The Ultimate Guide to User Generated Content

Are you still cranking out super salesy content on your company’s Instagram? Yaaaawn. Boring.

You want real-deal engagement. After all, if you aren’t engaging with shoppers, what’s the point in churning out more content on social media?

Instead of writing content that doesn’t work, tap into user-generated content.

Since 61% of shoppers say user-generated content encourages them to engage with brands, you can’t afford not to invest in UGC.

Let’s dig into what user-generated content is, the benefits of user-generated content, and how in the world you can source UGC for your brand.

What is User Generated Content?

Consumers are valuing connections with brands more than ever, making authentic content imperative for today’s brands to successfully market their products and services.

User-generated content (UGC) is any piece of content created by a customer and shared on a digital platform.

That might take the form of:

  • Images.
  • Blogs.
  • Videos.
  • Chat forums.

In other words, UGC is any kind of branded content that you, the brand, doesn’t produce.

All types of UGC are proven to be highly influential in the purchasing decisions of potential buyers. These brand advocates are now viewed as being more effective in driving sales than professional marketers—and that’s huge.

All UGC shares a common thread: it works.

79% of shoppers say user-generated content marketing has a big impact on their purchasing decisions.

UGC relays authentic experiences about a brand’s products or services from previous customers, which boosts brand credibility. An average of 60 million images are posted on Instagram each day, making UGC opportunities one of the most scalable ways for brands to market products, recognize fans, and drive sales.

User-generated content saves brands time and resources when producing successful, authentic campaigns. graph showing the likelihood of users sharing a good brand interaction on social media

User-Generated Content vs. Branded Content

“But wait,” you might think, “How is user-generated content any different than my branded content, anyway?”

Here’s the thing: the average human attention span is 8 seconds. After 8 seconds, you completely lose shoppers to something else in the fast-paced world of the internet.

Today’s consumers are digitally savvy, and more informed and skeptical than ever about traditional advertising methods. Adblockers are becoming more prevalent, and consumers are able to easily identify ads from non-ads.

63% of shoppers get annoyed with repetitive brand ads (because, y’know, they weren’t paying attention to you the first time!).

We’ve actually trained shoppers to ignore branded messages because they’re repetitive, spammy, and annoying.

Even if you invest in paid ads, over a quarter of all internet users have an ad blocker now. Your branded content just doesn’t have the reach it once did.

User-generated content is the antidote. That’s because:

  • Customers want authentic content: Consumers are craving authenticity. Retouched images, overly-processed campaigns, and clickbait titles will just make your shoppers roll their eyes.
  • UGC is authentic and meaningful. UGC is perceived as being meaningfully more authentic and trustworthy in the eyes of the consumer. The result? User-generated content is 5x more likely to bring in a conversion than branded content.

In response to this shift, brands have begun placing even more of an emphasis on SEO, their social presence, and user-generated content in order to successfully influence customers to connect with the brand and become a repeat customer.

Now’s the time for brands to invest in user-generated content. Feel free to pump out a little content of your own from time to time, but when engagement and sales are on the line, resuscitate your campaigns with UGC.

Pie graphs showing how brands and consumers view content authenticity within their brands

Millennials and User Generated Content

The internet likes to poke fun at Millennials, but guess what? They have the most buying power of any generation right now. They spent $1.4 trillion in 2020 alone.

And guess what else?

84% of Millennials hate traditional advertising. Those paid ads, TV commercials, and magazine spreads just won’t get you as far with these shoppers.

But you know what does work? User-generated content.

  • 90% of Millennials say brand authenticity matters. Obviously, these shoppers care more about real, relatable content instead of your picture-perfect catalog photos. They trust UGC 50% more than other media.
  • Millennials trust user generated content marketing 50% more than traditional ads. Good luck using stock photography or radio ads with this group.
  • 86% of Millennials believe that user generated content (even from people they don’t know) is a good indicator of a brand’s quality.

These consumers not only consider user-generated content to be the most authentic: Millennials are, in fact, the largest group of UGC contributors, spending an average of 5 hours per day engaging with User Generated Content.

So, even if you don’t like user-generated content yourself, you need it to stand out to the world’s biggest shoppers: Millennials.

The benefits of user-generated content

Online reviews were a revolution in brand success and customer trust when they were first introduced. Now, they’ve become a staple that paved the way for the next paramount tool for the success of any brand: user-generated content.

There are a variety of benefits that come along with choosing to include user-generated content in your brand’s next campaign.

The stats don’t lie: the majority of shoppers are influenced in some way by UGC. User-generated content saves brands time and resources when producing successful, authentic campaigns.

But if you still need convincing, consider these user-generated content stats to back up this clever strategy:
  • 86% of millennials say that UGC is a good indicator of the quality of a brand.
  • 93% of consumers find UGC to be helpful when making a purchasing decision.
  • 70% of consumers trust online peer reviews and recommendations more than professional content and copy.
  • 86% of businesses are utilizing UGC as part of their marketing strategy.
  • 48% of marketing professionals believe that content created by customers can help humanize their marketing.
  • 75% of shoppers want to share their positive experiences with brands via UGC.

Translation: once you get UGC rolling, you encourage even more shoppers to share their experience online.

Bar graph showing how user-generated content performs over other content types and is more memorable
These word-of-mouth referrals are one of the least expensive and most effective ways to boost your brand online: a 10% increase in word of mouth referrals translates into up to a 1.5% uptick in sales.

Oh, and the benefits extend well beyond the dollar signs, too. Customers who have positive experiences with brands are motivated to share those experiences via UGC. Consumers now influence their family and peers more than ever, and those referrals are one of the least expensive and more effective ways of quickly expanding a customer base.

