What is user-generated content and why should you ...

What is user-generated content and why should you care?

As one of the most important aspects of marketing, user-generated content (UGC) refers to content created by a person who is not the official representative of your business. Depending on the type, it may be a social media update, a review, a video, a podcast, or any other kind. If your brand is involved but no employees or affiliates created it, it’s user-generated content, writes digital marketing expert Adam Stewart.

User-generated content explained

Consider this scenario, you’re having an adventurous weekend in a nice hotel. As you share pictures of your stay there with your Facebook friends and Instagram followers, you also tag and geotag the hotel to show what a cool place it is.

Those photos are great examples of user-generated content. Suppose that a hotel finds your content on social media, contacts you, and asks if they can share your photos on their corporate channels. As part of their marketing strategy, that brand is utilising user-generated content.

Since social networks and customer review sites were first developed, user-generated content has been around. Several brands began paying attention to visual UGC as early as 2005—when social networks became mainstream—realising its tremendous potential as a source of social proof and an engaging audience.

Types of user-generated content

UGC can range from blog comments and product reviews to high-quality images and videos created by users.

In general, it can be divided into two groups: visual and customer reviews or ratings.

Visual user-generated content

Images and videos that are colourful and appealing to consumers are essential for buyers when they shop online.

People invest a great deal of time looking at visuals or videos to see if a product they are considering is something they would want to use, such as a pair of shoes or an experience like a restaurant or hotel.

Younger generations tend to make purchasing decisions primarily from images and videos. In fact, 53 per cent of Gen Z and 49 per cent of millennials have this perception.

Visual UGC can come from three main groups of people:

Customers—some of the best UGC your brand will ever get comes from your customers or those who post images of your product online. By highlighting posts from real people using your product in real life, you can offer shoppers inspiration and help influence their buying decisions.

Advocates—these people have great passion and excitement for your brand, are highly engaged and enthusiastic about it, and may even be active members of your brand community or loyal repeat customers. Oftentimes, since advocates are deeply passionate about a brand, you can directly request that they create specific UGC around campaigns and products.

Employees—UGC can also come from those representing your brand on a daily basis. Employee generated content, or EGC, is a form of content that is created by employees. It gives a glimpse into the culture of your business. Furthermore, your audience will gain a unique, compelling, and expert perspective of your business.

Customer reviews and ratings

Since the late 1990s, sites like Amazon, Tripadvisor and Yelp have allowed customers to post publicly reviewed products or services.

Even if it is not as visually appealing as visual content, user-generated content in the form of customer ratings and reviews is extremely important. Reviews play a significant role in online shopping decisions for more than 88 per cent of customers.

Customers’ reviews and product ratings add to the confidence of prospective buyers before they decide to purchase, which helps to further build brand loyalty and your business’ reputation.

The impact of user-generated content on branding

UGC was initially treated cautiously by businesses and for good reason. For a while, it was difficult to justify exchanging professional-looking content for unpolished consumer content. But now that phones have developed exponentially better cameras and social networks have made UGC easy to access, brands can no longer turn their back on it.

Content creation has shifted to the fingertips of everyday people. Approximately 350 million photos and 95 million videos are uploaded to Facebook every day, while over 500 million tweets are shared on Twitter.

Consumers love user-generated content’s authenticity

Compared to a brand, people are more likely to trust a personal recommendation. Only 15 per cent of consumers said they wanted to see brand-created content more than consumer-generated content.

Marketers invest many hours and dollars into crafting the perfect message and professional imagery they believe consumers want to see. Consumers, however, don’t want perfection—they want real.

Consumers are most concerned with authenticity when they are deciding which brands to like and support. UGC has become their most preferred form of authentic content.

UGC helps build customer trust

Consumers tend to trust user-generated content more—it’s authentic, and it allows for more engagement between consumers and businesses. Consumers are able to determine whether an image was created by a consumer or a brand by looking at its origin, and 92 per cent of them trust ‘earned media’—such as recommendations from friends, family or peers—more than any other form of content.

It inspires brand loyalty

By using user-generated content, your brand allows your consumers to feel as if they are participants, instead of mere observers. Also, having more user-generated content in your marketing means higher levels of brand enthusiasm and greater loyalty towards the brand.

It leaves a lasting impression

According to research, UGC is 35 per cent more memorable than other forms of media, especially among millennials. It clearly confirms that user-generated content is more memorable than traditional advertising in this generation.

UGC impacts consumers and helps improve conversion rates

User-generated content influences the purchasing decisions of 79 per cent of consumers as a powerful source of social proof. Compared to celebrities and social media influencers, only 8 per cent of consumers cite celebrity content as highly influencing their purchasing decisions, thus making user-generated content nine times more influential than social influencers.

This article was originally published on and has been republished with permission. Article has been edited for brevity—head to Flying Solo to read the full text.


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