User-generated content (UGC) has become a valuable asset for brands to showcase their products and services to new and existing customers.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are saturated with user-generated content in the form of posts, comments and messages. User-generated reviews on sites like Amazon, Yelp and TripAdvisor can significantly influence consumers' purchasing decisions. Even podcasts are often hosted and produced by users instead of traditional media companies.
The crucial distinction between UGC and owned, earned, or paid content types is that the consumer, not the organization, produces UGC. UGC encompasses various content types, such as text, images, videos, or reviews, which users create and share on a specific platform or service.
Brands can maximize the value of UGC by identifying potential creators by:
- confirming they are true fans of the brand
- ensuring that their values align with the brand's values, and
- offering fair compensation for the usage of their content.
According to Priscila Martinez, Founder & CEO of The Brand Agency, organizations can source content creators by using social media listening tools and analytics platforms to find product reviews, repeat purchasers and followers who regularly engage with the brand's posts. These searches can help brands locate pre-existing content they can use with permission from the creators.
Martinez also suggests using companies that specialize in finding potential creators in exchange for a fee. One such company, Ubiquitous, claims to be the first influencer marketing company dedicated to the world’s fastest-growing social platform.
Whether an organization should research UGC on its own or hire an external company will depend on the organization's goals; resources, including budget; and expertise. However, Martinez emphasizes that "finding the perfect fit takes time…Potential creators must be able to articulate their love for the brand in an engaging and unique way."
For Chipotle Mexican Grill, for example, a collaboration with popular food-centric content creators Keith Lee and Alexis Frost made sense. As a result of the creators’ respective viral TikTok videos, Chipotle worked with them to launch a new fajita quesadilla.
Once potential creators have been identified, Martinez advises brands to ensure that the creator's values align with those of the brand. Martinez cautions brands not to approach creators without first establishing their values, as it can lead to backlash if the creator's values do not align with the brand's.
"After a clean record is established, you need to zero in on a personality that bodes well for your demographic," she advises. "They need to be able to share their experience with the product in a very engaging way."
When it comes to approaching UGC creators and building relationships with them, Martinez believes that brands should respect creators' time and offer fair compensation for the usage of their content. "Some UGC creators have taken this up as a full-time job," Martinez says. "You need to respect that and offer market value for usage."
According to a report by Brands Meet Creators, the average asking price for one piece of UGC is $212. In this case, one piece refers to a 9:16 vertical video, between 15-60 seconds in length (i.e., a video suited for TikTok, Reels on Meta’s platforms, or YouTube shorts).
Creators with more significant followings charge significantly more for UGC, the report states, as they are typically more experienced and can create better-performing content.
Jaclyn Gabriel, associate director of communications (PR & Influencer) at oral care brand Quip, measures the success of UGC campaigns by looking at how engaged their current and prospective customer base is with UGC compared to more branded, controlled assets.
"We do A/B testing to see if UGC is driving more consideration (clicks), conversions or both," Gabriel explains. "Our goal is to test the UGC in as many places as possible to understand how our customers interact with these lifestyle, not-so-picture-perfect images, and video. When a consumer sees people just like them using a product, it feels more relatable and builds confidence."
Quip has seen enough positive metrics via email and paid social to continue investing in UGC as a part of its marketing efforts. In some campaigns, the click-through rate (CTR) improved by over 60% when UGC was used versus non-UGC assets.
When measuring ROI for UGC campaigns, Quip focuses on impressions, CTR, cost per click, interactions (likes/comments/shares), and conversions/revenue.
"We look at the return on investment," Gabriel says. "We definitely find that UGC is a more cost-effective and engaging option on some of our marketing channels. Does that mean we will forgo future product shoots? Likely not. We see the value in both types of assets and continue to do A/B testing to see what our customers interact with most."
Martinez also emphasizes the value of UGC compared to other types of content. UGC content is typically cheaper to produce and offers up compelling content that other consumers feel they can trust. "There is no need for expensive shoots or aesthetically pleasing setups," she says. "As a result of how authentic and how fast UGC can be produced, it offers a lot more bang for your buck than other types of content."
However, Martinez cautions brands to do their homework and ensure that the whole page of a potential UGC creator aligns with the brand's values and messaging before engaging them. She also advises brands to develop guidelines for UGC and to view UGC content from a creator's perspective.
"Contract negotiation can always be a tricky sticking point," she says. "Make sure you always have upfront conversations regarding usage, and that you view UGC content from a creator's lens. It takes a certain amount of skill to produce compelling content; they should be rewarded for that."
Martinez suggests two methods for keeping up-to-date with UGC best practices: scrolling through TikTok and signing up for newsletters from companies offering UGC as a service.
By following these best practices, brands can create compelling UGC that resonates with their target audience and drives results.
Tai Nichols is event content manager for PRNEWS. Follow her: @SathiyyahN