The Power of User Generated Content (UGC)

A cell phone with a picture of a dog next to the words "The Power of User Generated Content"

The advertising industry is great at developing snappy acronyms that people can latch on to. For a while, it was SEM. Then it was SEO. Now it’s UGC. We love a good three-letter acronym. 

But just like those other phrases, people love to toss UGC around without digging into what it is and why it matters. For those who don’t live and breathe marketing 24/7 (what’s that like?), it can look like just another buzzword you don’t have the time to learn about. 

Consider us your UGC SparkNotes. 

What is User Generated Content?

We’re glad you asked! User Generated Content (aka UGC) is digital content produced by a user who isn’t associated with your brand (branded content) OR paid to produce that content (influencer content). So every genuine Amazon review? UGC. Every social post of an outfit of the day featuring some small brand? UGC. Every photo of a dog next to Tito’s vodka? UGC…you get the picture.

“But wait,” you might be saying. “Isn’t that just like testimonials? Y’know, the stuff they’ve been using to sell products since patent medicines were a thing?”

Yes. Yes, it is. User Generated Content is the testimonial of the social media age. And if you’re already drawing connections to the testimonials of old, then you get where we’re going with this.

Why Does User Generated Content Matter?

UGC is super important to any brand strategy because it is way more effective than branded content in influencing audience mindsets. How effective is it?  If you ask Stackla, 79% of people say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions, and consumers report that UGC is 9.8x more effective than influencer content when making those purchasing decisions.

After reading those metrics, you might wonder why you’re bothering with branded posts or influencer marketing in the face of UGC’s success. Well, it’s pretty simple. Just like anything else, UGC isn’t a magic solution. It’s part of a comprehensive social media strategy that includes posting in your brand voice to engage audiences, working with influencers to reach new prospects, and repurposing UGC to drive them through the bottom of that funnel.

How Do You Generate UGC?

Here’s the tricky part. The whole point of UGC is that it’s organic. That means you can’t pay someone to post it; otherwise, it’s influencer content. You need to wait for a real user to post a real post on their own personal platforms about your organization or product.

The good news is you don’t just have to sit there and wait. There are proactive ways to encourage people to post that content. Again, you’ll need a full UGC strategy to get this right, but here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Ask Your Community – If you’ve got a strong social media presence, you can ask your community directly to respond with reviews, photos, videos, or other content related to your brand.
  • Streamline Submissions – People are inherently lazy. The easier you make it for them to submit their content, the more likely they are to make it happen. Set up a form, create a hashtag, or ask people to tag you when they make a post.
  • Incentivize Submissions – Yes, this technically borders pay-to-play territory, but hear us out. Ask users to post about your organization and use a certain hashtag for the chance to win something or be entered to win. This can be a great way to get people talking about your product if they aren’t doing that already. Essentially, if you don’t have any UGC, this can jumpstart it. A word of caution, though—if you have UGC a’flowin’, we don’t recommend using this tactic regularly. It can make your already loyal followers feel shafted that they weren’t entered into something when they did it on their own.
  • Keep an Eye Out – If you don’t have social monitoring in place, here’s your reminder to make that a priority. You might already have users who are posting about your organization or services. You might just not know it. How do you know their content exists if they don’t tag you or use your hashtag? With social monitoring. Keep an eye on those feeds to see what people are saying, and go from there.

Once You Have UGC, What Do You Do with It?

Okay, so you have an overflowing inbox. Great! Now what?

Here comes the social part of social media. It’s time to engage with that content. Comment on the post. Share it to a story. Like the image. Hell, even reach out to the user and ask them if you can repost it on the brand’s platforms. If they’re a huge fan, this will absolutely make their day.

Make a feed of the UGC on your website and encourage others to join! Or, if you’re selling through a Facebook or Instagram store, add the UGC right there. The key is to acknowledge and engage with whatever content is out there. Sure, it might be negative occasionally, but if you ignore that and only respond to the good images, it’ll make your brand look a little shady.

The best thing about UGC is that once it starts flowing, it doesn’t stop. If users learn that you share posts to your social platforms or website, they’ll be much more motivated to start tagging you in their content. After all, who doesn’t love fifteen minutes of fame? And when their post goes live on your profile, that user will like it and share it with their friends, followers, and family. 

That’s more impressions, engagement, and strong impacts on purchasing decisions, all in one post. Honestly, at this point, if you aren’t utilizing UGC, you’re losing out on some huge opportunities. It may be time to pull out your social strategy and ensure you’ve got some guidelines in place for encouraging, engaging with, and repurposing UGC…and if you need help with that. You know where to find us.

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