What Is User-generated Content and Why Does It Matter?

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From BookTok to viral skincare product hype videos, user-generated content can make a truly meaningful impact for any brand. When a real customer posts an honest review of a product, they can have a huge influence on the buying behavior of their followers—thus putting the power of marketing back into the hands of the consumers. Learn more about user-generated content and how users and brands can effectively leverage it here.


What is user-generated content?

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User-generated content (also known as UGC) refers to any type of content that is created and shared by users, rather than by brands or companies. This can include text, photos, videos, and other forms of media. UGC is often made by customers, fans, or other members of a brand's community, and can be shared on a wide variety of platforms, including social media, forums, and review sites. It is important to note that there is a difference between true UGC and paid or sponsored posts, as the latter involve a brand paying for the content, more like a traditional ad.

“The influence of UGC is unmatched across industries,” found a consumer marketing survey from Stackla as reported by Nosto. “79 percent of people say user-generated content highly impacts their purchasing decisions (up from 60 percent in 2017), while only 13 percent say content from a brand is impactful and a mere 8 percent say influencer-created content would highly impact their purchasing decisions.”

Benefits of user-generated content

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1. It builds trust

Using UGC as a brand can build trust and credibility with customers. When potential customers see that other people are actively engaging with a brand and sharing positive experiences, they are more likely to trust the brand and make a purchase. Think about your own purchasing behavior: If you see someone you like or admire tout the benefits of a product without being paid to do so, it’s likely that you’re more inclined to check that product out and even buy it if you are in the market for something similar.

2. It’s cost-effective

Another benefit of UGC is that it can be a cost-effective way to create and share content. Unlike traditional advertising or marketing campaigns, UGC is created by customers and fans, rather than by the brand itself. This means the brand doesn't need to spend money on creating content or paying influencers or other content creators.

Different types of user-generated content

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User-generated content can take a number of forms, including:

  • Photos: These can include anything from selfies and vacation shots to professional-quality images taken by photographers and enthusiasts.
  • Videos: Videos can take the form of short clips and vlogs or longer-form content like product demos and tutorials.
  • Text: This can include reviews, testimonials, blog posts, and other written content.
  • Audio: Podcasts, music, and other audio content might be produced by users.

How brands use UGC

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To employ user-generated content effectively, brands must use a strategic approach that takes into account their goals, audience, and the type of content available. Here are a few ways brands can use UGC:

1. Share UGC on social media

This is a great way to build buzz around a brand and connect with customers. Brands can share customer photos, videos, and reviews on their social media channels—always giving the creator full credit. They can then encourage customers to use specific hashtags and tag the brand in their own posts. For example, when Apple launched a new iPhone in 2014, it wanted to showcase the power of its camera. Thus the #shotoniphone campaign was born, where Apple shared user-generated images to its social media accounts.

2. Incorporate UGC into the brand website or blog

This can help build trust and credibility with customers, as well as showcase the value of a brand’s products or services. A number of clothing brands do this to great effect. Take Modcloth, for example: Users review products and create images of themselves wearing those products. 

3. Use UGC in advertising

Marketing with content generated organically by users helps brands connect and build trust with their target audience. A number of brands made UGC-based ads during the initial COVID-19 lockdown, including Buffalo Wild Wings. As described by Imagen.io, the ad was “made entirely from UGC [and] shows individuals making up their own sports at home in the absence of live sporting TV. Equally impressive, the team created the ad in just 6 days.”

4. Create contests or challenges

Brands can gamify their content to have customers to create and share UGC and reward them for doing so. Brands might create a photo or video contest with a specific theme or hashtag and offer prizes for the best submissions. Chobani Yogurt, for example, created the #SwitchTheChobaniFlip campaign, offering free yogurt to winners.

5. Use UGC in customer service

UGC can be used to encourage customers to share their feedback or complaints through UGC so brands can respond to them publicly. Plenty of brands do this via Twitter, where users reach out directly to representatives of those companies. This is particularly true for airlines during turbulent travel times.

