Why You Need to Start Stocking Up on User-Generated Content in Your Marketing

Melanie Balke
November 2, 2022

The internet has been one of the most amazing tools for marketers. Aside from its ability to reach so many people, this modern technology has given us the tools we need to create marketing materials with ease and speed. Gone are the days of door-to-door salesmen. Now, you can send a compelling message to thousands of people with a single click!

Tactics like email marketing and SMS campaigns can turn minimal investments into massive returns, but those aren’t the only cost-effective marketing strategies out there.

Thanks to the rise of social media platforms, marketers have a new option, and today’s blog post is diving into the remarkable gold mine of user-generated content.

What Is User-Generated Content?

A header image features a photo of a phone, displaying the Twitter logo. The text reads, “What Is UGC? The Basics of UGC in Marketing.”

User-generated content is exactly what it sounds like: content created by the people who purchase and use a product or service. Traditionally, consumer-generated content is made for free by fans of a brand, making it as cost-effective as you can get. However, modern marketers have also found ways to create content that appears to be UGC.

Both categories of UGC are highly valuable, and the content you gather from these posts, images, and videos can be recycled in your email marketing campaigns.

Influencer Marketing, UGC Creators, and Your Business

Before I delve into the meat of the topic, I want to take a moment to highlight the (relatively) recent phenomenon of paid UGC creators. Some marketing professionals group these individuals with influencers, although they often prefer to be called UGC creators.

The pseudo-user-generated content these online professionals produce appears to be genuine social proof. However, the results are far more professional than most user-submitted material.

Contrary to true UGC marketing, the marketing materials received from a UGC creator will not be posted to social media channels. Instead, it is submitted directly to the commissioner. These alleged UGC videos, photos, and comments can be used in future advertisements.

What’s the Big Deal With User-Generated Content, Anyhow!?

“What’s the Deal? The Benefits of Using User-Generated Content in Your Marketing” overlays a header image of tropical leaves.

So, why would someone go through so much effort to mimic the feel of user-generated content? Why wouldn’t a brand invest in a more professional marketing strategy?

The simple answer is that UGC campaigns are incredibly effective ways to appeal to an online community. These marketing efforts are the modern equivalent of classic word-of-mouth advertising and have many of the same benefits. Even paid content within this category can improve a business’ brand identity and refine its content marketing strategy.

Some of the key perks of UGC marketing campaigns are:

  • Authority and Authenticity: People trust personal recommendations and UGC more than conventional brand-generated content. These personal channels provide potential customers with social proof of a brand’s value.
A photo of a woman whispering into another woman’s ear. Overlaid header text reads, “Statistics: What the Numbers Say About UGC.” The main text reads, “Over half of all consumers consult the internet for advice before making purchasing decisions, and existing customers will often post about their experiences. In many cases, these posts and reviews answer questions that potential buyers have.”
  • Build Customer Loyalty: In the digital age, brand loyalty is critical to a company’s success. When brands share user-generated content, they project their social proof to the world and garner more trust from consumers.
  • Free or Low-Cost Content: A traditional UGC campaign will utilize content created entirely by users, which is free!
A photo of a young woman holding a climate protest sign. Overlaid header text says, “Statistics: The Importance of Trust and Authenticity.” The body text reads, “95% of Millennials and 84% of Gen Z shoppers cite authenticity as one of the most important factors influencing brand loyalty. In other words, when brands maintain an authentic form of communication, this massive market segment is more likely to respond positively.”
  • Increase Brand Awareness: Much like a {lead magnet}, user-generated content marketing can be promoted across multiple social media networks to amplify a brand’s image and prestige.
  • Keep the Funnel Moving: A user-generated content strategy is a powerful tool. Marketers know how hard it is to move customers down the sales funnel for the first time, and UGC has the power to prime customers and push them closer to a purchase.
  • Reach Gen Z Buyers: Younger consumers trust content created by their peers much more than any professional material. As such, user-generated content is a uniquely effective way to reach these stubborn consumers.
  • UGC Content Is Flexible: A good marketing team can create dozens of campaigns from a small number of user-submitted posts. The comments, discussions, and videos your customers share can be recycled on other channels (i.e., direct mail, emails, and social platforms) and utilized in various digital ad campaigns, dramatically slimming your content creation time.

