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User-Generated Content: How to Use It to Maximize Growth

User-generated content (or consumer-generated content) is organic content that users or consumers of a specific product or brand create and publish to show how much they love or admire the product/brand -- at no cost to you. Learn how to use it.

User-generated content, or UGC for short, is a powerful tool for businesses to enhance their brands. UGC takes many forms, including images, text, videos, reviews, or even questions – all created and posted by loyal customers and followers of the brand at no cost.

Companies use UGC to showcase customer satisfaction with their product. These images, videos, and testimonials significantly impact the brand's reputation and profitability. It attracts new customers, making UGC an invaluable marketing strategy.

According to analysts, 79% of people will buy a product if other customers say positive things about the company, and 60% of consumers see UGC as the most authentic content.

However, knowing that user-generated content is crucial for maximizing conversion is not the point. After all, we all talk about products we love. The absolute goldmine, and the object of this piece, is to help you understand how to incentive your buyers to create meaningful content and incorporate that content into your messaging to uplift your brand and attract more buyers.

If you’re like many marketers struggling to generate word of mouth through sporadic UGC campaigns or having influencers post product photos with random hashtags, this primer is for you! Keep reading for excellent case studies to inspire your ideas, plus UGC best practices to enhance your marketing endeavors.

What is User-Generated Content?

User-generated content (or consumer-generated content) is organic content that users or consumers of a specific product or brand create and publish to show how much they love or admire the product/brand.

UGC is a powerful instrument for swaying public opinion. According to Adweek, as much as 85 percent of your sales result from user-generated content.

UGC helps your buyers see your products or services from the eyes of users like them, thus dissolving any initial doubts or reservations. When prospective customers see real people sharing positive experiences with a brand or product, they trust and feel confident in that brand.

Compared with typical brand-created marketing content, the results are incredible. One survey with more than 2,000 participants reported that “shoppers trust user-generated content 8.7 times more than influencer content and 6.6 times more than branded content.”

There’s more:

  • 82% of consumers read online evaluations of local companies, with 52% of consumers aged 18 to 54 stating they "always" read reviews, says BrightLocal.

  • 84% of millennials say user-generated content on company websites somehow influences their purchasing decisions, and UGC can boost online sales conversions by 161%, a Bazaarvoice survey found.

  • 70% of consumers trust product reviews from strangers rather than brands, and 72% of Reevoo’s survey respondents agreed that seeing photos or videos of a product from other customers made them buy.

So you can do what many businesses do: go full-throttle advertising, which doesn’t always work. Or you can incorporate UGC in your marketing systems to deliver authentic content and win consumers’ trust.

Today's tensions in the industry are partly due to many businesses failing to meet customer expectations, creating an opportunity for companies to stand out.

Encouraging customers to share positive experiences can help build a genuine brand image and attract new customers.

Types of User-Generated Content and Their Value

The existence of user-generated content is only one of the crucial aspects. People will always discuss products they enjoy. What matters is how you use it to benefit your brand.

Below are some of the different kinds of UGCs you can maximize to promote brand awareness and, by extension, boost your revenues.

#1: Product Reviews and Ratings

Product reviews and ratings are a popular UGC where customers provide written or video testimonials and ratings on purchased products. Product reviews and ratings carry significant weight in consumers' choices.

Studies show that 91% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase, and 84% put the same level of trust in those reviews as they do in personal recommendations.

Consider inserting a prompt in after-sales customer emails after purchase to encourage reviews and product ratings. Or provide a modest incentive.

Equally vital, respond to negative reviews promptly and professionally to show your buyers you value their opinions. Those unfavorable evaluations often give you outside insights into product or service improvement you might not ordinarily have.

By answering questions, resolving issues, and expressing gratitude to customers, you use reviews as a chance to interact with your community.

product review on instagram

And, of course, when you've acquired those fantastic reviews and ratings, use them to boost your credibility and attract customers by showcasing them on your website and social media.

So that you know:

  • Consumers are willing to spend 31% more money on a product with excellent reviews, PowerReviews says.

  • Brands with a high number of reviews and ratings have a 42% higher conversion rate than those with a low number of reviews, according to Trustpilot.

#2: Social Media Posts

Marketers have produced many articles, podcasts, and YouTube videos on Apple's #ShotOnIphone UGC campaign. And for a good reason: It was a perfect case study of incentivizing your users to create organic Social Media posts that boost your brand and add a positive spin to your user experience.

After the iPhone 6 launched in 2015, customers began complaining about the iPhone camera’s performance in pictures taken in the dark. Apple shares took a hit as the market reacted to consumer dissatisfaction with iPhone.

Apple execs listened, deliberated, and incidentally decided to launch the #ShotOnIphone campaign to restore consumer trust. They created the UGC campaign for novice and expert photographers to take pictures with their iPhones in the dark and share them online under the title Shot on iPhone. The outcome was remarkable as ordinary individuals flooded Social Media with stunning low-light photos they’d captured with their iPhones.

Apple quickly regained the trust of doubtful customers and saved money on development and manufacturing costs with creative user-generated content. Plus, Apple made its loyal customers feel valued by featuring their visual content in a worldwide advertising campaign. As a result, there was no need to overhaul the iPhone camera.

