User-generated content, often abbreviated to UGC, is, broadly speaking, any content users post online. In the context of digital marketing, user-generated content is a component of content marketing in which brands re-purpose content created by their customers and audiences, incorporating it into their own marketing materials.
User-generated content comes in a lot of different forms and can be deployed effectively in a variety of ways. Below we’re diving into the benefits UGC has for brands, as well as some specific ideas for rolling out a successful UGC program.
The power of user-generated content
User-generated content is a great way for brands to showcase authority in their field and build trust with their audience. As consumers are increasingly distrustful of brands and being “sold to”, UGC has a unique ability to take that conversation out of the mouth of the brand itself and let the consumers who are actually purchasing their products tell that story for them.
This also gives brands an added layer of honesty in their marketing. Inherently, user-generated content is showcasing the way users are interacting with a brands’ products in real life, rather than showcasing the way a brand wants to portray the way a user will interact with the products. The benefits to this are two-fold: the audience is being served content that shows real-life applications of the product and the brand gets a peek into how consumers are using the brand in their everyday lives, inspiring marketing campaigns and even new product development.
Types of UGC brands should consider
User-generated content comes in many forms, some of which will be more appropriate for your brand than others. The most common types of UGC brands should consider include:
- Product reviews – User product reviews are user-generated content at its most basic, but they can be very powerful when properly implemented. Ratings and reviews from satisfied customers can help persuade prospective customers who are on the fence about a particular product. Compared to other forms of UGC, it’s relatively simple to collect and publish reviews, with many platforms and tools designed specifically to help manage the process.
- Testimonials – Testimonials are like product reviews for B2B brands or B2C brands that sell services or SaaS instead of products. Testimonials speak powerfully to the positive experiences of a brand’s customers and can help persuade prospective customers in much the same way that ratings and reviews do.
- Product photos and videos – Any photos or videos users create related to your brand are a form of UGC. Brands can use this content (with permission from, and giving credit to, the publisher) on social media, on their websites, and in paid media. There are many technologies and tools out there for marketers to curate UGC being posted online and re-share it on a brand’s own platform.
- Social comments – A lot of brands use comments and feedback received on social media in their advertising creative. Doing this gives voice to real users who love the brand and its products and has the added benefit of showing your brand to be closely connected to, and engaged with, your customers.
How to build a successful UGC strategy
A UGC strategy is only as good as its implementation. There are couple of things brands should keep in mind when thinking about a UGC campaign:
Incentivize and reward users for creating content
To use UGC effectively for your brand you have to first convince users to go out and create it. Sometimes users will do this without any prompting, but more often a little active encouragement is required.
Brands can incentivize UGC creation by hosting a contest, promoting a specific hashtag in paid media campaigns, or offering some kind of reward for writing a review. For brands with a lot of cache, simply the chance to see their content featured by the brand can sometimes be enough of an incentive for users.
Seek out ambassadors
To make a long-term UGC play, brands can consider creating an ambassador program. In a brand ambassador program, brands hand-select a number of individuals whose interests and values align with the brand’s products and ethos. This is a form of influencer marketing, but it offers a more meaningful, lasting partnership than paying for a single promotional post does.
In general, one of the biggest concerns brands face when running a UGC strategy is the risk that the content users generate will not be aligned with the aesthetics of the brand.
Brands are understandably protective of their image and aesthetic, and the truth is that a lot of the content users create will simply not live up to that same standard.
It’s important, therefore, to have a process for reviewing and selecting UGC before it’s published anywhere in association with your brand. You can’t control what users post on their own channels, but you should be highly selective in what you choose to re-purpose for your own properties.
Building consumer trust is one of the most difficult challenges brands must face. At the end of the day, no matter how much they like you, consumers know you’re there to sell them something and they often seek validation from outside the brand to confirm your claims.
User generated content is one of the best tools at a brand’s disposal when it comes to building authority within an industry and trust and mutual respect with consumers. There’s nothing quite like the power of word of mouth marketing, and UGC gives brands the chance to harness authentic, digital word of mouth to their advantage.