What is User Generated Content? Why User Generated Content is the Holy Grail of Content Marketing? Read the list of benefits, incentives and examples. What are the perils of UGC and how you can overcome them.


What is User Generated Content

User generated content, or UGC, is content that is not created by the Βrand, but by the people (the consumers).

Such content tends to have various forms such as text, pictures, or videos.


But, it can extend to so much more. A short list of UGC follows:

  • reviews
  • forum posts
  • testimonials
  • blog posts
  • question and answer forums
  • social media posts
  • wikis

Why User Generated Content is the Holy Grail of Content Marketing

Today marketers need to find innovative ways to reach their audience since people have been exposed to every imaginable type of advertisements.
No matter how persuasive and targeted your marketing is, sometimes it's not enough to convenience of your product’s awesomeness.
Nowadays, you need a story behind your product. You need your audience to connect with your product in an emotional way.
You need to make relevance between your product and people’s lives.

Because people trust people.

Why is user generated content so important and powerful?


For a long time, Brands had put people in the background of Marketing.
Brands having the people in their minds as passive participants, where Brands produced the content and people consumed it.
Nowadays people have higher expectations of Brands.
Nowadays Brands must put people above and beyond the Marketing process.
This is where user generated content comes in.


UGC is all about authenticity and trustworthiness


Because User Generated Content is human-oriented.
In other words, you can build a true relationship with your audience.

User Generated Content Benefits

This is the list of User Generated Content benefits:


  1. Authentic content

    Everyone has a story. Every brand has a story more or less. But what is more compelling than a story?
    An authentic story coming from real people. User generated content is made by real people in real situations.
    76% of users believe User generated content is more honest and valuable than Brand created content.
    Brands have been using stock photography far too long, providing pictures of fake situations with low engagement and talkability.
    On the other hand, users can produce genuine, authentic content for the Brand.

    A real, authentic photo is way better than a fake situation photo.

  2. Brand Loyalty

    When users generate content for your Brand, a stronger sense of connection with your business, is built.
    You give voice to the users, you make them the protagonists of the Brand message.
    This move (strategy)  grows the reputation of your Brand and builds trust with consumers.
    The numbers speak for themselves; 51% of Millennials trust user generated content over the content that a brand creates on its site, 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations.
    It is evident that this is the way to build better relationships with your audience (base of consumers) and make your brand more friendly to their eyes.
    In other words, you can transform consumers into ambassadors of your Brand.
    Think that instead of having one ambassador, you will have a small army of everyday people talking and creating content for your brand.
    And as you know brand loyalty is leading your sales.

  3. Encourages purchases

    A long existing problem for Brands is keeping customers buying.
    According to an Olapic report, when consumers witness user-generated content while shopping, the conversion rate increases by 4.6%.
    Additionally, user-generated content interactions, while shopping, increases the conversion rate to 9.6%.
    53% of millennials have said that user generated content has influenced their purchases.

  4. Brand relevance

    50% of consumers find user-generated content more memorable than Brand produced content.
    So you can nurture a personal connection with your Brand.

  5. Encourages more engagement

    As we said before, people trust one another over Brands, which means User generated content gets much more engagement.
    Brand engagement increases 28% in product video when you use user generated content.
    Consumers are twice as likely to share user generated content with friends or family.
    Read how Fitbit got more engagement from user generated content.

  6. Provides SEO Value

    E-commerce websites are facing problems with SEO.
    Most of the time, E-commerce websites use the standard content of their manufacturers on the product that they sale.
    They don’t have fresh unique content or they don’t have the time nor it is their priority to create it.
    By asking people to share reviews, testimonials, and experiences about the products, you can discover the right content.
    E-commerce sites can have better results for long-tail keywords with UGC.
    And you can fight back in an effective way the Google’s Panda penalty.User generated content significantly helps your SEO.
    Kiss Metrics found of the world’s top 20 largest brands, 25% of their search results are linked to user-generated content.
    This means higher organic traffic and more content being linked to your site.