User-Generated Content Examples

A photo of a laptop features header text: “Types of UGC: Common Examples and Their Uses.”

Technically, everything created by a non-professional entity can be considered user-generated content. This means that many different media types fall under the UGC umbrella, and reviewing them all will take far too much time!

Instead, I’ll highlight the most important and common forms of user-generated content.

As you work through this list, be aware that there are other ways to create user-generated content! This list is not exhaustive; it’s meant as a basic guide for your content marketing team’s growth.

Curate Competitions

Social media competitions are a must for companies seeking more UGC images and engaging content!

You’ve probably seen one of these before. A brand asks customers to submit photos, and the users may receive a prize at the end of the competition. It’s a common strategy, but there are a few things to know before putting your brand reputation on the line:

  • Give Proper Credit: It may seem like you can use whatever users submitted to your company without attribution, but that isn’t true! Honesty and attribution go a long way, and the winners of your competition will be sorely disappointed to see their content used without any credit. Check out this example from the World Wildlife Fund, which plainly states the image’s source in the upper right corner:
A screenshot of a photo of a frog. The image promotes the World Wildlife Fund’s photography competition.
  • Have Rules Beforehand: While it’s nice to host a competition, you’ll want to have concrete rules in place before you start. Ensure that users know how their content will be used, where to submit entries, and how winners will be chosen.
  • Don’t Forget to Post the Winners! You may be swept up in the euphoria of valuable user-generated content, but a whopping 60% of users submit those photos to reach a wider audience.

Highlight Social Media Posts

A screenshot of an Instagram post by GoPro. The image is credited to a GoPro user, @outsider_min.

User-generated posts are some of the simplest ways to monetize brand-specific content created by your loyal customers. While you often find this content in the digital wild, you’ll get the best results from branded hashtags.

Many brands successfully utilize this marketing method, but there are a few things you’ll want to know before you start pulling random posts!

First, the content generated by your users will be owned by different entities. Some companies claim ownership over their users’ content; other channels give users complete control over their content.

Before you start a UGC strategy, consult a legal team to work out any issues.

Brands can simplify the process by using the built-in sharing tools available on all major social channels. By sharing a post — as opposed to following GoPro’s example and reposting the content — creators get credit by default. An example of such a marketing strategy can be found on Instagram-based artist AbiToads’ page:

An example of shared content created by Instagram-based artist AbiToads. The Instagram story features the original poster’s username.

Highlighted social media posts are an ideal way to showcase products in action.

Within the marketing world, community UGC helps to boost a brand’s identity and urge potential buyers down the marketing funnel. This valuable visual UGC can be used on product pages, traditional ads, and throughout a brand’s social network to increase conversions.

Implement Some Interactive Media

A newer form of UGC campaign is interactive media (i.e., photo filters, surveys, and quizzes). These types of generated content will require some work on the business end, but the results can become massively memetic.

By now, you’ve probably seen a Facebook Page or two chatting about Buzzfeed quizzes. These quizzes are wildly popular, and the results can be posted to social media pages for additional exposure. However, you don’t have to run a popular online news site to take advantage of interactive user-generated content.

World Wildlife Fund has used the same strategy by hosting its own content:

A screenshot of a World Wildlife Fund Instagram post. The page advertises a quiz to determine what your spooky creature is.

The goal of this marketing strategy is exposure. Interactive content is shareable, and its spread makes this category of user-generated content important.

Product Reviews Can Influence Purchasing Decisions

Another ubiquitous form of user-generated content is a product review.

Now, using your customers’ content in this context is far from new, and marketers have been slipping reviews and testimonies into their material for decades.

