What is User‑Generated Content and How Can it Help Your Business?

It's no secret that business moves fast. It's not enough to have a website that's well-designed, accurate, and easy to use—you want your content to stay fresh too. Constantly generating new material and updates can take a lot of work.

By letting your users take some of that work off your hands, you can cultivate a constant stream of new material to increase brand awareness, attract new customers, and build your brand's community.

Check out the user-generated content facts and information below.

User-generated content—it's just like it sounds!

User-generated content (UGC) is any kind of content created by individual users rather than the brand itself. UGC can take many forms—text, photos, video, audio—and may have a dedicated place on your website alongside your own content or it may consist of posts on social platforms, sites that feature online reviews, and message boards.

Companies have always used word of mouth to attract more users. Consumers trust others to recommend products and services and want to know what others think about your brand. The growth of user-generated content shows that the same strategy can be adapted to the digital age. And best of all, you don't have to hope there's good word of mouth out there—you can find it yourself and feature it as part of your marketing campaigns!

User-generated content vs. employee-generated content

As its name implies, UGC comes from the users of your site, product, or service. It can't replace your own work, but it can be a great way to create a steady flow of engaging content and increase conversions. Consumers are curious about other people's experiences and want to share their opinions too. Giving them a chance to do that through user-generated content is a win-win.

Don't overlook your own employees as a content resource as well. Letting them give customers a behind-the-scenes look at your business or write a blog post about what the business's mission means to them is a great way to bridge the gap between authentic user-generated content and your marketing materials.

Types of user-generated content

There are so many types of UGC—visual, text, audio, and more. We'll help you understand the scope of the UGC universe and decide which types make the most sense for you.

The following user-generated content examples will help give you an idea of the types of UGC you might feature on your own site, in your marketing campaigns, or in social media posts.

Customer ratings and reviews

Amazon is one of the most well-known online commerce sites, but almost every place that offers a product or service has online reviews. Incorporating those into your sales platform gives customers an easy way to see if a product is right for them.

There are also sites just focused on product reviews—both general and for specific market sectors like electronics or beauty products. Keeping an eye on your reviews on those sites too can give you an additional source of user-generated reviews.

Visual UGC (photos and videos)

There are 3.7 million new videos uploaded to YouTube every day! When you include other sites like Flickr and Instagram, the possibilities are nearly endless.

Any brand can take advantage of the power of visuals by asking users to contribute visual material. Brands like GoPro and Lululemon ask users to submit photos and videos of themselves using the products that the companies include in their marketing campaigns.

Whether you post user videos on your site or feature them on your brand's YouTube channel, the power of a strong visual image to attract and keep your users' attention can't be overstated.

Testimonials and comments

Customers who have had a good experience with your brand want to share. Asking satisfied users to give you their thoughts on a product or service or to tell others why they love it through written or video testimonials is a powerful way to increase consumer trust.

Testimonials can be useful on product pages or as landing pages for your site as a whole. Whether you solicit testimonials from satisfied customers or seek out those that are already out there, these can act like traditional word of mouth and attract new users to your brand.

The benefits of UGC

There are a number of reasons why you might want to consider including user-generated content on your website, social media channels, and in your marketing campaigns.

If you haven't already started to imagine ways that UGC can help support your brand's mission, we've compiled a few ideas:

Unlimited flow of content

It's a competitive world online, and consumers are always looking for what's new and fresh. Generating a constant stream of material takes a lot of work. User-generated posts, photos, videos, or reviews mean that your content is always new and updated.

Increased brand awareness

You may not even need to bring users to your site to get to know your business at first. If they encounter UGC images on Instagram or a review of your latest project on the YouTube channel of a loyal customer, you can rely on others to help increase brand awareness.

Improved conversion rates

There are a lot of factors that go into purchasing decisions, and hearing from other satisfied users is one of the best. UGC can increase conversions and build your customer base. Someone who is indecisive about a purchasing decision or uncertain about which service company to hire can be swayed by an honest and enthusiastic testimonial from someone else just like them.

Scalable content

So many digital outlets, so much need for new content, but so little time! In a crowded digital environment, you may find that you need more content than you thought. You have a great opportunity to increase your reach by digging into the millions of photos, videos, and reviews posted every day. Check social media regularly for mentions of your brand and consider making a direct appeal for user-generated content on your site itself or your company's channels like Instagram. For every new user you engage, you can reach their network of friends, family, and colleagues as well.

Authenticity

It's easy to spend countless hours and lots of money creating the right message with professional copy and photos, but keep in mind that your audience may not want to feel like they're being marketed to—they may want authenticity. User-generated content is seen as a more authentic form of marketing.

A study of UGC found that nearly 90% of consumers say that authenticity is an important factor when they're deciding what brands they prefer and patronize. Knowing that they're hearing directly from other customers gives them the confidence that all the great features of your business or product aren't just a sales pitch.

