When it comes to the modern media landscape, you’ll agree that this is now our reality: everyone walks around with a camera and consumes social media content every day.
Users no longer just consume ads, some have also become creators of said ads.
There’s a high possibility that almost everyone you know has posted a photo of a product they like, written a review online, or perhaps created a video tutorial on how to use a product on their social media channels.
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:
- What benefits does UGC hold for marketers?
- How to get started with UGC
- How to create high-quality converting UGC
But first, let’s see what UGC is.
What is User-Generated Content (UGC)?
User-generated content (UGC) is any media created by social media users on behalf of a brand.
It comes in the form of social content, photos, videos, tweets, and even long-form written content.
Brands often repurpose UGC visuals in their marketing campaigns. Sometimes, it could be the reason they launched a campaign in the first place.
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 after entries were curated.
The aim was to gather UGC and increase brand awareness.
In other cases, UGC is created when a brand organizes a giveaway contest or allows customers to show off its product, just like BMW does with #BMWRepost on Instagram, where it gives shout-outs to its customers.
At the end of the day, the customer is proud, the brand gets soft promotions, and potential customers are thinking of getting one after seeing happy BMW users.
With UGC, everyone wins.
Brands can also source UGC by reaching out to creators and offering some type of partnership. These partnerships typically involve compensation for the creator in the form of money or free products.
Now, it’s even better if you work with creators in your niche for a variety of reasons. They know how to create content that converts and they have an established audience you can leverage.
So, how do you know which UGC is ‘ad worthy’?
What Makes High-Quality UGC Ads?
In the 2022 State of UGC report, over 90% of marketers stated an already-known fact: consumers trust content created by fellow consumers more than they trust content from brands.
Since that’s the case, brands need to ensure their UGC is of high quality.
What do we mean by high-quality content?
It’s the type of content that has:
- High video quality
- Clear audio
- An effective hook within the first few seconds
- The face of the creator fully visible in the picture
- Honest and authentic content
- Natural, good lighting
- Product placement
- A relatable story
High-definition video: Did you know that people watch at least 19 hours of online video every week? Well, that’s what a Wyzowl report says.
They are also more likely to share video content with their friends than any other content type.
Here’s what we’re trying to say: you need to ensure your UGC video is of really good quality. It should be entertaining and authentic too so customers will be happy to share it.
Clear audio: If you decide to work with creators, you want to inform them to be wary of background noise, the wind, and similar interference when making videos.
There’s nothing more frustrating than hearing a loud honk sound when the creator’s just about to say the good stuff.
Add catchy hooks: No, we don’t mean the hook attached to your fishline or Captain James Hook’s hand.
The hook is an interesting intro that keeps your viewers glued to the video.
The hook could be a surprise gift you wanna offer your audience, a story, or a text overlay telling them what they need.
The creator’s face needs to be shown in the video: Oh yeah, this is important so when customers see the content, they’re convinced it’s from someone they trust.
Authentic content: Customers know when a video is doctored and isn’t original. You need to ensure the UGC is filled with honest information.
Natural lighting: Lighting and video are like Bonnie and Clyde but in a good way.
What we mean is that the lighting complements the video to perfection. Good lighting is key for any good videos.
Product placement: The UGC isn’t ad worthy if the brand’s product isn’t shown in an obvious yet subtle way.
You don’t want the content to be too salesy but nor do you want it to lack the very thing it’s supposed to be all about.
A relatable story: Everyone loves a good story.
“I remember when my pet rhinoceros was scammed by an Indian princess…”
You were hoping for the next line, weren’t you?
Sorry to disappoint…it’s a completely false story. 😏
The point is, stories evoke emotions, especially when they address a problem.
And when your UGC does that, potential customers become intrigued, which means more engagement and sales for your brand.
What Makes Poor UGC Ads?
We can’t describe high-quality UGC without mentioning what it doesn’t need.
You need to know what to stay clear of.
