What is UGC? And How Does it Work?

Daniel Cruz

By Daniel Cruz
12 min READ | Oct 24 2022

Table of contents

User Generated Content or UGC has gone from an unknown acronym to one of the most efficient marketing strategies in the past years.

From startups to enterprise companies, UGC is used every day to engage audiences and drive new revenue.

But what exactly is UGC, and how can you incorporate it into your next marketing campaign?

Read along as we break down different strategies, tools, examples, and incentives.

After reading this guide, you’ll have a pretty good idea of where to start and what to follow for a successful UGC marketing campaign.

TL;DR - What is UGC?

  • Definition: UGC stands for User Generated Content, which refers to content about a brand or product created by users or customers.
  • Significance in Marketing: UGC is a key component of micro-influencer marketing and can boost brand loyalty and engagement.
  • Creating Effective UGC: Brands should provide clear guidelines to users for creating content, but not overly control the narrative to ensure authenticity.
  • UGC Platform: Software tools that help brands find, curate, and organize UGC. Essential features might include content curation, influencer finding, and hosting user-generated content securely.

Types of UGC:

  • Form-based: Text, video, images.
  • Content-based: Customer reviews, testimonials, product features.

Acquisition of UGC: Brands can collaborate with influencers, solicit content directly from customers, or run contests and campaigns offering incentives for content creation.

  • Recommendation: Work with a top UGC agency to collect and use UGC effectively.

What does UGC Stand for in Marketing?

UGC in marketing stands for user-generated content.  It defines the many types of content that users create regarding your brand, company, products, or employees.

UGC is usually one of the key component of micro-influencer marketing strategies. Learn more about how to build a successful strategy with our ultimate guide to micro-influencer marketing.

The goal is to make sure your loyal customers create the right kind of UGC

While the U in UGC stands for users, you can't expect them to produce stellar content that drives results without any input from your end.

Your main aim is to give clear indications and guidelines to your customers.

Many companies are hesitant to do this.

True enough, real people have become increasingly resistant to traditional advertising. It’s understandable why so many marketers hesitate to consider “pushing” customers to create a specific type of content.

That’s where UGC can surprise you.

More than half of your customers expect those clear guidelines, so don’t be afraid to create a content strategy that includes user-generated content too. And if you're creating an influencer contract, you're definitely going to need guidelines.

Things can get complicated at this point.

You can create a strategy for your content marketing campaigns and, if you have the right experience, you can predict its results with fair accuracy. The problem is you’ll have to share the reins of your UGC campaign with thousands of customers from all walks of life.

That brings us to the next point.

What Is a UGC Platform?

Your extremely diverse audience will create a lot of content and post it all over the internet. You need to find it and curate it.

Chances are, you’ll get a lot of valuable things that you can keep in your content library and reuse at the right time. You’ll also discover some unique insights about your brand.

Let’s say you’re selling scarves and you organize a UGC campaign.

Your aim is to incentivize people to post pictures on Instagram wearing those scarves.

To your surprise, you discover that quite a few young moms use your products as emergency slings for their restless newborns.

For example, many new parents will plan their errands during their babies’ nap times - but those little bundles of joy often wake up when you least expect them to. That’s when your scarves become essential to comfort and quiet the newborns.

Those unexpected uses flatter your brand, as they prove the scarves’ resistance, versatility, and stylish designs.

UGC does come with a risk, though.
Sometimes, your actual customers can post less than flattering content, even though you are completely careful about your guidelines.

That’s where the UGC platforms come in.

A robust UGC platform is software that allows you to:

  • Find the content posted by your genuine customers
  • Curate it
  • Organize it
  • Reuse it
  • Find influencers that will post UGC

So it’s essential to find the best UGC platform according to your needs.

Additionally, ensure that the platform has a dedicated server for hosting your user-generated content, ideally one that employs synthetic monitoring.

This will provide enhanced security and reliable performance, guaranteeing a seamless user experience.

For instance, you might need more than the content posted by run-of-the-mill social media users or customers. That content is excellent because it’s honest, unique, and intuitive. On the downside, many customers can post grainy or redundant images.