  7. Low cost

    Are you looking for an effective low cost marketing tactic? UGC can help you a lot.
    Content is created by users not by a marketing agency, so this is an inexpensive way for you to create content.

Incentives or why consumers will contribute content to your Brand

Why will users contribute to a UGC campaign? Why will they spend time participating, creating and contributing content to your Brand?

User Generated Content Incentives
The main reasons are:
  • Self-Expression
  • Be part of a community
  • Fame & Prestige
  • Rewards

People want to express themselves. They will create content saying their personal opinions, views or stories. It is in human nature.
People also seek Fame and Prestige. This is the reason most people seek to get more Likes on their Social Networks. (Anyone deserves to be on TV for 5 minutes, People love when you give them the microphone in a conference when they have something to say).
People also want to be part of a community. They feel safe and active when they are part of something bigger. This is also one of the main reasons  that Forums and Q&A platforms like Quora, yahoo Answers, stackoverflow etc are so popular. 


User Generated Content is a human-centric Content Marketing.

People post photos, thoughts, and videos every day in their Social Networks.
They help each other on Q&A platforms.
People share experiences and ideas on Forums and other platforms like Reddit, and they review products that they bought on sites like Amazon.

All that for free. They don’t gain anything at all.

Because they want to express themselves.
People need to connect with and inform other people.
They also seek the prestige and recognition. They want to be part of communities.
Because they feel nice and they also feel safe. And if you lure them in with a reward, people will contribute with content to your Brand.

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User Generated Content examples

Here are 3 examples of UGC campaigns that converted leads for these big Βrands.

UGC Examples


Sephora has launched a searchable social platform called The Beauty Board.
Consumers can upload their photos and tag the product they used very easily.
Viewers can then click to buy the products.
Sephora achieved to increase product sales by featuring authentic photos in real case studies.
Sephora & User Generated Content



GoPro is a company that creates enduring extreme sports camera.
Their customers can take amazing photos and videos in action.

GoPro created a platform and called their customers to capture their interests, their passions, their life with a GoPro.

People can submit photos, raw clips or video edits, and GoPro, in return, grants them rewards.


GoPro & User Generated Content




SalesForce created the IdeaExchange to let users share ideas about new features/changes for SalesForce's product.

They make a proper use of UGC because they receive ideas and feedback about their product.

At the same time, people feel that SalesForce listens to them.

SalesForce & User Generated Content

The Perils of UGC and how to overcome them

There are a lot of difficulties on UGC campaigns. There are temptations that you should not give in and there are routes that you should not follow in order to obtain the Holy Grail.

User Generated Content Problems

No Participation


This is the worst fear of marketers. You create a campaign, you have spent hours to setup, and you get nothing. If you don’t have an engaged community, this fear can come alive.
Brands that have already a significant and active community, can find success with UGC campaigns more easily. If you have an already engaged community, you can ask them and they will give you the desired results. But if your Brand is not big enough, the chances that you come back with empty hands are growing. Don’t think that UGC works in a “Establish once, and it will grow” way.
The main reasons of low engagement are:
  • Lack of Brand’s community 
  • Low interest in the campaign
  • Fear for the first step

But how can you overcome these difficulties?


If you don't have a big enough community, find one.

There are many communities out there, but they will not come crawling to you, you have to discover and reach out to them.
Let's say, if you have an e-commerce and you sell accessories for kids, you should search for parent groups.

There are a lot of people who care about parenting and you can find them in various places like Facebook groups, Pinterest, Forums.
There are great opportunities out there.


Give users some incentives.

Give them what they want. Self-expression, fame, recognition or a reward.

Approach users with a question about something that they care about, not necessarily something about your Brand. Ask them something about them.
Something about their values or the values that your Brand wants to promote.
This is the proper way to inspire people and communities to participate in your campaigns.

The e-commerce for kids accessories can ask their users something about Parenting. Parents will always care about their children and about values like Family.
And if you combine it with a reward, the chances of success are on your side.


Most of the users fear to take the first step.