Poor UGC contains any of these no-nos:
- Poor video quality
- Use of filters that make the image blurry or overwhelming
- Creator’s opinion feels forced
- Poor lighting
- Filming from just one angle
- Filming using Snapchat or Instagram
- The content looks dated
- Creator uses too many shadows
- Noisy and cluttered background
Inferior video quality: Low-definition video content is not good for business.
Not only does it scream “cheap” but viewers may not spot key product details that could benefit them.
Misuse of filters: Filters have a place in media content, but they’re best left to expert photographers. Using them without proper knowledge can make images blurry.
Forced opinion: It’s like getting a sleepy baby to smile during a photo shoot. You can try but you can’t force it.
If your creator’s opinion feels similarly forced or lacks enthusiasm, the content begins to look like an ad. Trust us, you don’t want that.
Poor lighting: When it comes to visual media, the devil is in the details and poor lighting doesn’t help matters. Always look for creators who have a way to remedy this.
Filming from one angle: Studies show that the human attention span is short, which means content filmed from one angle will struggle to hold people’s attention. Multiple angles are a much better option.
Using IG or Snapchat to film: While both platforms are exceptional, UGC made with them can sometimes appear pixelated or lack quality.
Content looks dated: UGC should be ‘evergreen’ – always relevant. Don’t accept content with a limited shelf life, unless that’s what you asked for.
Too many shadows: They can cause flickering in your video.
Poor audio quality: A noisy background is another UGC turn-off. The audio should be clean and audible enough for viewers to hear.
Up next, we want to show you why using UGC is worth your while.
7 Benefits of UGC for Marketers
UGC can be used across the different stages of the consumer's journey, from the awareness stage to the consideration and decision stage.
But aside from that, what other benefits do your digital marketing campaigns stand to gain from UGC?
Benefit #1: Social proof
When people go shopping – online or in the mall – they want to be sure they’re in the right place.
How can they know that?
By checking customer reviews, recommendations, or testimonials from authentic users. In other words, they want to see UGC from people like them as this helps in building trust.
About 80% of Americans require social proof (referrals and recommendations) before making any purchase.
By sharing user-generated content examples on your social media pages, people get to see that your customers are happy using your product or service and that can influence their purchasing decisions.
Benefit #2: Increased user engagement
User engagement is the holy grail of marketers when it comes to social media or content marketing because it creates buzz and increases sales in the long run.
And who doesn’t like that?
According to Forbes, more than 86% of companies are using some type of UGC in their marketing strategy.
That’s because it’s engaging!
In addition, Shopify reported that ads featuring UGC receive 4x higher click-through rates and a 50% drop in cost-per-click compared to average ads. See why we said it leads to increased user engagement?
Beyond that, UGC can lead to brand awareness and more sales.
Benefit #3: Stronger relationships between brand and audience
UGC also acts as an advocate between brands and their audience.
It sounds a little cheesy, but it’s true.
Did you know that only 9% of Americans have a ‘great deal’ of trust in the mass media?
People don’t trust mainstream media like they used to and with good reason: there’s a lot of misinformation flying around.
People find it easier to trust content created by people they know than content created by brands.
User-generated content is authentic and people love genuine content – they can relate to it.
In fact, more than 50% of millennials rely on recommendations or reviews from friends and family when deciding whether to buy a product.
It’s important to mention that working with micro-creators (creators who have no more than 100,000 followers) can get you the results you want because they are more relatable and users trust them.
Benefit #4: UGC is flexible
Your marketing team can repurpose UGC for different marketing campaigns beyond social media.
In other words, if you need ad creatives for traditional marketing, email marketing, web content, or word-of-mouth campaigns, UGC is your guy, so to speak.
That’s what we mean by ‘flexible’.
Benefit #5: Cost-effectiveness (compared to influencer marketing)
Bothered about how much getting ad creatives for your marketing campaigns cost?
Well with UGC, you won’t have to pay so much, especially when you compare it to influencer marketing.
Here’s the deal:
UGC created by micro-creators is generally more cost-effective to produce than hiring a studio for polished social media ads or working with mega-creators and influencers with a huge following.
Plus, there are even UGC platforms that can help you get UGC that’s already been produced by your customers.