That means there are less-tangible benefits of UGC, like:

  • Engaging with more shoppers: User-generated content is the go-to approach for authentic, authoritative marketing. It creates key opportunities for brands to connect with current and future customers.
  • Becoming an authentic brand: User-generated content not only encourages an authentic relationship between a brand and a customer. It also promotes future engagement, strengthens brand loyalty, and boosts customer trust, which ultimately drives sales.
  • Knowing what shoppers really think about you: Brands have a unique opportunity to gain valuable insight into how a sea of customers and social media influencers view your brand.
  • Saving time: Yes, really. Another big pro of user-generated content is that passionate customers create content for you. Use this UGC to showcase your customers while promoting your brand’s product/service. This not only saves your brand time—but it also encourages repeat UGC creation from your loyal customers.

Seeing is believing, right? If you haven’t tried UGC before, you can’t afford to avoid it any longer.

3 Ways To Create And Share User-Generated Content

When a company engages with its customers on a public platform, they humanize the brand.

But how in the world do you convince shoppers to gush about you on Instagram?

User-generated content marketing goes against what a lot of brands do right now. It might feel uncomfortable, but you need to get in the trenches and engage with followers to source UGC.

Not sure where to go? Here are a few tactics to source and use UGC for your brand.

1 - Ask your shoppers for photos

If you want something, you’ve got to ask for it. Don’t be shy—ask your social media followers and email subscribers to share their UGC with you.

To begin collecting UGC from your customers, encourage them to share their photos. Let them know that you’re excited to see their pics and hear about their experiences.

To kick things up a notch, you can also try:

  • Follower shoutouts. Most of your followers assume that you won’t see their posts at all. Surprise them with a comment, like, message, or even a share of their photo. Nothing says, “I value you,” like calling attention to your followers’ content.
  • Asking your followers for advice. Do you need input on a product name, packaging idea, new recipe, or product launch? Don’t do all the hard work yourself: outsource it to your social media hive mind. Your current customer base has all kinds of great ideas.
  • Host a giveaway. Giveaways on social media are a great way to encourage UGC. Everyone likes a little reward! Consider running a photo contest to boost User Generated Content for your brand. Just make sure your giveaway follows the rules.
Graph showing what types of content are most authentic to considers including stock images and brand creations

2 - Work with social media influencers

Now, sometimes you need user-generated content with a little more firepower.

After all, your everyday followers might take photos or videos that are blurry, or that don’t include all of the awesome points you’d like to make.

If only there were a user-generated content platform where you could do that…

Fortunately, there is! Trend connects brands with pre-vetted influencers to generate UGC for your brand.

These social media influencers create and share content that their followers love.

Since 82% of shoppers say they’re likely to follow an influencer’s recommendation, this is a must-have for UGC.

Use Trend to source influencers and create content like:

  • Unboxings.
  • Social media giveaways.
  • Video reviews.
  • How-tos.

While you should also ask your everyday shoppers for UGC, influencer UGC is awesome because it’s so high-quality. You can easily repurpose this content on your website, email campaigns, social, and more.

3 - Repurpose your UGC

And speaking of repurposing your content, you should always amplify the reach of your UGC.

Today’s consumers are constantly connected digitally. In fact, Americans check their phones over 8 billion times per day!

This presents an urgent opportunity for brands to adopt a multi-channel presence to digitally position themselves in the right place, with the right user-generated content.

You worked hard sourcing content from your followers! Make sure the world sees it.

We recommend resharing your user-generated content via:

  • Email: Do your email subscribers also follow you on social media? Share your influencers’ latest how-to video or a hand-picked selection of reviews from your everyday shoppers as a feature in your email list.
  • Social media: Do a Friday roundup of this week’s top UGC. Don’t forget to give each contributor a shoutout! Bonus: the users featured in your roundups are often more than happy to share your post with their followers, giving you even more reach.
  • Ad campaigns: Yes, customers use ad blockers and don’t love paid ads, but paid ads still get results for businesses. Ads featuring UGC get 4X the clicks and a 50% lower CPC, so UGC can improve your ad outcomes, too.

Oh, but always ask for your customer’s permission before you use their content. A quick DM should be enough. Nobody wants to wake up and see their face plastered all over your website without their permission.


Seeing is believing, especially when the ones bragging about your brand you are people you trust with opinions you value. Social media influencers are creating and sharing a large amount of user-generated content for brands, destinations, and restaurants—and their followers are listening.

Let’s debug one big misconception: You don’t have to set a huge budget to begin acquiring quality user-generated content from Instagram influencers. In fact, there are influencer marketplace platforms such as that are making it super easy and affordable to collaborate with professional content creators.

Trend’s influencer marketplace is making a splash with our unique user-generated content platform. Our entire influencer community is hand-picked based on the quality of their photography, engagement rates, and the size of their following.

Brands on Trend are able to sort through applications to select which accounts will best suit their content style and followers that will engage with their particular brand.

Tapping into opportunities with Instagram influencers can dramatically increase your photography files of creative material to use in campaigns, on social media, your website, or in emails.

Rather than paying Instagram influencers to post, the influencer marketplace allows brands to exchange products for premium content. Influencers create and share authentic content based on the brand’s guidelines after using the product.

Finding a reliable platform for user-generated content can be tricky. However, Trend’s influencer marketplace has been proven to save time and resources for brands in reaching their authentic UGC goals.

Get matched to influencers for your next campaign—sign up now for free!