The big change in the modern world is the ease with which these online reviews can be found.

Remember what I said about building user trust? Well, product reviews are some of the most effective forms of user-generated content. More importantly, they’re remarkably flexible. A fantastic review can be placed on a product or landing pages and incorporated into a social media strategy.

Check out this example from PuffPals:

A screenshot of reviews on the product page for PuffPal’s “Snow Bean” plush toy.

This perpetual marketing campaign places customer reviews on the appropriate product pages. When potential buyers visit the website, they see these comments. Encouraging reviewers to share photos adds visual content to these reviews, further bolstering their reliability and attractiveness on your brand’s website pages.

Where Can I Find User-Generated Content for My Marketing Strategy?

A photo of a map features overlaid header text: “Finding UGC: How to Acquire Useful UGC.”

So, we’ve established the uses of UGC in marketing campaigns, and I’ve shown a few examples to help you start creating UGC. Now, it’s time to discuss where you can find your own UGC.

In addition to the aforementioned UGC creators, there are plenty of ways to acquire more material for your marketing campaigns.

Start With Branded Hashtags

Outside of the obvious avenues (i.e., reviews and direct feedback), brands can cultivate more generated content and brand advocates by establishing a branded hashtag.

These crucial facets of a social media strategy give customers a dedicated place to discuss a product or service. Moreover, marketing teams can easily find large amounts of user-submitted content within these tags.

Ideas for your community UGC hashtags include:

  • The Brand Name (i.e., #CocaCola or #TheEmailMarketers)
  • Campaign-Specific Hashtags (i.e., #ShareACoke)
  • Lifestyle Hashtags
  • Short Slogans (i.e., #JustDoIt)

Don’t forget that you can use your own hashtag, too! Brands can share information about their company culture and behind-the-scenes videos in their own tags, spreading their message to a wider audience.

Consider Employee-Generated Content

In the digital age, everything is up for scrutiny. People are constantly searching for companies that match their values. That’s why many brands have turned to EGC, employee-generated content.

A screenshot of a three-year-old Reddit post. The title is, “Hi Reddit! We’re the team behind Microsoft Edge and we’re excited to answer your questions about the latest preview builds of Microsoft Edge. We’ve been working hard and we can’t wait to hear about what you think. Ask us anything!”

While this content can be visual, it often has a textual appearance. Forums, blogs, and major social channels (i.e., Quora and Reddit) are common targets for EGC.

This information may be produced organically — by allowing employees to freely speak their minds — or through templates or pre-prepared statements.

ECG is usually used in recruitment, although — as displayed in the example — brands can also leverage employee content for exposure.

Engage With Your Audience for More User-Generated Content

Finally, if you’re struggling to find enough user-generated content, it may be time to ramp up your social media presence.

People tend to interact with accounts and brands that reward them for their time. In other words, interacting with your audience will encourage them to interact with you. Even simple comments on their posts can improve your chances of finding high-quality user-generated content.

A screenshot of a featured post from PuffPals.

Again, PuffPals has an amazing example of how to showcase user-generated content. In addition to its product photos, the page frequently reposts fanart of its huggable plush toys. In doing so, it encourages the growth of a brand community, and that community spawns plenty of brand advocates.

Learn More About Marketing

A photo of a leaf features overlaid text: “The Final Word: How to Learn More.”

There are still plenty of tips and tricks to learn about user-generated content, so don’t let this be the end of your marketing journey!

In emails, a UGC campaign can be the final push you need to create a lucrative conversion. Your buyers’ reviews are powerful, and including them in your email marketing campaigns can boost their effectiveness.

I’m always updating my blog with marketing tricks and tips, so don’t forget to stay tuned. You’ll also want to drop by and check in for another post about user-generated content in the future.

In the meantime, you can make your life a lot easier by outsourcing your marketing campaigns. A group like The Email Marketers can handle your marketing while you worry about the nitty-gritty details of your business. If you’re interested, give me a call! We can discuss your needs and form a plan for the future.