No-one wants to be the first contributor. No-one wants to have a drink in an empty bar.
So you should be proactive. Instead of waiting for content to be submitted, you should find ways to show the way. You can post stories, experiences as Brand just to “pave the street”.
Or if you have a small Brand community you can contact to them in order to tell them how important is to make the first step.
As a result, users will see that there are people that have already created content, thus becoming more  motivated to create their own.

No authenticity


There is a danger to lose the authenticity when you don't use UGC in a proper way. Think about the next case.

You offer a very good prize in order to have the best results regarding participation. But you didn’t have set up the campaign in a proper way, and users participate in your campaign just for your prize and nothing else. That way you come out as indifferent to them,, that you don’t care about their contribution. You don’t care about sharing (hearing, learning about) their experience. They feel that you don’t care about sharing their stories. You show them that you care only about numbers.
Think about it. How many contests are out there that people participate just for the prize and nothing else comes  out of it?
How many contests have your already seen that the only thing that they ask from their users is just to like and share the Brand’s post in order to participate in the contest?

A lot. This is definitely the wrong approach.

Don’t try to buy out users with Financial prizes.

Give a reward for their contribution. Don’t ask your User just to like and share your post.
Try to inspire people in order to give you authentic content.
Ask from people to share a story, to tell an idea.
Show them that you care about them, their stories, ideas, and experiences
Don’t make them think that the reward is the only goal, try to make them experience the whole process because the final reward is just the tree, not the whole forest.

Otherwise, you will lose the Authenticity of their content.

Users can go against you


Users and trolls can go against you. What is the one thing that is as bad for your campaign as no users? Angry users.

Many of marketers think "All you have to do is put your Brand in the hands of people. The campaign will go viral and you can create UGC”.
This is a problem that many Brands have already faced, trying to create and promote content coming from real people.

One of the most characteristic examples is when McDonald’s did a twitter promotion and create the hashtag #McDstories in order to inspire users to tweet heart-warmed stories about Happy Meals, but users posted horror stories and complaints, so the hashtag became a Bashtag.

GM created a microsite and encouraged users to create their own ads of Chevy Tahoe for the chance to win prizes. But GM gave away control over its Brand messaging. So things went totally wrong for GM as people used GM’s campaign in order to charge GM about global warming and criticize Tahoe’s quality. GM failed to use UGC.

JP Morgan Chase was also hurt by Twitter users with#AskJPM.

If you are cautious you can dodge the traps.


If you want to create a hashtag on Twitter or Instagram keep in mind that you don’t have control over that. And if hashtag goes viral in a wrong way, no-one can stop it.
Instead of giving to Users the tools in order create videos, images or memes to promote your Brand (as GM did), you should ask from users to send you videos and after that, you should decide what UGC to promote.

You should always have the Control and Supervision of UGC.

Without control and supervision, UGC will transform into chaos with bad results for your Brand.

Content Quality is Low


Not every user is a great storyteller, nor is a good photographer.
You will never be sure what you are going to get regarding the quality of the content. And if you decide to post every user generated content on your site, you will harm again your Brand image.
People will give you authentic content, but sometimes, this content is below your quality standard.

Quality control and supervision is again the key to ensuring your Brand image is protected while allowing users to generate content.
Make yourself very clear and be direct about the content that you want from users. The less the user has to think about, the better the quality of the content that you will get, will be.

Furthermore, make sure that the content coming from users is subject to editing. This is a very important thing to keep in mind.
A very good example about editing is Content Localisation.
Because you can keep the user’s content while keeping your Brand’s quality standards
In other words, you can combine authenticity with professionalism.

Legal Issues & Copyright infringement


The most important issue that a Brand will encounter. This is a path that you must avoid at any cost since this path will lead you to costly legal actions.
Before you can collect and publish user generated content, there are a few legal issues. Here are some examples.