#shotoniphone campaign

#3: Blog Posts and Articles

Blog posts and articles your customers write are valuable for building trust and credibility with your community. Customers value such UGC more because they assume it'll be devoid of bias or marketing.

A survey by Demand Gen Report underscores that 47% of buyers viewed 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep.

Whether incorporating your customers' views into your blog posts and articles or having them contribute to your website, these tools drive traffic and increase visibility in search engine results.

You could offer guest blogging opportunities or options for sharing their content on social media to encourage customer-generated blog posts and articles. It builds a sense of community around the brand.

The caveat is that while user-generated content can be precious, you must also ensure it aligns with your values and messaging.

#5: Photos and Videos

Customers are constantly creating videos ranging from unboxing and tutorials to reviews. You can tap into these content streams to boost your brand. You can also infuse shorter videos that are popular on TikTok and Instagram into your website and product pages or repost them on social media to increase their reach.

According to a study by Bazaarvoice, user-generated photos can increase online conversions by up to 90%. And a survey by Hubspot found that 54% of consumers prefer to see videos from brands they support.

Encourage users to share photos and videos; ask them to showcase their experiences with the product or service. You could incentivize them with discounts or prizes to increase participation.

Some brands also pay influencers to create sponsored posts. These content are transactional and usually labeled as "Paid partnerships."

Regardless of your approach, providing clear guidelines for user-generated photos and videos to align with the brand's values and messaging is beneficial.

Get The Best Out of Your User-Generated Content

UGC is the modern equivalent of word-of-mouth marketing. People trust regular people more than celebrities or brands, so using content from genuine supporters is the goal.

I must also caution you against the urge to create fake user-generated content or campaigns. Your brand reputation can suffer if you appear unnatural to your audience. They can easily detect insincerity.

That said, below are some tips on how to make the most of your UGC.

  • Incentivize participation

Did you know that 50% of consumers want brands to help them create content? You can capitalize on that by starting a trend, social challenge, or contest. You could make it worthwhile for customers with discounts or exclusive access to new products for winners.

  • Make it easy for users to contribute.

To encourage customers to share content, give them easy-to-follow instructions and user-friendly tools.

You can create a hashtag and occasionally remind users about it. For instance, Urban Outfitters uses the #UOCommunity hashtag on Instagram to showcase customer-generated content. They also collaborate with customers to create content, which they feature on their dedicated community blog.

  • Foster a community

While retweeting or reposting customer content is excellent, a more promising approach will be to reuse and repurpose their content (with permission, when necessary).

A few recommendations:

  1. Enhance the authenticity and relatability of your ads with UGC. A simple tweet from a satisfied customer can be enough proof; you may only sometimes require a picture or video.

  2. Showcase your customers' photos on your website by creating a gallery. Using customer content in product photos is a great way to demonstrate how the product looks when used by actual people.

  3. Share user-generated content in your emails and interact with your subscribers.

Interacting with customers creates devotion and motivates them to promote your brand.

  • Use UGC to boost company culture.

Creating user-generated content is more than showing customers using your product or service or sharing positive reviews.

Your employees play a crucial role in the mix as well. They have the most intimate knowledge of the product, having direct daily experience with it. Consider involving your employees in generating UGC to connect with your audience more authentically.

According to Weber Shandwick, 33% of employees will share content about their employer on social media without prompting, which jumps to 50% when the company encourages them.

You can encourage employees to produce content that showcases your brand and products naturally, such as about their workday, or provide a sneak peek into creating your products.

Metrics for Measuring the Impact of Your UGC Campaign

Generally speaking, tracking the results of your work is one vital business principle. Measuring the impact of user-generated content is essential to understanding its effectiveness in driving growth.

Below are tools and techniques for tracking the performance of user-generated content and iterating on your strategy based on data.

  1. Social media monitoring tools: Tools like Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and Buffer can help you track user-generated content across different social media channels. You can use these tools to monitor specific hashtags, keywords, or mentions of your brand and engage with users creating content about your products or services.

  2. Google Analytics: You can use Google Analytics to track user-generated content that drives traffic to your website. You can track metrics such as referral traffic, time on site, and bounce rate to see which types of user-generated content resonate with your audience.

  3. Surveys and feedback forms: You can use surveys and feedback forms to ask customers about their experience with your products or services and whether user-generated content influenced their purchasing decision.

  4. Influencer tracking tools: If you're working with influencers for user-generated content, you can use tools like BuzzSumo or Traackr to track their performance and see which influencers drive the most engagement and conversions.

You can equally compare the performance of different types of user-generated content organically. For example, you can review your website’s content or analytics and see which strategies lead to higher conversions.

In closing this article, the key takeaway is that marketers and buyers recognize the effectiveness of user-generated content in establishing trust and fueling business growth. This type of content can boost engagement, conversions, and customer loyalty.

However, how you incorporate it into your marketing strategy will impact the outcomes you achieve.


About the Author

Tom-Chris Emewulu is HeyDay’s Digital Evangelist. With 8+ years of digital marketing and business development experience, he crafts high-intent, high-converting, data-driven SEO articles that put brands on page 1 of Google search. Forbes, DW, Business Insider, Businessss2Community, and many other publications have featured his works. You can find him on Social Media via @tomchrisemewulu.


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