User-Generated Content (UGC) for D2C Brands
Content isn’t just for customers anymore — content should also be by and about customers. This is where user-generated content (UGC) comes in
As a brand, there’s nothing more authentic than a customer taking time out of their day to share a thought or feeling. That’s why user-generated content (UGC) is such an integral component of a marketer’s strategy: Customers are promoting your brand for you, and to top it off, it encourages brand trust and is an excellent way to build customer relationships organically.
Let’s explore best practices on how to leverage user-generated content for maximum results.
The definition of user-generated content is pretty simple: UGC is any content — such as blogs, images, social media posts, and videos — that’s been created and published by unpaid contributors. UGC lives across different marketing channels, including your webpage or social media networks.
Because the competition for advertising space and eyes is higher than ever, UGC fulfills a vital function for many businesses. In addition to building brand recognition and loyalty, it often feels more authentic to new customers. UGC is also a cost-effective way to help reduce costs without sacrificing the quality of content.
User-generated content pays big dividends for companies that employ it. It’s a cost-effective way to build and promote your brand as users handle the heavy lifting of creation. Users of your products or services who gush about them on social media or other platforms are essentially social proof. These posts add to your reach. UGC that links back to your website or social profiles can help grow your engagement, too. By building a community with user-generated content, you foster a sense of loyalty and connection among your customers.
Beyond that, UGC impacts consumers’ purchasing decisions: 79% of consumers say it helps drive their decision-making.
What does UGC look like in the wild? It can take several different forms. The following are all User-generated content examples:
Social media posts, including on platforms like Instagram or TikTok
Reviews and ratings
Some types of user-generated content work better for some brands than others. For example, direct-to-consumer fashion brands thrive when their users post on highly-visual social media platforms like Instagram. Reviews and ratings can make a big difference when they are posted on review sites or product pages.
Before you incorporate UGC into your marketing strategy, it’s essential to build a framework to set yourself up for success. Here are some user generated content best practices to consider:
What are your UGC goals? What purpose does UGC serve in your marketing strategy? There are a variety of ways that user-generated content could help you. Below are some examples to get you started:
Boost brand awareness. If you’re just starting off as a business, it could be challenging to earn peoples’ loyalty right off the bat. This is where UGC comes in — creating social proof is critical because consumers trust their peers. 48% of customers say that UGC is a great way to discover new products.
Improve social engagement. It’s not easy to get customer engagement via social media, especially if you’re operating organically. However, UGC has a higher chance of garnering likes and comments from users because the content is about them — and everybody likes to feel as if they’re part of the community. Bonus: If their content reaches family and friends, there's a potential for additional engagement.
Find more leads. Nine out of ten consumers trust UGC more than they trust traditional advertising — meaning consumers would rather hear from each other than you. When you publish UGC and your target audience reposts, it can also attract the attention of like-minded peers.
Ramp up your content production. On average, it takes anywhere between one to three hours to create a piece of content. If your goal is to have a steady stream of content, that’s a lot of hours to put in. When you leverage UGC such as blogs and social media posts created by users, that saves a significant amount of time and labor.
Figure out where your UGC will live — which social platforms would work best? For instance, for direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands, Instagram is the primary platform for UGC. Be prepared and do your research — only 27% of brands say they have a system in place for finding, managing, and using user-generated content.
Let’s say you’ve found a great post through your branded hashtag. Your product is front and center, and the poster is happy with it — you can publish it on your feed, right? Wrong. You have to ask for permission, first.
The rule of thumb is to always ask for permission when reposting (even if they’re using your hashtag). People may be using branded hashtags without explicitly knowing they’re tied to a UGC campaign. When you repost or reshare without permission, it could rub users the wrong way.
When asking people to post with your hashtag or create videos, give specific directions. For instance, you can ask them to strike a certain pose with your product or film a video of them actually using it.
One of the best user-generated content tips is to be open to the full range of possibilities. While reposting images on social media channels is one of the most popular forms of user-generated content, don’t stop there. Think more broadly about the types of content you want to collect and come up with ways to incentivize users. For instance, you can offer prizes to users who contribute to your blog or promise to repost videos if users include your company’s hashtag in the post.
You shouldn't restrict user-generated content to your customers — a company's existing staff is a rich source of internal content at no extra budget. Incentivize employees to contribute to the blog or to share their experiences with your product or service through social media.
Note: Employee-generated content shouldn't be too sales-y. The audience will prefer authenticity over content that seems staged and overly done.
It’s one thing to understand that UGC is an essential tool for growing sales and generating leads. It’s another to source that content. Companies can encourage their users to create content for them in the following ways:
Host contests and giveaways: One of the best ways to source content from your customers is to create a contest or giveaway to encourage them to share it. Create some rules and expectations for the contest as well as what you hope to achieve. Then create an appropriate reward. Make sure you understand the rules and regulations around social media giveaways and contests where you are located.
Encourage customers to share their experiences: Positive reviews can help drive business. Asking your customers to share their experiences with your product or service is one of the most basic ways of sourcing UGC. Reviews can live on your website or in other places, like your Google business listing.
Provide incentives for sharing content: Most people won’t want to share content without incentive, so it’s important to decide early on how you want to reward those customers. Popular incentives can include free products or services, or they can be discounts on future ones. Just be clear about the rules, and make sure you’re not steering into influencer territory.
Inviting users to create content for you also means figuring out where and how to use it. UGC functions best when you deploy it in several ways. For example, companies can reshare and repost (with permission!) UGC that your community creates on social media profiles and on your website. But those aren’t the only places it can live. Companies that effectively leverage UGC can even use it in advertising campaigns and incorporate it into email marketing.
User-generated content and community marketing examples aren’t “nice to have” aspects of your content marketing strategy — they are a necessary component. Not only is UGC more cost-effective and authentic compared to advertisements, but it also plays an unparalleled role in how consumers choose products, especially for direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands. UGC allows brands to harness the power of social proof to:
Generate potential new product ideas
Build a community of enthusiastic fans
Connect with existing customers and build relationships
Whether you’re a digital marketer looking for ways to incorporate UGC for D2C brands as part of your overall strategy or seeking out methods for supplementing your existing social media ad campaigns, you can learn more about adding UGC to your strategy with the resources below.
The right kinds of UGC can help bolster a brand’s reputation. But the wrong kind — like something offensive or inappropriate that doesn’t align with your values — can do lasting damage. Moderating UGC takes time and also helps protect your company from legal or ethical issues that can stem from copyrighted material or defamatory comments.
As a ground rule, always consider content-moderation an essential step in any kind of UGC marketing efforts.
User-generated content is different from influencer content in a major way: UGC is created by everyday people who use the product and engage with the social media brand. Influencer content comes from people who’ve built up their own personal brands and following on social media. UGC is usually unpaid, but influencers receive compensation.
Most influencer content must be tagged as paid advertising. UGC typically does not have this same requirement.
Both types of content have their own benefits and drawbacks. UGC can be more authentic because it comes from real customers and helps build a sense of community via shared experiences. Influencer content is usually more polished or professional-looking, and it can reach a wider audience. It can read as inauthentic, however.
Ultimately the choice depends on your specific marketing goals. There’s a place for both types of content in a marketing plan, but each one should be clearly defined to reduce confusion among your audience.
Last updated on March 28th, 2023.