What is User Generated Content and How Can You Use It?

Written by Maura

On October 22, 2020

User Generated Content (UGC) or Consumer-Generated Content is content that references your brand but isn’t actually created by your company or team. Simply put: If it’s “about you” but not “by you”, it’s probably UGC.

There are many forms of UGC: From social media posts to podcast mentions to online videos to customer reviews. Whatever form User Generated Content takes, it’s a great way to show an audience that your brand is authentic and trustworthy.

You can use UGC to encourage purchases, create desire or interest, foster brand relationships and help you create a more robust content library.

UGC is one of the most powerful ways to make things happen in your business. And you don’t need to take our word for it. Research shows that over 75% of people say User Generated Content had a high impact on their decision to make a purchase.

But why?

Well, it’s probably because 90% of consumers consider authenticity as important when they decide what brands to support or buy from and UGC is often seen as more trustworthy than traditional marketing.

So, before we show you how to start collecting and sharing UGC, let’s explore what happens when you do.

What Can User-Generated Content Do For Your Business?

Whether you want to build brand awareness or turn online “window shoppers” into loyal customers, Consumer Generated Content gives you the opportunity to make authentic, lasting connections with your audience.

Here’s how:

It Builds Trust

This one is a no-brainer: UGC builds trust simply because it’s not you talking about your offer, it’s someone outside of your company. So, their input is seen as more authentic, more real, and more trustworthy.

This can also help you foster your community because audience members can see people like them who love your offer and aren’t afraid to show it.

UGC doesn’t feel like traditional marketing to your audience and that’s a very good thing.

It Gives You Even More Creative Freedom

Finding ways to cultivate this content creates a valuable resource to tap into at every point in your marketing plan and can help you accomplish a number of goals along the way.

egc example starbucks

Your perspective on the best parts of your product or service are important. But so are the perspectives of your customers. And UGC allows you to get creative when it comes to learning about how they see your offer.

It Inspires Interest, Naturally

Piquing interest and getting people talking is a natural result of a great User Generated Content campaign because it taps into some emotions you might not have been focused on before.

For example, if someone is sipping your beer beside the ocean or using your boots to hike a trail with a gorgeous view and they share that, there is a natural interest that develops in your audience. And that interest is reinforced when that content delivers emotions customers come to associate with your brand. (Like a sense of relaxation from your seaside beer or a thirst for adventure from your trail-hiking boots)

It Helps You Make Sales

When people come to trust your brand by seeing other people engage with it, you stand to make more sales because we are, well, very social creatures.

Honestly, you might not trust the sort-of-pushy salesperson who picks out that thick tan sweater for you. But if you see someone else taking a selfie as they cozy up beside a fire wearing it? You might feel more excited about the purchase.

Or perhaps you see a review of that sweater from someone who’s fallen head over heels for it. That too might move you closer to the checkout page.

It Answers Questions

Much like a User-Generated Content review moves someone toward making a purchase, answering questions can make a buying decision feel a lot easier.

When you encourage UGC that answers a question, you can use that content to manage common objections potential buyers might have.

For example, if you sell that (moderately expensive) tan sweater, you could certainly tell customers, “It’s so worth it.”

Or you could use some User Generated Content to do that for you. Perhaps you ask your audience to share what they love most about it. By asking that question you’re finding a creative way to overcome the “too expensive” objection, especially when audience members say things like “Amazing quality” or “Worth every penny”.

It Helps You Stand Out From The Competition

Coke or Pepsi?

T-Mobile or AT&T?

Whatever your preference, it’s important to know that Consumer-Generated Content can help you stand out from your competitors or anyone in your industry.

meetedgar ugc

When someone shares why they switched to your service or chose to buy your product over another, they’re giving you UGC that shows how you’re different from anyone else. And because it’s someone else making that distinction, people are more likely to trust it.

It Fosters Community And Builds Brand Loyalty

Speaking of standing out from the crowd, you can use User-Generated Content to build brand loyalty and create or foster your community.

Bringing people together or inviting them to be part of something bigger can create lasting connections with your customer base.

And when you have UGC that gives them the chance to share that they are a part of that community or to express why they only choose your product time after time, you’re creating even more opportunities to foster brand loyalty.

How Can You Encourage Your Audience To Create Content?

Now that you know what User Generated Content is and how it can really benefit your business and the brand you’re building, let’s talk strategy.

You probably recognize the most common form of UGC: The branded hashtag.

But Consumer-Generated Content can take many forms and show up at different points in the customer journey.

Blogs, YouTube videos, TikToks, Boomerangs, and reviews, are all potential UGC opportunities. The key to great UGC is to have a process for requesting, collecting, and sharing User Generated Content.

Here’s a simple way to think about this process and what needs to be done at each point in that process.

Create

The first thing you’ll want to do is create an opportunity for people to submit UGC.

Think carefully about what you want and what marketing goals you want to focus on with your UGC campaign.

Do you want to increase conversions, foster brand awareness or loyalty, manage common objections, or create a content library you can draw on during your company’s busy season?

Once you have your goal, create “The Ask” and get really clear with your audience about the type of content you’re looking for. The more concise and specific your ask, the better chance you have of getting submissions that really fit your goals.

One last thing to consider here: Is there an exchange? Will your User Generated Content request be part of a competition or contest? Will you feature the submissions on your Instagram Stories? Will you share the best videos on your YouTube Channel? Or will people who leave a review receive a discount code for their next order? Make sure your audience knows what the terms are and be sure you make it fun and exciting for them to share their UGC with you.

Collect

Once you know what your request will be, it’s time to think about how you’ll curate what comes in. Will users drop submissions into a form on your website? Will they send their content in an email? Will they use your branded hashtag? Or will they tag you in a blog or social post?

Get clear about how you collect and manage your submissions, especially if you expect to get quite a few.

Put your collection system in place before you begin asking for content. And while most of what you get tagged in or sent to you will be fantastic, remember that internet trolls do exist, and protecting your brand image is essential. So, be sure you know who on your team will oversee and filter submissions.

Circulate

One key step a lot of companies miss when they first begin using User Generated content is to ask for permission to use it. This isn’t just a legal matter, it also keeps your brand in good standing with your audience. Even if you’ve been tagged or hashtagged in a submission, be sure to reach out to the original poster to get permission to use it. When collecting submissions on a website or through a form, be sure to spell out how things will be used once submitted.

Asking permission keeps the good feelings going, foster connections, and creates goodwill and reciprocity between people who submit content and your company.

Once you’ve got permission, be sure to get that content circulating. There’s no use collecting content if you don’t give it the chance to be shared again and again.

Curate

This last step is another that sometimes gets overlooked: Curate your UGC. Store User Generated Content. That way you can reuse it, repurpose it (as long as you have permission), and share it with your audience again as needed.

And pay careful attention to who shared that piece of content too. The people who take the time to shout out your brand, even if there is an incentive to do so, are some of your best potential customers and some of your most loyal ones too.

Be sure to show them some love in whatever way feels most natural for your company and keep the conversation going beyond your UGC campaign. This is a great way to foster community over time.

The Bottom Line

User-Generated Content creates authentic, lasting connections between your audience and your company gives you fresh perspectives on your offers, and allows you to create an ever-growing content library that can increase your sales and inspire brand loyalty.

To make amazing use of your UGC you’ll want to create the “ask”, collect submissions, circulate them with permission, and curate them somewhere safe so they can be repurposed later.

And whether you’ve already been collecting UGC or are just getting started, our team is here to help you every step of the way.

Want to know more about how MeetEdgar can save you time, streamline your social media scheduling and amplify your content? Sign up for a free 7-day trial here!

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