When it comes to the modern media landscape, we know two things to be universally true: 

  1. We all carry around a camera every day
  2. We all consumer social media every day

We are not only consumers of advertising anymore, some of us are also the creators. Likely everyone you know has posted a photo of a product they like, wrote a review online, or perhaps even created a video tutorial of how to use that product. 

Point is, user generated content (UGC) is being created every day, and as a marketer, there are plenty of ways you can take advantage of that fact for your brand. 

In this post, we’ll examine the benefits of UGC for brands, where marketers can find it, and some tips for curating high-quality UGC at scale. 

But first, a quick definition...

What is UGC (User Generated Content)? 

User generated content (UGC) is media created by individuals on behalf of a brand. People post UGC in the form of social content, photos, videos, and even long-form written content. Oftentimes, brands repurpose UGC in their marketing campaigns. 

Sometimes, UGC is the purpose of the brand’s endeavor. An example of this would be the Red Cup Contest from Starbucks. The coffee chain simply asked users to post creative photos of the brand’s iconic red cups during the holidays—winners were chosen and received various prizes. 

Brands can also solicit UGC by reaching out directly to creators and offering some type of partnership. These partnerships often involve compensation for the creator in the form of cash or free product. 

Stylistically, UGC often has a more amateur look. In fact, the majority of it is likely shot with a smartphone. In that sense, the topic of the video is far more important than the production value. This can actually have a positive effect on audiences as they interpret the content as more realistic, or less like an ad. 

UGC is there for the taking for brands, but it does require some effort to solicit, curate, or repurpose it. So why would brands want UGC? Read on!

How to get UGC at scale

What are the Benefits of UGC for Marketers?

Why would a professional marketer ever turn over content creation to a regular consumer? As it turns out, there are several benefits to sourcing content from the public, but we’ll just briefly cover a few of the primary benefits of UGC for marketers. 

Social proof and engagement

Ever since digital media hit the advertising scene, engagement has been the go-to buzzword for the advertising industry, and for good reason. This is especially true due to the omnipresence of social media and the two-way communication it allows. When brands post a new campaign, the success can often be measured by the public’s reaction to it on social media. The more engagement, the better. 

So it comes as no surprise that brands would optimize toward engagement metrics, something that UGC has been proven to increase. According to Comscore, Brand engagement increases an average of 28% when users are exposed to a combination of user created product videos and professional content. 

Reading between the lines, it makes sense from a strategic perspective to have both professionally created and user generated content in your marketing mix. This actually brings us to the next benefit...

More content for advertising campaigns

When considering the multi-touch online buying journey that modern consumers undertake on their path to purchase, it’s not surprising to hear that marketers need more content now than ever. Many years ago, it was a common belief that consumers needed to hear a message seven times before purchase. In our digitally connected world of today, the actual number of touchpoints could be 5-10x that. 

Consider this (over-simplified) digital buyer’s journey: 

  1. See ad on social (lifestyle photo)
  2. Click through to website (product photo)
  3. Research product on YouTube (unboxing video)
  4. Read reviews (UGC)
  5. Buy product (more product photos)

That’s at least five different pieces of content and we’re being conservative—the actual buyer’s journey may take many more touches than that. 

In that sense, you need different types of content for different purposes, and UGC can provide a ‘slice-of-life’ perspective that a glossy, studio photoshoot simply can’t replicate. 

So how do we know that UGC performs better in some circumstances than content shot in a studio? We measure our digital ad campaigns. 

Ads created from UGC perform well 

We’re seeing more and more brands using UGC in their ad campaigns. According to Forbes, more than 86% of companies are using some type of UGC in their marketing strategy. And it’s not hard to see why! 

Shopify reported that ads featuring UGC receive 4x higher click-through rates and a 50% drop in cost-per-click compared to average ads.

If you combine these two statistics, you come to the obvious conclusion: Everyone is using UGC and it’s working. That said, many brands are still struggling to find enough UGC to feed their marketing campaigns.

Where Can Marketers Find UGC?

As we mentioned in the intro, UGC can be found anywhere, but if you’re looking for high-quality content, these three tactics can help you source it. 

Contests

This one is pretty simple—build a promotion that rewards people for posting content related to your brand. All types of brands use this tactic, from your local gym to the richest companies in the world like Apple (see their #ShotOniPhone campaign). 

If you’re going to go this route, it can be extremely helpful to use a tool like Gleam that is specifically designed for this purpose. This type of promotional software will help not only with increasing engagement and conversion, but also compliance. 

Existing customers 

Don’t forget to tap your existing customer base! Simply browse the tagged photos of your profiles or brand hashtags and look for content that fits your needs—you might be surprised at what you find! 

If you’re going to go this route, don’t forget to reach out to the content owner and obtain permission to use their UGC. 

