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Why UGC Wins + Brand Examples for Inspiration

Tricia Lim

Tricia Lim

Remember that time you snapped a picture of your favorite local shop and posted it on your social media with the hashtag, #supportlocal? Or that time you filmed an unboxing video for your birthday gift from a friend before turning it into a TikTok? These are all forms of user-generated content and that’s what drives our social media experience.

No matter if you consider yourself an influencer or not, we each play a role to influence our networks of friends, circles, and followers. It’s highly likely that you’ve recommended a brand you love to a friend or colleague and the same for them! 

For brands, user-generated content is highly recommended and favored in marketing on social media. After all, it’s one of the most effective forms of engagement–for brands to connect with the users through their products and for followers’ content to be featured.

Table of Contents

What is user-generated content?

User-generated content (UGC) is original, brand-specific content created by contributors which they published on social media or other platforms. UGC can also be referred to as unpaid or non sponsored social posts that people share when they’re using or raving about your product or service. 

For example, any brand repost you’ve seen, is a UGC. When a local influencer features a product on their Instagram Stories, that’s considered UGC too! Brands that understand the influencing power user-generated content has is able to leverage that in their marketing efforts. Despite being organic, the reach of sharing and resharing UGC can go quite far for brands and customers. 

UGC doesn’t necessarily have to explicitly feature your product. Instead, it can highlight other values that may overlap with and complement your branding to benefit your customers.

Who are the users that contribute to this content?

  • Customers – they tend to be your most obvious choice when it comes to looking for UGC to gain from, either because you’ve asked for it or because they’ve organically decided to share content about your brand. 
  • Followers – they could be your brand loyalists, advocates, or even product users. Once you’ve identified and tagged the enthusiastic and passionate bunch, be sure to reach out and ask for specific UGC content! It’ll go a long way for your brand.

Basically, anyone who contributes to promoting your brand–externally, is considered a user that generates UGC.

Why is user-generated content important?

1. Takes authenticity to the next level

With a competitive landscape like ours in 2022, brands have to fight to stand out. Buyers like us deal with an overload of choices from brands and we become more selective about our purchasing decisions.

These days, customers look for brands that are authentic. Even 60% of marketers agree that authenticity and quality are equality important elements of successful content. Although 92% of marketers think they’re creating authentic content, 51% of consumers think their favorite content brands offer authenticity. Another study by Stackla found that 57% of consumers think that less than half of the content brands create resonates as authentic

At the end of the day, people ultimately trust other people. So think of UGC as the modern-day work-of-mouth.

2. Builds brand loyalty and grows your brand community

UGC gives customers the unique opportunity to participate in a brand’s growth instead of being a spectator. This can help open up conversations between a brand and customer, which is essential to build and grow engagement in your community.

By sharing audience content, you can also get to know your audience and business relationships better, driving more brand loyalty.

3. Increase conversion and influence purchasing decisions

Turn customers into advocates. User-generated content is highly influential in the latter stages of the buyer’s journey, where they’re close to making a purchase.

UGC is perfect to convert your audience and influence them into making a purchase because it acts as social proof that your product is worthwhile. When customers see others like them using your product, they might be inspired and motivated to buy.

4. Cost-effective than influencer marketing

Unless you’re willing to spend big bucks (millions of dollars) to hire an influencer, then UGC is the cost-effective way for you. Simply connect with the people that matter most to your brand–your audience. If you’re a smaller business, we recommend incorporating user-generated content because it’s cheaper and easier to manage.

What NOT to do with user-generated content?

You might want to avoid using UGC without asking. Many times, brands take images and other visual content without the creators’ consent or giving proper credit. It’s best to reach out, ask permission, and receive users’ consent before sharing their content. It’s not fair to the people behind the content to use it in any context when you don’t have their permission. 

This way, you can foster trust and understanding to establish a two-way relationship that benefits both your brand and your customers. 

Best user-generated content examples for inspiration

1. Airbnb

With unique accommodations in 220 countries, Airbnb focuses their social media efforts on building brand awareness through user-generated content. By showcasing experiences from other Airbnb users and guests, they’re able to spark followers’ interest and drive engagement. Since their Instagram feed consists of aesthetically pleasing images from other customers, Airbnb is able to build their brand authenticity whilst generating high post interactions. 

2. Apple

“Everyone has a story to tell.” is the description in their Instagram profile. What better way to inspire others than through storytelling. Afterall, pictures are worth a thousand words. 

Apple subtly features their products without actually featuring the product itself. By reposting pictures shot on the iphone by other iPhone users, they’ve built a diverse feed showing their followers there is no limit to what you can do with the iPhone. Using their #ShotoniPhone campaign, they’re able to grow their pool of content and their brand community. 

Each post is accompanied by a short quote from the original creator themselves which adds more personal touches to their Instagram feed.

3. Instagram

With over 494 million followers, Instagram reigns as one of the top most followed accounts on the platform. Since Instagram is centered on building connections with the people and things you love, no matter what your niche is. 

Here’s how using user-generated content empowers and drives their community. If you notice their Instagram feed, they feature a plethora of diverse creators telling unique stories. They feature inspiring content from activists, silly reels from cat owners, and all sorts of edutainment content through their UGC network.

4. Glossier

Glossier has established itself as a back-to-basics beauty brand that has built a cult following particularly among millennials. Although their product range is narrow, primarily focusing on skincare, color cosmetics, and makeup, the brand is considered one of the top makeup brands. Their tagline is “beauty products inspired by real life.”. 

Their social media presence centers around their “people-powered beauty ecosystem”. One of their highlights recently included a feature with Olivia Rodrigo and her makeup artist Lilly Keys who gave Glossier followers an insider scoop on how she built Olivia’s look for the Grammys Awards that night. 

When B2C brands like Glossier leverage UGC, it helps to grow their brand awareness, hype, and trust amongst their target audience.

3 user-generated content tips to get started

1. Choose the social media networks where your audience is most active

Understanding where your audience is most active can indicate where your potential brand advocates have the most influence. According to Sprout Social’s report, they found that 86% of consumers are likely to choose a brand over a competitor if they follow them on social media.

Consider how you can meaningfully engage with your target audience on the selected social media network, and you’ll be able to distinguish yourself from the competition!

2. Set clear UGC goals to make sure it aligns with your broader marketing goals

Examples of user-generated content goals could look like:

  • Grow brand engagement 
  • Build brand trust
  • Increase conversion rates
  • Save time on content creation

3. Focus efforts on your community

The perks of user-generated content is the way it opens doors for conversations and engagement within your brand community. It not only helps to build bridges between brand and customer, but it also exposes your audience to new people and content!

Use polls and questions features to get to know your audience, respond to their comments, and give recognition where it’s due. Don’t be afraid to show your human side, and see it as a fun opportunity to let your brand personality shine. These are some of the ways you can engage your audience and grow a relationship with your brand community.

The takeaway

There’s a lot that we can learn from established and famous brands who have nailed their content strategies using user-generated content. UGC is great at inviting customers to reveal the benefits of your product through their eyes. Remember that people trust people! Use UGC wisely to showcase what you have to offer to them whilst staying authentic and grounded as a brand. Above all, use it as an opportunity to interact with your audience and build a stronger community among your followers. 

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