Benefit #6: Marketers can get a volume of content fast
Sometimes, coming up with branded content to work with can be difficult especially after you’ve decided to start posting consistently on social media.
But that doesn’t have to be the case when you use a creator marketplace, like Insense, to source UGC.
The platform connects you with different creators who’ve got experience in how to create UGC that’s authentic and engaging.
Insense simplifies the process of sourcing content and chatting to and working with multiple creators.
With that, you won’t have to worry about where to get content from when it’s needed.
Benefit #7: UGC can be used for effective ad creative testing
One of the things partnering with UGC creators does for you is help you perform an A/B test so you know what works with your audience.
You can vary angles, hooks, or the call-to-action (CTA).
On the flip side, content from customers, organic campaigns from influencers, and so on are more difficult to tweak, thus making creative testing (which can save your brand valuable time and money) almost impossible.
“Let’s say I’ve decided to start using UGC, how do I get started?”
It’s interesting that you asked, let’s take an in-depth look at that in the next section.
3 Ways to Get Started with UGC for Your Campaigns
There are a few ways your brand can start using UGC for marketing.
To start with, you need to look at how to create and source user-generated content.
Here are a few things you can do:
1. Work with an agency
There are agencies that can help you get started with UGC.
Most of them have multiple services that streamline the process for you, such as selecting creators based on the brand’s brief and supervising the entire content-creation process.
You’ll get access to content and paid media services including analytics.
All you need is to purchase a content-creation package that includes UGC for your needs, like the UGC + Creator Ads plan for Insense.
But be warned, the size of some agencies’ invoices bears little relation to the caliber of their creative talent.
What you want is an agency where the price has a proportional value to what’s being offered to you.
If you like the sound of that and want more flexibility when it comes to selecting creators, then keep reading.
2. Interact with your existing customers
Your current customers can help you with UGC.
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!
You might have to run a contest first so they can participate.
By interacting with them, you are sure to find customers who will create the kind of content you need.
But this process is time-consuming.
PLANTMADE is a good example of a brand that harvests the power of customer-generated content.
In fact, their homepage is full of content created by real customers.
Here’s some more from their Instagram page:
We can only assume that they reached out to consumers to create content for them or they simply asked for permission to use existing content.
However, the downside to this method is that customers can be unreliable.
There’s no consistent flow and they’re not professional creators, which means your UGC campaigns may not be as productive as you’d like or increase conversions.
Author’s Note: If you’re going down this route, don’t forget to reach out to the content owner and obtain permission to use their UGC.
3. Visit a 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 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 manually search your social media platform of choice to start finding creators in your niche, but if you want to take it up a notch, you’ll want to consider using a UGC platform.
Platforms like this allow you to narrow down your search by demographics, niche, social network, etc.
They have creators who are vetted and accustomed to these types of business relationships.
Plus, they’ve got systems in place for processes like delivering content and accepting payment, which can save you a ton of time in the long run.
Alright, let’s get practical and show you how to get UGC at scale.
3 Steps to Creating High-Quality UGC to Increase Your Conversions
There are three steps to follow if you want to get started and they’re pretty simple.
We’ll be using Insense to show you how to begin so the first thing you want to do is sign up or log in to the platform.
If you’ve done that, we can proceed to the next step.
Step #1: Create a detailed brief for content creators
The next step is to put together a creative brief for your creators.
This brief provides them with the information they’ll need to know when creating the content.
Context and understanding are crucial to a healthy business relationship with your creators.
Plus, the brief helps simplify the entire process ensuring there are few to no edits so you get the UGC on schedule.
Let them know if their content will be used as an organic post to raise awareness or as an ad to drive conversions.
You want to make sure you provide a framework for them to operate in without being too restrictive.
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 at least provide the following:
- Campaign goals: Do you want to achieve reach? Do you want conversions?
- Campaign type: Indicate whether you’re looking for just content or influencer partnerships (posting, ads, creator ads)
- Content format: Provide the specs for the content (video/image, aspect ratio, etc.)
