encouraging – users to generate content about their brands, marketers can gain authentic feedback about their brand, products, and services – without having to spend a dime doing it.
  4. Community building. UGC can also help build a sense of community with, and among, users — especially those of younger generations. In fact, some companies like the news platform BuzzFeed even go so far as to set up community pages where they invite members to produce regular content for their website and highlight the best posts to generate, well, “buzz.”
  5. More traffic, conversions, and revenues. Some studies have shown that successful UGC marketing campaigns can significantly boost organic site traffic and SEO (search engine optimization) results while generated 29% more web conversions that may lead to sales.

Examples of user generated content

You don’t have to look far to find great UGC examples. Way back in 2011, Coke introduced its wildly popular Share a Coke campaign, where it printed bottles with different names on them and customers were encouraged through marketing and in-store displays to post pictures of their purchases on social media with the #ShareaCoke hashtag.

Share a Coke was retired in 2018, but there have been tons of other excellent UGC examples, including:

Trinidad Sandoval, a 54-year old Missouri woman, made a TikTok showing the effects of an eye cream by Peter Thomas Roth that went absolutely bonkers. The virality of the video reportedly led to the product selling out in less than a week.

Maybelline, The Pink Stuff, and Aerie all reportedly had products selling out or becoming extremely scarce after user-generated postings about them went viral.

GoPro, a leading purveyor of action cameras and accessories, has built its brand around UGC videos. GoPro gives out $1 million each year through an awards program in which tens of thousands of users compete to post the most compelling clips of themselves using GoPro gear while surfing, skydiving, skiing, racing, and other high-octane endeavors.

Wayfair, the online furniture store, inspires customers to share photos of their beautiful living areas through its #WayfairAtHome campaign. It helps people get ideas for their homes and generates a sense of community around Wayfair furniture products.

Jennifer Taylor, the home furniture company, pulls UGC pictures from customers’ social media profiles and plunks them onto their product pages (with permission, of course, which is something you should always do when tapping UGC). To have their content considered for publication, users tag their content with the hashtag #jentayhome.

Starbucks white cup contest in 2014 stirred excitement by asking customers to doodle on their blank Starbucks cups and submit pictures as entries. Winning creations were later featured on limited edition Starbucks cups. Nearly 4,000 customers submitted entries.

Creating campaigns around user content: 5 tips 

The key for building marketing campaigns around UGC is to always keep it real. This means never doing anything to undermine the freshness or credibility of a posting by compensating a user for posting in the first place or burying their content in mounds of branded imagery.

Beyond that, there are a few best practices to apply when building UGC campaigns, include:

  1. Identify your goals. You need to know what you’re trying to accomplish with UGC before setting out to find, collect, and utilize it. Common goals involve improving brand engagement, raising conversation rates, boosting brand awareness, and generating more revenue.
  2. Embrace the hashtag. Creating social media site hashtags helps foster community around marketing themes your users are more than willing to talk about.
  3. Re-share everything you can. According to TINT’s State of User-Generated Content 2022 report, 91% of users love it when brands re-share their stuff.
  4. Reward customers for sharing. You never want to pay customers up-front for creating and posting content. But if you give them an incentive to do so organically, meaning on their own, that’s another matter. Contests, challenges, and giveaways are valid and potentially effective approaches. In fact, 73% of consumers in the TINT study say they wish brands did it more of that.
  5. Make UGC “shoppable.” Shoppable content is a digital asset, like a social media video or photo, which has product information somehow embedded in it or nearby. The idea is to make the brand information easy to access in the context of the UGC without losing the authenticity or originality of the independently produced posting.

Social media platforms come and go, as do marketing trends. But customer testimonials have always played a powerful role in promoting a brand and building customer trust. That’s what’s at the heart of user-generated content, making it something brands will rely on for years to come.

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