Examples of effective user-generated content

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These examples of expertly wielded UGC demonstrate just how powerful taking it to the people can be.  

  • Coca-Cola's #ShareaCoke campaign: Coca-Cola encouraged customers to share photos of themselves enjoying Coca-Cola products on social media using the hashtag #ShareaCoke. 
  • GoPro's #BeaHero campaign: GoPro asked customers to share videos and photos of themselves using GoPro products on social media using the hashtag #BeaHero. 
  • Dove's #RealBeauty campaign: Dove encouraged customers to share photos of themselves on social media using the hashtag #RealBeauty. 
  • Old Spice’s response campaign: The brand used social media to respond to customer comments and questions in a funny, irreverent way, matching the tone of their latest commercials.
  • Nike’s #JustDoIt campaign: This campaign encouraged customers to share photos and videos of themselves participating in sports and fitness activities.

These campaigns show how user-generated content can create a sense of community and engagement around the brand.

Why video editing is an important component of UGC

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Video editing helps make UGC more aesthetically pleasing, better conveys brand messages, and allows for more impactful shorter videos. Video editing:

 1. Adds aesthetic value

Video editing is often an important component of user-generated content because it can greatly enhance the quality and appeal of the content. By editing a video, creators and brands can improve the lighting, sound, and overall production value of the content. Editing also allows for the removal of any unwanted elements such as errors or irrelevant parts of the video, making the overall experience more seamless and enjoyable for the viewer.

2. Conveys the brand message

Video editing allows creators and brands to add special effects, captions, and other elements that can help tell a story or convey a message more effectively. A consistent visual aesthetic and brand identity across content helps to create a sense of community and engagement around the brand. 

3. Encourages short-form content

Editing allows for the creation of shorter and more focused videos, which are more likely to be watched and shared

How creators use UGC

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Today’s creators are poised to benefit hugely from creating content for brands. Making UGC helps creators: 

1. Build an audience.

By sharing UGC, creators can increase visibility and reach by helping them connect with fans and other creators.

2. Gain exposure. 

UGC can be a great way for creators to gain exposure for their work and showcase their content to a wider audience. For example, a creator focused on makeup artistry might gain a larger audience after creating UGC for an established cosmetics brand.

3. Learn from others.

By engaging with UGC, creators can see how others are interpreting their work and gain insights into what resonates with their audience.

4. Collaborate.

UGC can also open up collaboration opportunities for creators. For example, a fashion designer can use UGC to find new design talents to collaborate with.

5. Monetize.

Many creators make decent money through UGC. Unlike being a traditional influencer, you don’t need a huge following to be a UGC creator—just the ability to create authentic content and connect with brands and their customers.

Successful UGC creators

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Here are a few examples of creators who built a large following and found social media success in part thanks to UGC: 

  • Jenna Mourey, known as Jenna Marbles, a popular YouTuber and social media influencer who built her audience through comedic and relatable vlogs
  • Casey Neistat, a filmmaker and YouTuber who gained fame through his daily vlogs, short films, and creative storytelling
  • Zoella, whose real name is Zoë Sugg, a British YouTuber, author and social media influencer who rose to fame through her lifestyle, beauty, and fashion vlogs
  • PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, a YouTuber, comedian and social media influencer who gained fame through his Let's Play videos and comedic commentary
  • Jenna Kutcher, a photographer and social media influencer who built her audience through her relatable and inspiring content on Instagram and other platforms
  • Gary Vaynerchuk, who goes by GaryVee, a Belarusian American internet personality, businessman, and author who has become a thought leader in the digital marketing industry

These are just a few examples of creators who have gained significant success through UGC, but there are countless others across various platforms and industries.

How much do UGC creators make?

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According to LinkedIn, “you can expect to charge anywhere from $50 to $500 (and sometimes more) for UGC depending on the size of your audience and brand’s ability to pay, but it will always be a matter of individual agreement.” The amount of money that a UGC creator can make varies widely depending on a number of factors, including the type of content they create, the size of their audience, and their monetization strategies. 