- Content type and messaging: Product review, testimonial, demo, tutorial, unboxing video, etc.
- What the creator should do: Point out any important features (video length, music/no music, natural light, background, etc.)
- Key product features: Its benefits, what problem it solves, etc.
- Share examples and references: So the creator can visualize what you’re looking for. Make sure to provide several UGC examples
- Do’s and Don’ts: If there’s anything they can’t do or say, make sure to tell them (don’t mention a holiday/event like the Superbowl, don’t use filters, use natural lighting, etc.)
How do you create a brief on Insense?
Click on New campaign from the dashboard.
Then, you can fill out details about your brand and information about your campaign.
You also need to include which platform you want the content for.
There are detailed instructions on the screen just in case you’re stuck.
Now, keep in mind that there’s a fine balance between getting what you need out of the content without limiting the creator’s natural creativity.
When you’re done with the brief, click on Send to review so it’s shared with creators you have chosen in our Marketplace.
Step #2: Select your creators, interact with them, and share as much information as possible
You’ve finally reached the point where you can select the creators you want to work with. Here’s a glimpse of the Insense Creator Marketplace:
Now, it’s very likely that the creators you choose to work with will have questions for you or vice versa.
It’s all part of the process and taking extra care of this step will ensure that you communicate your goals in the best way possible.
Insense’s chat feature makes it possible to communicate with creators directly. There’s no need for emails or any third party.
This makes it incredibly simple to chat with creators.
Working with experienced creators who are part of an established creator network can help ensure you get the UGC you need within your specs.
Author’s note: From our chat feature, you can also connect with the creator’s Facebook Ads account to see how well the content is performing, provided that the creator grants you access.
Step #3: Approve the content and optimize the process
After you’ve reviewed and approved the creator’s content, it’s time to optimize your creative brief for future collaborations with creators.
This will allow you to source a lot of creators over a longer period.
Having an optimized brief and generally automating the process is important for long-term creator partnerships.
You wouldn’t want to keep going through the same details over and over again.
You’ve got a business to run, right?
Here are some important processes you may want to establish and optimize to create high-quality UGC at scale:
- Communicating with creators
- Establishing creative workflows
- Establishing an effective review and approval process
Communication: This is another reason why the influencer brief is needed. It contains important details about the project the creator can refer to instead of trying to contact you.
Creative workflows: Automating the process by which ad creatives are made would make life easier for everybody.
Comprehensive approval process: How do you intend to review each item of content that’s created and approve each one?
Let’s let you in on a little secret…
… Insense has streamlined workflows for most of these. Shhh!
So, that saves you a lot of time and stress.
Do all of these and you’ll have creatives to use for your UGC campaigns.
It’s time to bring this guide to a close.
Now Over to You
Someone is about to take their marketing campaigns to the next level and it’s pretty exciting.
…we love to see it!🤭
Oh, by the way, we’ve got more blog posts on UGC for super marketers like you, which would be helpful for your journey.
If you’d like to know how much it’ll cost for a high volume of UGC, don’t hesitate to book a demo with a member of our team.
We’ll discuss your product and what you need, and run you through the overall costs.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Got pressing questions?
This section is for you and if you still have more questions, we’re just a button away. Feel free to reach out to us at any time.
Q1. What does UGC stand for?
“User-generated content” – content created by real people specific to a brand about that brand’s product or service. It is usually published on social media.
UGC comes in several forms including videos, images, reviews, podcasts, or testimonials.
Q2. Can you use UGC in ads?
Absolutely yes. UGC can be used for your marketing campaigns provided you’ve obtained permission from the customer who posted it or the creator who made it.
You also need to ensure the content is of high quality before using it.
Q3. Do you need permission to use UGC?
Brands require implicit or explicit permission from the owner of a piece of UGC before they can post it or use it as an ad.
You only have the right to view, not the right to use without permission. It’s good practice to always get explicit permission by directly asking your customers.
Q4. How much should you pay for UGC?
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 that audience
- The length of the video
- If the creator edits their videos
- Whether or not you’re licensing a creator (what was previously called whitelisting)