Imagine you’re scrolling Instagram and notice a friend posing in trainers that, now you take the time to look, are pretty swag. You grab the details, snatch up your card, and order a pair yourself.
Whether you know it or not, you just bought a product based on user-generated content (UGC). So, what is it?
UGC refers to any content created and shared by real consumers without any input or payment from the brand they are promoting. That’s what separates it from the likes of traditional ads made by businesses, as well as paid or sponsored posts generated by established creators.
UGC may take the form of:
- Photos: Like our aforementioned post about new trainers.
- Videos: Such as product tutorials, unboxings, and demos.
- Text: Including reviews, testimonials, blog posts, and the like, plus shorter content in the form of social media posts.
- Audio: Podcasts and music.
- Livestreams: Ideal for showcasing products and responding to feedback in real time.
Even brand-new creators can benefit from the UGC trend, and much of that comes down to the value such content holds for brands.
It’s not like every piece of UGC makes waves, but brands understand its value and increasingly encourage people to produce and promote what they create.
Common tactics include:
- Sharing UGC on social media
- Using UGC in advertising
- Creating UGC contests or challenges
- Adding UGC to their website or blog
Because there’s just so much evidence that it’s effective:
- 85% of people say UGC is more influential than brand-generated content.
- 83% of people say they’re more likely to buy from brands that publish UGC instead of influencer-generated content.
- Consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view UGC as authentic compared to brand-generated content.
Similar to traditional word-of-mouth, UGC is organic, authentic, and typically comes from a trusted source. Given the potential reach of anyone with a social media account, UGC is like word-of-mouth on steroids.
Beyond promoting products, UGC can:
- Shape public opinion and influence trends
- Allow consumers to interact directly
- Provide social proof that products are worth buying
- Integrate with social commerce
- Target specialised niches and industries
There are lots of success stories when it comes to UGC. Take Milad Mirg, whose short-form videos tell stories as he works at Subway. He estimates those videos performed around £32,476,510 ($44,000,000) of free advertising for Subway in just nine months.
That’s a completely organic example that didn’t involve Subway lifting a finger, but UGC can also be directly encouraged. Increasingly, brands are launching campaigns intended to create UGC.
A small sample of successful campaigns include:
- Coca Cola’s #ShareaCoke: After printing popular names on bottles of coke, the #ShareaCoke campaign went viral as users posted pictures of their personalised bottles.
- Calvin Klein’s #mycalvins: Encouraged consumers to post images of themselves wearing Calvin Klein underwear, resulting in a reported 870,000 UGC posts on Instagram.
- National Geographic’s Wanderlust Contest: Boosted engagement rates by asking users to share their best nature shot with the #WanderlustContest hashtag for a chance to win a seven-day trip to Yosemite National Park in the U.S.
- GoPro’s #BeaHero: Got real people to show off the rugged capabilities of GoPro cameras by using them to capture their own adventures.
Here are a few things you need to become a UGC creator:
Erm, that’s pretty much it. You don’t need to know the right people, use the best tech, or boast a huge following. If you fancy it, you could become a UGC creator within the hour, Wi-Fi permitting.
Here’s one sample from UGC creator and coach Ang Wells of a simple UGC video that eventually led to paid brand deals. Here’s another shot with zero expectations or fancy tech that blew up after TikTok user Trinidad Sandoval showed how effectively a certain cream removed the bags under her eyes – the retailer reported selling what would usually sell in six months in less than a week.
So, there is no real barrier to entry, which is one reason making UGC is a smart first step for aspiring performers and creators.
There are several key benefits to becoming a UGC creator.
1. Creates a portfolio
You may never go viral or build a strong following. No big deal – not everyone does. However, what you will have is an online portfolio showcasing your creative talents, be they dancing, singing, acting, or simply presenting products with personality and panache. That equals a ready-made look at what makes you stand out.
2. Hones your skills
Anyone can make UGC, and starting from scratch offers enormous scope to improve. Keep going, keep learning, and you’ll find yourself developing skills in everything from video editing to content strategy, all while gaining a deeper appreciation of the marketing world than your average consumer.
3. Increases exposure
Using UGC to become part of an online community is a good foundation for gaining exposure, building your following, and eventually collaborating with fellow influencers.
Brands themselves can lend a hand. They must ask your permission and provide credit when sharing UGC. For example, a beauty brand may like your makeup tutorial so much that they share it on their own social media platforms, suddenly exposing your work to their entire audience.
4. Can get you paid
Getting paid for true UGC is a contradiction in terms, but it can take you to some lucrative places. Brands may reach out to offer sponsored content, affiliate deals, or consulting work. You can also reach out yourself once you’ve developed a following.
There’s no set pay scale for sponsored content, but research shows UGC creators charging an average of £412 ($520) per post.
- One creator in the skincare niche made £428 ($540) from UGC creation the first month she started charging.
- UGC guru Chelsea Hope made over £102,996 ($130,000) in her first year.
- TikTok creator Salha Aziz made nearly £19,806 ($25,000) in 10 months purely from UGC.
Or you can steer clear of brand involvement and make your own bucks. Plenty of UGC creators earn a healthy living from advertising revenue. Milad was never paid by Subway, but advertising revenue alone reportedly brings him a healthy flow of cash.
Others generate income by selling their own products and services, such as:
- Branded merchandise
1. Find your niche
Niches help define your area of interest and your intended audience. Don’t be tempted by average followings and potential pay rates. Instead, focus on your own passions, expertise, and experience – these are all hard to fake, and nothing poisons UGC like fakery.
You’ll also want to consider different mediums – will you work better as a livestreamer or are you a written word kind of person?
2. Post often and share widely
Create a content schedule to ensure you stay consistent. And once your content gets rolling, get it out there. It’s OK to select a main platform, but sharing across multiple social media networks can achieve the widest reach. You might expect to blow up on YouTube, then find your audience on TikTok.
3. Interact with your audience
Part of what makes UGC so valuable is the trust and intimacy creators establish, so producing content is only half the battle. The other half is all about fostering engagement and building a community. That means answering questions, responding to comments, and following other influencers.
4. Keep levelling up
Consider purchasing a ring light and a high-end camera to take better shots for Instagram, improve your Twitch game with a better microphone, or pick up some specialised editing software to produce more professional YouTube videos.
5. Stay up to date
Falling behind is the kiss of death for any creator, especially those putting out UGC. Whether it’s failing to keep pace with fashion or letting viral trends pass by, you can miss a lot by missing a little.
We hate to end on a downer, but it’s worth exploring the challenges UGC creators can face. It’s all part of being prepared.
Common issues include:
- Legal concerns: UGC creators must often navigate copyright laws and privacy regulations, such as rights to music and content created by followers.
- Negative feedback: You’ll face negative feedback at some point, and such interactions must be handled professionally.
- Burnout: Keeping up with industry news, the latest products, changing algorithms, and emerging trends can be exhausting, not to mention the content creation itself.
- Slow results: Your ego can take a hit when dreams fail to materialise despite your best efforts, so remember to temper your expectations.
Find your next job with our Influencer Castings