Creator marketplace

If you’re looking to level up both the volume and quality of your UGC, accessing a creator marketplace is your ticket. Marketplaces offer several benefits that the first two tactics do not, including: 

  • Access to a ready-made (and potentially large) audience
  • Content from somebody with creative training
  • More control over post topics and timing

You can easily start manually searching your social media platform of choice to start finding creators in your niche, but if you really want to take it up a notch, you’ll want to consider using a UGC platform. Platforms like these allow you to narrow down your search by demographics, follower counts, subcultures, social network, etc. 

Additionally, if you choose a platform with an existing network of creators, they’re vetted and accustomed to these types of business relationships and have processes in place for things like delivering content and accepting payment, which can save you a ton of time in the long run. 

If you’re serious about curating high-quality UGC with influencer marketing, here are some bonus tips that guide your success. 

how get high-quality UGC at scale

Tips for Getting High-Quality UGC at Scale

Follow these best practices to ensure healthy business relationships with your creators, the best quality content, and the least headaches. 

Provide a creative brief

Giving your creators a brief will ensure they understand the purpose and the intended direction of the post. They may choose to deviate, of course, but at least they won’t lack direction if you provide the context. 

Context and understanding is absolutely crucial to a healthy business relationship with your creators. Let them know if their content will be used as an organic post to raise awareness or an ad to drive conversions. You want to make sure you provide a scenario for them to operate in while also making sure not to be too prescriptive. And of course, if there’s anything you need them to avoid (brand mentions, etc.) be sure to spell that out.    

In general, a creative brief should provide (at minimum): 

  • The purpose of the content (onboxing, review, case study)
  • The start date or deadline
  • Payment (or product fulfillment) details
  • Required elements, product placement, or hashtags

It’s a fine balance between getting what you need out of the content without limiting the creator’s natural creativity, which is what you’re paying for. 

Provide technical requirements

One thing you should not be flexible with, however, is your technical requirements. If anything, leave the direction of the content up to the creator, but make sure you are totally clear about your technical requirements. These include things like: 

  • Format (photo, video, GIF, etc.)
  • Platform (Instagram, TikTok, Snap, etc.)
  • Media specs (vertical vs. landscape vs. square)
  • Video length
  • File size

Oftentimes, if the content falls outside of your technical specs, it might be unusable, which isn’t good for the brand or the creator. Again, by working with experienced influencers that are part of an established influencer network can help make sure you get the UGC you need within your specs. 

Pay attention to a legalese

While it may be the most boring and tedious part of influencer marketing, making sure you have all your ducks in a row, from a legal standpoint, is an absolute necessity. This applies to both big brands and small. Things like content licensing, payments, contracts, and intellectual property must all be spelled out and properly signed for. 

Note—if you’re using a creator marketplace, all of these legal features are built in and require little to no effort from your team to be legally compliant. 

Creating efficient workflows

It can be somewhat difficult to collaborate with creators. Some issues include: 

  • Communicating between DM and email 
  • Ensuring they received the right products
  • Making sure the right content was posted
  • Asking for content revisions
  • Signing agreements and getting ownership
  • Payment

… The list goes on. This is especially true when you’re working at scale—if you’re working with more than a handful of people, expect some issues here. 

So, if you’re looking to scale your UGC campaigns, we encourage you to check out a UGC platform because they have automated workflows for all of these common issues. 

how to get high-quality UGC at scale

How much should you pay for UGC?

And of course, it always comes down to the bottom line. There are lots of variables when it comes to compensation, such as: 

  • The creator’s built-in audience (large or small)
  • The engagement level of the creator’s audience
  • The length of the video
  • If they edit their own videos
  • Whether you’re whitelisting them or not

That said, we’ve found from our own data* that the range for a 60-second video is generally somewhere around $80 for a creator with a modest following and engagement. For creators with large, highly engaged audiences, we’ve seen prices up to $160. If you’re only after the content to repurpose into ads and marketing materials, however, it may make sense to go with an emerging creator for cost reasons. This is especially true if you’re looking to obtain UGC at scale. 

*Disclaimer—this is NOT a guide to industry standard rates or anything like, just what we’ve learned from our own observations. 

When it comes to sourcing your UGC with one of the techniques listed above, it really matters what you need—the content or the reach. If you just need the content to repurpose into ads and marketing assets, you can pretty much use any of the tactics above. 

But if you’re looking to scale your UGC program—say working with more than 10 creators—you’re likely to run into many of the issues we mentioned earlier if you try to do it manually. When you use a UGC marketplace, however, it eliminates most of the problems marketers have when running a large-scale UGC program and allows you to collect dozens of pieces of high-quality content in a relatively short amount of time. 

Want to see the results of a UGC platform in more detail? Check out our various case studies of brands using UGC from creators