Some UGC creators make money from advertising revenue by partnering with brands and earning money through sponsored content, affiliate marketing, and paid collaborations. Others generate income by selling their own products and services, such as T-shirts, e-books, or courses. Some creators may also earn money through donations or membership-based platforms like Patreon, where fans can support their favorite creators financially. 

It's worth noting that the income of UGC creators can be unpredictable and inconsistent. For some creators, the income can be substantial, while for others it may not be worth the time it takes to regularly create their own compelling content.  

Many UGC creators need to diversify their income streams, but with the right strategy, hard work, and persistence, UGC creators can monetize their content and make a living from it.

How to start making user-generated content

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Getting started in user-generated content creation can be a challenging but rewarding process. Here are a few steps to help you get started:

1. Define your niche

Identify the type of content you want to create and the audience you want to reach. This could be anything from cooking guides to beauty tutorials to videos of your dog.

2. Create a content plan

Once you know what type of content you want to create, plan out a content calendar to help you stay organized and consistent. This will help you to keep your audience engaged and to grow your following.

3. Invest in equipment 

Invest in quality equipment such as a camera, microphone, ring light, and editing software. This will help you create high-quality content that will stand out.

4. Create and share your content

Start creating and sharing content about brands you love across social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. This content will become your UGC portfolio.

5. Engage with your audience

Respond to comments, answer questions, and engage with your followers. Building a relationship with your audience is key to growing a strong following.

6. Analyze and improve

Use analytics tools to track your progress and understand what type of content resonates with your audience. Use this information to improve your future content and strategy.

7. Reach out to brands

Finally, it’s time to get your content monetized! UGC creator Giselle González told Business Insider that one of the best ways to get paid for UGC is to reach out to brand social media managers on sites like LinkedIn. “I start my pitch by asking them if they're looking to work with content creators or the best email for me to send more information,” she explained. “That initial message is never too long. Then, if they're interested, I follow up with a message that tells them I am a full-time content creator, a few reasons why I would love to work with the brand, and a few reasons why I am the best candidate for the role. I make sure to study the brand ahead of time. For example, I look at PiPiAds.com, which shows the metrics for all existing TikTok ads to understand how theirs typically perform. Based on that research, I make sure to provide them with a strategy I'd use in my content to help boost their results.”

8. Keep learning

Keep learning and experimenting with new techniques and strategies to improve your content, connect with brands, and reach more people. Follow other creators in your niche, attend webinars or workshops, and read articles and books to stay updated and improve your skills. 

Remember that creating UGC takes time, effort, and patience. It's important to be consistent and to stay true to yourself and your audience. With the right strategy and a willingness to learn, you can build a successful career as a UGC creator.

Challenges that UGC creators face

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Creating user-generated content can be a rewarding process, but it also comes with its own set of unique challenges. Here are a few of the most common challenges that UGC creators may face:

  • Building an audience: Building a following can be challenging and time-consuming. Although you don’t need a huge following to become a UGC creator, strong metrics certainly help when pitching to brands.  
  • Consistency: Consistency is key when it comes to UGC creation. It takes a lot of effort and discipline to create content on a regular basis and to stay engaged with your audience. 
  • Monetization: There is a lot of competition in the UGC space, so it can be difficult to find ways to monetize your content that align with your personality and audience.
  • Copyright issues: UGC creators need to be aware of copyright laws and make sure they have the rights to use any music, images, and other content they include in their videos. 
  • Privacy and legal concerns: UGC creators need to be aware of privacy laws and regulations to ensure they are not violating any laws when they use content created by their own followers. 
  • Engagement and community management: UGC creators should be able to handle negative comments and trolls. One unprofessional slip-up could mean the difference between landing a brand collaboration and being rejected. 
  • Keeping up with trends: Since the digital landscape is constantly evolving, UGC creators need to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and strategies to continue to connect with brands and their audience. 
  • Dealing with burnout: UGC creation can be demanding and time-consuming, so creators need to find ways to balance their work and personal lives.

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