If you need more control over the creation process, choose a robust UGC marketplace like Showcase that lets you:

  • Create and manage your campaigns efficiently
  • Choose the type of content you need so that you can limit uncertainty and boost your sales seamlessly
  • Partner with specific influencers and content creators from a vetted list
Showcase dashboard

inBeat is also an excellent tool for finding the proper influencers from Instagram and TikTok.

It helps you find the right people according to your brand’s personality and values, no matter your audience.

A screenshot of inBeat's UGC platform.
A screenshot of inBeat's UGC platform.

In return, you’ll get:

  • Stellar UGC that respects your strategy
  • Possible long-term partnerships with trustworthy influencers that have a lot of sway on their audience
  • All rights to the content thus created

However, UGC created by influencers and brand ambassadors isn’t 100% user-generated.

Some UGC platforms allow you to focus just on content created by your happy customers so that you can use these tools to:

  • Find all content created by your brand on social media platforms
  • Select shoppable content
  • Use thorough search filters
  • Schedule your content
  • Engage with customers directly from the platform
  • See abandoned shopping carts
  • Get localized content

These software tools will help you organize and use your UGC content according to your campaign goals. And we all know that having a plan is essential in marketing—you can leave little off to chance if you ultimately want to drive purchasing decisions and increase your sales.

The Different Types of UGC

Now that you know you can use these platforms to organize an effective UGC campaign, you also know you can ask for specific UGC from your influencers, customers, or employees.

Remember that this content will be published on the channels where your audience is most active, so the posts you’re getting have to fit that channel.

So what are the types of UGC to consider, and where is it best to publish them?

You can classify UGC content by its form into text, user-generated video, or images. You can also organize UGC by its content into customer reviews, testimonials, or product featuring.

At this stage, things are becoming more evident. For instance, you can’t publish lengthy product reviews on Instagram. If that’s your plan, you can use blog posts, YouTube video reviews, or e-mail marketing.

Reviews and Testimonials vs. Product Featuring

Customer reviews and testimonials are text-based, so they include specific arguments. Whether in video or written form, these reviews:

  • Will present exact reasons why everyday people should buy a particular product/try a brand
  • Aim to clarify different uses
  • Are highly persuasive because they create FOMO
  • Can reappear in multiple campaign goals, such as raising awareness or determining purchase decisions

Product featuring is image-based, similar to traditional product placement in TV shows. For example, loyal customers/influencers post pictures or videos using your brand with no other arguments.

Here are two examples of products featuring from one of inBeat’s campaigns for self-tanning products.

An Instagram UGC campaign for self-tanning products.
An Instagram UGC campaign for self-tanning products. (Sources: left and right)

This strategy:

  • Creates desire
  • Normalizes a specific product/brand/attitude and so forth
  • Takes advantage of people’s short attention spans
  • Allows you to create a community as you’re increasing your tagged photo library on Instagram, Facebook, or your website
  • Drive purchasing decisions

How Do You Get Those Reviews/Product Features?

1. One way is to use influencers that test your products and compose their texts. For instance, inBeat worked with YouTube influencer Carter Sullivan to promote Mogo is a mobile app targeting mainly Gen-Z-ers that allows people to budget their expenses, get out of debt, and win rewards in the process.

As you can see from the YouTube videos she created about Mogo, Carter is very passionate about this app. You can sense that she used it, so she knows all the app’s features and intricacies. As a result, she may recommend this app to her viewers.

Psst: you can read more about MOGO and other brand ambassador examples here.

Of course, you can write your influencers’ script for them, whether they’re posting on YouTube or other platforms, but that wouldn’t be 100% UGC.

Here’s an industry secret.

Reviews that contain some genuine disadvantages are more credible—the heavy emphasis is on “genuine.” You can’t say things like, “oh, this product is too beautiful or too well-crafted for me.” You have to accept that your brand ambassadors will showcase your brand/products in all their raw glory.

2. Another way to get reviews/product featuring is by soliciting them from your customers. Use the channels where those customers are most likely to see your request, from Instagram to TikTok or personal e-mails.

