What is UGC (user-generated content)?

A man uses his iPad writes and publishes a review of a product.

What is user-generated content?

User-generated content (UGC) is content created by consumers about a brand’s products or services. It comes in formats like social media posts, written reviews, unboxing videos, and more. Customers, employees, or paid influencers can make UGC about your brand and share it on review sites, social media, or forums.

UGC usually features a brand in a positive light and showcases the benefits of its products or services. Consumers tend to prefer UGC over branded content because it’s more authentic. After all, if another regular person is gushing about a brand they love, it’s reasonable for them to assume they’ll love the brand too.

In the beginning UGC was entirely organic, but many brands are now sourcing paid UGC from influencers.

However you source it, UGC helps save time and money. You don’t need to create content internally — with the consumer’s permission, you can reshare their UGC on your own social feed, paid ads, product pages, and more. If you want a ready-made sales force for your business, UGC is a no-brainer.

Why is user-generated content important?

It might seem like a passing trend, but UGC has so many benefits for both enterprises and SMBs. It isn’t going away anytime soon. If your brand hasn’t invested in UGC yet, you’re leaving money on the table.

This marketing tactic is gaining traction, and for good reason. UGC can help brands:

  1. Increase conversions. UGC adds much-needed social proof to your marketing messaging and ads. In fact, campaigns using UGC have 29% more conversions. Seeing other customers interact with your product increases consumer confidence, which increases sales.
  2. Grow brand loyalty. Want more shoppers to stick around? Incorporate UGC into your marketing campaigns. More than 60% of consumers would be more loyal to a brand that invited them to be a UGC advocate. So, the people who create UGC for you will become more loyal to your brand.
  3. Build trust through authenticity. Consumers can be jaded. They won’t take your claims at face value because you have too much skin in the game. On the other hand, 92% of consumers trust UGC more than branded content. Since a third party is promoting your brand, it comes off as more authentic to buyers.
  4. Optimize costs. Are you spending too much on content production? With UGC, you can produce affordable content at scale. With this strategy, your customers act as creators for your brand. There’s no need to pay for a pricey photoshoot. Simply get the user’s permission to reshare their content, and you’re off to the races. At scale, this can be a cost-effective method for content creation.

29% more conversions from UGC campaigns. 60% consumers more loyal being a UGC advocate. 92% trust UGC more than branded content.

The most difficult part of UGC is getting started. But as you source more UGC for your brand, you’ll increase your chances of generating even more. In fact, 64% of consumers say they’re more likely to share content about a brand if they see the brand sharing UGC from other consumers.

Types of user-generated content

UGC isn’t one-size-fits-all. It comes in several forms, but these four are the most popular.

  1. Content from social media. Buyers will frequently post content about brands on social media channels like Instagram or TikTok. This is usually a casual mention of what they’re wearing, eating, or doing. As an added bonus, this UGC is already on social media, which makes it even easier for you to reshare the content to your own page (with the user’s permission, of course).
  2. Images. You can find UGC images in reviews on Google My Business or Yelp. As long as you have the buyer’s permission, you can reuse their photos on your website, email campaigns, or social media. This is a clever way to source more lifestyle photos of your products in action, for example — and it’s cheaper and faster than a professional photoshoot.
  3. Videos. Video UGC on YouTube is a gold mine for brands. Video UGC tends to be longer and more in-depth, which allows for higher-quality content that digs into the nuts and bolts of your offerings. This is ideal if you have high-ticket items like cars or furniture that consumers want to research before they buy.
  4. Blog posts. Bloggers usually create content on their own websites and then reshare it to social media. They typically cover a niche topic and have a dedicated following within that niche. Blog UGC often includes multimedia like photos and videos along with text, so it’s a valuable way to source multiple types of UGC at once.

How to get user-generated content

UGC can inject more life into your marketing campaigns with little added effort. But the trickiest part of UGC marketing is getting started. How can you persuade people to create content for your brand?

It takes more time and effort at the beginning, but these four tips can help you source more user-generated content.

1. Create a unique brand or campaign hashtag.

Hashtag campaigns like #IceBucketChallenge are a great way to encourage UGC. Hashtag-fed UGC is interactive, shareable, and viral-worthy. It’s a digital form of word-of-mouth marketing that can really catch on if you get the interactive element right. It’s also important to create an interesting, fun hashtag that people want to share.

Hashtag campaigns are a smart way to source UGC because they organize all of the content for you. Simply find your favorite content, get the creator’s permission to use it, and reshare it in your own campaigns.