  • Images and Copyrights

    When a Brand purchases an image from stock photography, it receives a license on how the Brand can use it.
    But users will publish images and photos that a lot of time don’t own. They just search from google or other sites for an image and publish them  as their own.
    While it is difficult to detect visual plagiarism there are ways to find a solution:

    1) Do a research on google to determine if an Image is Copyrighted. You can visit www.google.com/images, click on the camera button (search by image), upload the image that you want to know if it is copyrighted, and finally, you will find if this image is already someone else's.

    2) Search for EXIF on the image. EXIF is like the fingerprint. You can find a lot of important and valuable information about the image like timestamp, geolocation, creator, camera model name, image size and maybe you can find if this image is copyrighted. You can use this useful tool, Jeffrey's Image Metadata Viewer, to get online the EXIF data of an image. Keep in mind that when users upload photos on Social Media, these photos will lose their EXIF. So you can’t have EXIF from photos coming from Social Media.


  • Intellectual Property

    Users who submit content need to know what rights you have on their content and what will you do with it. .
    You should always inform users how you gonna use their content, not only for legal purposes but also for ethical purposes.
    You should inform the users that you will use their content as part of your marketing campaign.
    Think of how a user will feel, if out of the blue she finds out that your company uses her content without her knowledge.

Spam, Irrelevant Content & Time Consuming


When you ask your fans something on Social Media like Facebook or Twitter, in order to create UGC, most of the comments tend to be full of spam and irrelevant content.
We have seen this many times. People talk to each other, most of the time they talk about other things -especially when trolls join to the conversations-. Generally, when companies try to create user content from Social Media, they get noise. You can create buzz on Social Media, but you will not get UGC in order to use it for marketing purposes.

You have to consume a lot of time in order to curate the right content, and you will get poor results. Most of the people who would like to contribute, they will not contribute, because of the noise.

Think of it. Will you participate somewhere, that there is a lot of spam, irrelevant content, and noise?

Use User Generated Content Platforms

Keep in mind that when you ask your fans to share an experience on your Facebook post, they can make just a comment. No-one can share an experience or idea, no-one can tell a story on the comment, on a "300px space". Facebook created the comment system with the purpose of commenting. Something small and quick. People’s stories & experiences tend to be more than small and quick. So people feel distracted and annoyed. They feel that you don’t respect them.

You should find other ways in order to collect UGC. You should show to them that you care, that you respect them.
Social Media is not a good option in order to generate content from Users. It's a good option for many other things like buzz.
Use marketing platforms in order to collect UGC. Try to separate the good, the bad and the ugly content in an automated way. Give to users the option to vote for their favorite content.
Dedicate and schedule specific dates and time in order to manage to content that is created by users.

Owned media and UGC

Social media are not a good way to collect content from users and use it under the umbrella of your Brand. As we said, you come across many legal issues.
But there is something else that it is more discouraging to use social media for that.
Social media are a mix of paid and earned media.
Social media cannot be an owned media. Because you cannot have the metadata. You cannot own the data behind the content.


Data (Content) are important for people. Metadata are important for Brands.

The Social network is the real owner of your Social Media Page.
If Social network is a hotel, the owner of the Social network is the hotel owner. You can earn or pay for a room. But you cannot own a room.
The Social network has the keys and it unlocks or locks the door.
What does this mean for UGC? Let’s say if there were no legal issues and you could use the user's’ content for your purpose, you still face a very big problem.
You don’t own the metadata of this content. Because metadata is the real treasure of a Social Network.
You pay for ads on Facebook, Instagram, and twitter because they hold metadata.
Think what metadata you can have from your last #hashtag campaign.
Instagram will always own the data of UGC licensed and royalty-free.
Instagram will also own the metadata of UGC from your #hashtag campaign.
You will always work for Instagram. if content is king, its metadata is heir to the throne.
Instead of creating UGC on your social media, use social media to lead users to your owned media to create content.
Then your brand can use that content licensed and royalty-free.
User Generated Content the Holy Grail of Content Marketing
Now you know why UGC is so important.
Now you know why UGC can give you so much potence.
And if you follow these principles, you can obtain the Holy Grail of Content Marketing.

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