You can promise your customers something in return:

  • The chance to be featured on your website
  • The opportunity to be part of your community
  • Recognition
  • A specific prize if their reviews win a contest

For example, the incentive for a review can be a gift card.

A screenshot of an incentive for customer reviews.
Customer reviews are a great type of user-generated content. (Source)

Best UGC Examples

We already discussed some UGC examples in this article, but the list is virtually endless.

Trivago #TrivagoFaves

Just look at this contest organized by Trivago back in 2017. The brand asked everyday people to post an original photo with their favourite hotel for the chance to win $500.

Sure enough, the post got 37,663 views and thousands of posts from social media users promoting hotels from the Trivago offer.

So with just $500, Trivago got:

  • Thousands of free ads
  • Awareness for their brand
  • A large reach across various demographics

Lays #DoUsAFlavor

The contest first started in 2012 to celebrate Lays 75th anniversary, but it has been revived over the years. For example, the 2021 competition addresses college students over 18 years old who will take part in creating a new Lays flavour for the chance to win a five-figure prize.

The participants have to pitch a new flavour for these chips and design the bag. The judges choose three flavours that become available in stores. Then, customers can vote for the winner.

The massive prize of this campaign is part of its success.

But that’s not all of it.

You may not have this kind of budget, but you can still arrange a similar contest. The secret is to involve customers in your creation process, thus showing them how much you value their input.

Of course, you should also give them the recognition they deserve. People who create UGC are often more interested in that recognition than in monetary prizes.

Aerie #AerieREAL

This campaign had people post their original photos wearing swimming costumes or lingerie. Aerie promised to donate $1 for each of these photos to the National Eating Disorders Association.

The initiative worked: 251,801 people posted their photos. The brand got a lot of recognition and strengthened its association with the concepts of natural beauty and body positivity.

A screenshot of the #AerieREAL UGC campaign.
The Aerie UGC campaign was a success on Instagram. (Source)

However, keep in mind that Aerie ran a UGC awareness campaign, not one to increase sales. Its purpose was to position itself as top of mind in people’s mental hierarchy regarding lingerie brands that promote body positivity.

Since people feel connected to brands that share their values, this ultimately leads to more sales.

Why is UGC Important?

As you can see from the examples above, UGC is influential because it allows you to:

  • Create communities
  • Engage with your customers
  • Associate your brand with a key concept
  • Get free advertising
  • Generate lust, awareness, or FOMO around your brand/products
  • Reach many new audiences
  • Feel relatable and trustworthy–people trust word-of-mouth over traditional advertising

This broad list of benefits ultimately leads to more sales.

How can I Get UGC?

As you can see from the examples above, UGC is a cost-effective way to reach multiple marketing goals. You can get user-generated content through:

  • Using a specific platform
  • Asking people to post photos using a campaign hashtag for the chance to win giveaways
  • Asking customers to post reviews about your brand and products.
  • Asking people to tag you after purchasing your products
  • Using challenges, like the chance to create/redesign a product

In the end, you’ll need to employ specific incentives to get more people interested in doing these things for you.

As seen in the examples above, many brands offer their customers monetary rewards to participate in their UGC campaigns.

Here are some incentives you can use:

  • Explicit incentives: money, cashback, discounts, trial products, unique products, trips, and so forth. These rewards are palpable and objective.
  • Implicit incentives: recognition, the chance to become part of a community, visibility, the possibility to aid a social cause, etc. These rewards are also social incentives.

So what will you do with your UGC?

The UGC library you’ve created will help you for years to come. You can repurpose that content however you like, within your website or social media channels.

You can also curate it to create infographics, e-mails, PowerPoint templates for your potential customers, ads, well-designed flyers, Instagram stories, jingles, and so forth.

Remember: don’t leave user-generated content to chance. Make sure you have a thorough strategy and that you’re very precise about your goals. You need to start with specific variables and follow clear performance indicators to evaluate the final results as you’d do for any marketing campaign.

By contrast, a poorly thought UGC campaign can bring you the other type of recognition—aka bad publicity.

To get the results you want, choose the best platforms and tools for the job. You can try the inBeat influencer database for free and see for yourself.

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