User-Generated Content: What It Is + How to Use It

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.

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 UGC?

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

UGC content takes many forms, including:

  • Images
  • Blogs
  • Videos
  • Chat forums
  • Reviews and testimonials
  • Posts and comments from social media users

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. This consumer generated content is now viewed as being more effective in driving sales than professional marketers—and that’s huge.

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

All UGC shares a common thread: it works.

Around 90% of shoppers want to see content from real customers, and 83% of shoppers say user-generated content makes them more likely to buy.

UGC relays authentic experiences about a brand’s products or services from previous customers, which boosts brand credibility. And it’s free—so UGC is 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

What is a UGC creator?

A UGC creator is an individual who generates content such as reviews, photos, videos, or testimonials about a product or brand. E-commerce businesses often collaborate with UGC creators to create authentic and relatable content that showcases their products, fosters trust and brand loyalty, and engages their target audience. There’s not much to learning how to become a UGC creator—a simple customer review qualifies your customers as such.

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 risk losing 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. Ad blockers are becoming more prevalent, and consumers are able to easily identify ads from non-ads.

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

And advertisers are seeing diminishing returns with digital ads. 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 can drive a 91.4% increase in conversion rates when it’s featured on product pages.

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

The benefits of user-generated content

Online reviews were a revolution in brand success and customer trust when they were first introduced as a form of social proof. Now, they’ve become staples that have 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 when making purchasing decisions. And creating content is resource-intensive, but user-generated content saves brands time and resources when it comes to producing a successful, authentic marketing campaign.

If you still need convincing, consider these user-generated content stats and data points to back up this clever strategy:

Translation: UGC influences brand loyalty and sales. Once you get UGC rolling in your marketing strategy, you encourage even more shoppers to create UGC by sharing their experience online, trusting your brand, and ultimately making a purchase.

Bar graph showing how user-generated content performs over other content types and is more memorable
This word-of-mouth marketing via brand advocates is one of the least expensive and most effective ways to boost your brand online.

The benefits extend well beyond being cost effective. 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 potential customers.
  • Becoming an authentic brand: Consumers trust content created by people just like them. User-generated content doesn’t only encourage an authentic relationship between a brand and a customer. It also promotes a positive brand reputation, fosters future customer engagement, strengthens brand loyalty, and boosts customer trust, which ultimately drive 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 brand loyalists..

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

How 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.

Ask your customers for photos

You don’t need to use the best UGC platforms for creators—you can tap into your existing customer base. 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. Encourage users to contribute their own experiences. They’re likely to have all kinds of great ideas.
  • Host a giveaway. Giveaways on the social media platform of your choice are a great way to encourage UGC. Everyone likes a little reward! Consider running a photo contest to boost UGC for your brand. Just make sure your giveaway follows the rules of whatever platform you’re hosting it on.
Graph showing what types of content are most authentic to considers including stock images and brand creations

Repurpose your UGC across multiple platforms

You should always amplify the reach of your UGC. Today’s consumers are constantly connected digitally.

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 relevant user-generated content from your followers! Make sure the world sees it in your own marketing efforts.

We recommend resharing your valuable user-generated content in your own marketing campaigns via:

  • Email campaigns: Do your email subscribers also follow you on social media? Share your latest how-to UGC video or a hand-picked selection of reviews from your everyday shoppers as a feature in your email list.
  • Social media channels: Do a Friday roundup of this week’s top UGC social media posts. Don’t forget to give each contributor a shoutout! Bonus: the social media 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. UGC can improve your ad outcomes.

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

Moving forward with your UGC strategy

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 need a large budget to obtain quality user-generated content from Instagram influencers. Platforms like Trend by soona offer an affordable and straightforward way to collaborate with professional content creators. Trend's influencer marketplace features a curated community chosen for their photography skills, engagement rates, and follower count. Brands can easily select accounts that align with their style and target audience. 

This approach allows brands to expand their collection of creative materials for campaigns, social media, websites, and emails without paying influencers upfront. Instead, influencers receive products and create authentic content based on brand guidelines. Trend's marketplace is a proven time and resource saver for brands pursuing authentic user-generated content.

Ready to get started? Get matched to influencers for your next campaign—SIGN UP NOW FOR FREE!