Cost-effective

UGC can also save you money. Rather than hiring creatives for a limited number of content assets and then re-doing everything on a regular basis, UGC takes some of the burden off you. As long as you give credit to the creators and follow the rules of reusing material from other sites, most UGC can be obtained for free.

With so many types of user-generated content, social channels, and other sources, you can include as much UGC as you'd like and it makes sense for your company's marketing campaigns.

Builds customer trust

In a crowded marketplace, it's hard to know whom to trust. Hearing from other users will reassure them that your product or service is high quality and reliable. In fact, studies show that consumers trust content created by users almost two and a half times more than brand-specific content created by a company.

Knowing that your brand welcomes and includes reviews and content from users can also be a sign to consumers that you have a great product. It demonstrates that you're proud of your business and your customer service.

Inspires brand loyalty

While UGC can help attract new users, don't neglect existing customers. Reaching out to long-time users to share what it is that keeps bringing them back can turn those who are just getting to know your brand into loyal customers themselves.

Everyone likes to feel like they're a part of a successful business and your best customers want to help you succeed. Giving them the chance to create user-generated content is a great way to do that.

Memorable

When was the last time you shared a funny TikTok video or sent a friend a link to an Instagram post? For most people, this kind of viral spread of media has become part of daily life. Whether a post was emotional, humorous, or sincere, people remember the content they see online.

Tapping into the enthusiasm and creativity of your users can help generate content that people want to like, share, and re-post. And the more they engage with the content, the more memorable it is.

Adaptable and flexible

If you feature UGC as part of your brand's outreach, consumers can respond right away to new products and services and start to create content to share their experiences immediately. As soon as you offer a service or start shipping a new product, the reactions to it on social media become a valuable tool.

Similarly, you can use the data about traffic to your website and engagement with specific UGC content to adjust your marketing method or even your product itself. Are a lot of users clicking directly from your landing page filled with testimonials to the product page and then adding it to their shopping cart? That's good to know and allows you to lean into the voices of satisfied customers even more.

"Social proof"—the humanized approach

Savvy consumers are wary of marketing pitches, but seeing content created by other consumers helps them feel like they're getting honest and straightforward information. It uses a concept known as "social proof," where people look to others to help guide their behavior.

If your current customers are able to share how much they love your product, others will want to join them—maybe sharing user-generated content of their own as well.

Diverse and creative content

You've almost certainly put a lot of thought into your website and your marketing plan, but you may be surprised by what others come up with. Starbucks' famous White Cup Campaign asked users to submit custom artwork that was reprinted on reusable cups and resulted in original and engaging visual content.

Are there ways that you can tap into the creativity of your customer base or even attract new customers by giving them a chance to show off their artistic side? You may even be inspired by how people are already using your product.

Easy collection

Most sites have made it easy to share posts from one platform to another. Generating a link to an Instagram post or featuring a glowing YouTube review on your channel is easier than ever. Most user-generated content is designed to be searched for and shared as widely as possible.

Finding UGC in the first place is simple too. You can encourage users to submit it directly, search for your company name, or look for hashtags that mention your brand to be taken right to the user-generated content you're looking for.

Build an online community

Humans are social creatures! We want to connect with others. It may be through a community of fans of a local sports team or loyal consumers of a certain brand like Apple. People like to gather with others who like the same things they do.

Giving your users a chance to do that through UGC can be an effective way to build a loyal audience. Whether on message boards where users can share tips about using your product, virtual gatherings, or comments on social media posts and reviews, creating a welcoming environment where users want to gather brings them to your site and keeps them there.

Showcase brand advocacy

The above-mentioned Starbucks White Cup Campaign was also a way for the company to promote its eco-friendly reusable coffee cups. You can make user-generated content important in spreading the message about your work in your community and beyond.

If your company partners with local non-profits, joining forces with them and their network of supporters and volunteers can be a great way to amplify your reach and generate new content in addition to helping a cause you care about.

User-generated content examples

There are many different types and sources of UGC content. Following are examples of just a few. With the continuing spread of social media and the chance for everyone to be a creator, keep an eye out for new ways for your customers to help you promote your business.

Social media platforms

Sites like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are great places to start. These and other social media platforms are already places where people go to connect with others and find out about new products and services. If you haven't checked in to see what people are saying about your brand, you may be surprised at the wealth of content that's already out there.

In addition, these sites allow you to take advantage of "social commerce"—shopping directly from social media channels. Users don't even have to stop browsing their friends' vacation photos or family updates to link right to your purchase page.

Depending on what business you're in, there may be more niche social networks that make sense for you. For example, book publishers should keep an eye on GoodReads, a site that lets book enthusiasts connect with each other and leave reviews of their latest literary finds.

Other platforms

The traditional social media networks aren't the only place to find user-generated content. Any site that hosts user-generated videos like YouTube, photos like Flickr, or art of all kinds like DeviantArt allows anyone to post their thoughts and creations.