For example, a beauty brand might promote its liquid foundation product with the hashtag campaign #MyShadeMyWay, which invites makeup lovers to post innovative, original makeup looks. The brand could ask popular makeup influencers to take part in the trend to increase adoption, too.

64% of consumers say they're more likely to share content about a brand if they see the brand sharing UGC from other consumers.

2. Launch a social media contest.

Social media contests are a type of hashtag campaign that up the stakes. For this, you ask consumers to post UGC of themselves using your product. When they share that content to your branded hashtag, they’re automatically entered into a drawing to win a prize.

People love free stuff. Contests encourage consumers to take action for a chance to win freebies. The more valuable the contest prize, the more likely you are to source buzz for your brand.

For example, an athletic apparel company could ask athletes to post their most impressive workouts in the company’s gear for a chance to win $2,000 worth of merchandise.

3. Offer incentive-based promotions.

It takes effort to create UGC. Many consumers won’t create UGC if there isn’t anything in it for them, so you can offer incentive-based promotions to gather more UGC.

You can offer incentives like:

For example, if you sell energy drinks, you can offer a free case of your newest flavor to customers who share the product UGC on Instagram. Be sure to set time and supply limits on these incentives, though — you don’t want to be on the hook for thousands of freebies.

4. Implement an ambassador program.

If you want to source more UGC from loyal customers, create an ambassador program. The upside is that you can be choosy about which creators you let into the program. This will help you source higher-quality photo and video UGC.

In return for their content, you should give ambassadors exclusive incentives. That might include ambassador-only events or custom brand swag they can’t get anywhere else.

For example, a chip brand could offer ambassadors fun incentives like free snack vouchers. It could even go outside the box and create a ridiculously giant chip just for its ambassadors to post on social media.

Examples of user-generated content

UGC is a fun, lighthearted way to create brand buzz. But every brand has to take a creative approach to UGC to generate results. Learn from these successful examples of user-generated content to inspire your next UGC campaign.

A Coca-Cola banner ad encourages consumers to use the hashtag #ShareaCoke.
Image credit: Everything is Awesome

Coca-Cola: Share a Coke

In 2011, The Coca-Cola Company took a list of the most popular first names and added them to bottles of Coke. The brand encouraged shoppers to find a bottle with their name on it, take a selfie, and share it on social media with the hashtag #ShareACoke.

Customization is a clever way to encourage people to share UGC on social media. Coke’s campaign was customer-focused, creative, and easy for shoppers to execute — all they had to do was snap a selfie to participate.

Apple: #ShotOniPhone

While iPhone photography is ubiquitous today, users were hesitant to take photos with their iPhones back in 2014. Apple wanted to encourage iPhone camera adoption, so it created the #ShotOniPhone campaign. This UGC campaign encouraged amateur photographers to submit their picture-perfect iPhone snaps on social media.

Not only did this build customer trust in Apple’s camera technology, but it also generated well over 24 million Instagram mentions for the brand. Apple’s campaign showed its product in use by everyday people, which encouraged more shoppers to embrace the iPhone.

ASOS: #AsSeenOnMe

ASOS added an As Seen On Me section to its website in 2014. It created the hashtag #AsSeenOnMe to pull a feed of approved images of ASOS lifestyle photos from Instagram.

This hashtag feed made it easy for ASOS to source real-life pictures of everyday people in its clothing. Since anyone could participate, the campaign also turned customers into ready-made content creators.

Doritos: Legion of the Bold

In 2015, Doritos created a website called Legion of the Bold that offered brand-approved images for the public to use. Consumers could use the creative assets to make their own weird, wonderful Doritos-themed content, which led to a series of viral memes. In fact, it was so successful that the campaign is still ongoing via Doritos’ Legion of Creators portal.

Doritos encouraged UGC by giving its audience better resources for content creation. It retained some control over the content creation process but still gave creators enough freedom to have fun with it.

Start increasing conversions with UGC

UGC can help brands increase conversions, boost loyalty, build trust, and reduce costs. When you’re ready to integrate UGC into your marketing strategy, develop a plan for the best way to gather content — whether through hashtag campaigns, contests, incentives, or ambassador programs.

But it can be hard to do UGC at scale, and that’s where Adobe Experience Manager comes in. Experience Manager brings asset management and content management into one place.

You can speed up content creation and keep your website fresh by importing UGC from social media channels. Update user-generated content manually or create moderation rules to publish an ongoing stream of authentic, high-quality information. With Experience Manager, you can find content that your users trust, decide which pieces you want to use, then import the content directly — saving you time while serving more engaging experiences to your customers.

Watch a quick video to learn how Adobe Experience Manager can elevate your business’s UGC marketing strategies or request a demo to get started.