In addition, sites like Yelp and Google collect reviews of all kinds of products and services and are a trusted resource for people who want to research purchases.

How to use UGC

If you've decided to harness the power of users to create content for you, thinking about the most effective way to encourage and collect user-generated content and then how to manage it is an important first step.

Creating UGC

You may be able to start out by finding UGC already out there, but encouraging people to create and share user-generated content will give you even more material to draw from. Consider soliciting art for a new product, videos of customers using your service, or a photo contest with prizes.

Content management

A marketing campaign that uses UGC may rely on users to create the content, but it's important to think about how to manage the content generated by users.

There are different levels of content management. Some sites approve each comment or post. Others promote the best user-generated content, giving it precedence over less valuable user-generated content. Thinking ahead about the best way to promote and protect your brand will help you make sure your use of UGC is as effective as possible.

User-generated content marketing strategy

If incorporating UGC into your brand's marketing plans seems like a good idea, here are some tips to start a UGC campaign.

Building a user-generated content strategy

If your marketing efforts haven't included user-generated content, it's a good time to start. It can be tempting to jump right in but putting in a bit of strategic thought will pay off.

There may be UGC out there already that you can tap into. Make sure your company has a Facebook page, an Instagram account, or a presence on any other social channels that make sense for you. It's an easy way for customers to interact with your social media posts.

UGC is also a great way to get users into the marketing funnel, starting with basic brand awareness through the use of consumer-generated content—maybe on other channels, that will draw them to your website. Thinking strategically about how your most loyal customers have found you in the past, or what areas have been overlooked can help you focus your UGC strategy.

Marketing campaigns

Start with the type of UGC that seems like the most obvious choice for your business, whether it's asking users to share photos of themselves using your product, which could be featured on your website's landing pages, or reviewing products and creating UGC videos that you can link to through your company's social media accounts or other channels.

Implementing a UGC strategy

Once your marketing team has decided to use UGC content, you may be ready to go big. But to avoid being overwhelmed by the amount of content out there, start small and focused.

Maybe you want users to see testimonials from others as soon as they get to your site. Putting those on your home page or creating a new landing page with those positive reviews is a good jumping-off point. The Mailchimp Website Builder can help you make that happen.

UGC campaigns often start with social media as well, since those sites are set up for easy uploading, commenting, and sharing. Designate an employee whose job it is to maintain your social media channels, update them regularly, and keep an eye on what others are posting about you.

UGC and influencer marketing

The participation of celebrity "influencers" has become a prominent part of user-generated content marketing, but it's not necessary to spend your total marketing budget on the Kardashians.

There's a whole universe of micro-influencers (between 10,000 and 100,000 followers), nano-influencers (between 100 and 10,000 followers) and brand advocates who engage smaller, more targeted segments of your audience.

The best influencer for you might not be a celebrity, but a regular person who has become a trusted and influential social-media voice. When these brand advocates recommend a product or service, their social network followers listen!

There are agencies that will help connect you with the right influencer, but simply reaching out to enthusiastic users and enlisting their help in spreading the word about your brand can be an effective part of a UGC strategy as well.

The challenges of user-generated content

Although there are numerous benefits to using UGC, making sure you understand the challenges and having a plan to deal with them will ensure your UGC marketing plan gets off to a good start.

User-generated content rights

It may not always be clear who owns the content posted to your site or whether you have the right or permission to repost material from other sites. Before using UGC, make sure you have legal permission to use submitted material and that it's not violating any content standards. You'll also want to give proper credit to anyone whose content you use.

Getting quality UGC

While it may seem like the more UGC you have the better, it can be easy for users to get lost in a flood of low-quality or irrelevant content. Keeping UGC focused on your brand without letting it get off topic is important. Rather than soliciting just any UGC, make sure you have an idea of what you're looking for.

Protecting brand reputation

Allowing users free reign to post anything they want on your site or social media channel may be a recipe for trouble—the amount of user-generated content may overwhelm you and you may end up with some content that doesn't reflect your brand's image.

Thinking ahead about ways to monitor and control the content that goes out to the public can be challenging but it is a vital part of your marketing strategy.

Scalability challenges

The scalability of UGC can be a double-edged sword. While it can help build your content quickly, it can also mean that the amount of content easily gets out of hand or becomes difficult to manage. Making sure you have an effective content management system in place at the beginning will allow you to scale the content from your users effectively.

If you're just deciding to dip your toe into the world of user-generated content (UGC) or if you already rely heavily on a strategy that invites customers to participate in content creation, there's a way to leverage it to help your business. Whether it's influencer marketing, visual UGC, or the creation of an online community, create a UGC marketing campaign that harnesses the value of social user-generated content and social proof to increase your user base, build loyalty, and spread the word about your amazing brand!

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