User-Generated Content (UGC) – Endorsement For Your Brand

Mitchel White
March 3, 2021

As a term, it’s fairly self-explanatory: user-generated content is any form of content, including text, videos and images that has been created by a user, as opposed to a brand. In practice, UGC can be tricky to implement. Overdo it, and you may risk taking genuine customer feedback and making it look transactional. Worse yet, if you prompt users for feedback, it becomes dishonest.

Just think of the plethora of paid posts that review products for certain eCommerce sites. Chances are, they are giving their 5 stars in order to qualify for a promotion on their next purchase.

As a company, you may be cautious about relying on users for content. However, done ethically, UGC can be an effective way to add credibility to your content strategy. If you’re able to cultivate a relationship with your audience that’s built on trust, chances are, they’re more likely to share about your product.

UGC – Ethical when Done Right

At its very core, user-generated content should serve as an endorsement. Your brand’s core audience are snapping photos, writing reviews, and publishing blog posts and stories in favour of your products. It makes sense to acknowledge them.

In a recent AdWeek report, 85% of users say visual UGC is more influential in their purchasing decisions than brand-generated content. According to People Claim, 51% of millennials say that user-generated content from strangers is more likely to influence their buying decisions than recommendations from friends, family, and colleagues. In fact, customers are 2.4 times more likely to view user-generated content as authentic, when compared to content created by a brand.

For many brands, Instagram is the primary platform for UGC. Their users create and share posts and stories that feature their products, hashtagged to flag attention. Not only do these posts expose a brand’s products to their audience, they can be posted on the company page to be then shared with their followers.

Risks of UGC

Here’s the difficulty: in certain contexts, it can be important to reward your audience for their time, but if you incentivise them to create content, their words are no longer an honest reflection of their experience with your brand.

You should never underestimate your audience. The reality is that social media users are becoming increasingly savvy, able to sniff out insincerity across various platforms. When people only create UGC to win a prize, to get more likes, or to be featured by your brand, others are likely to notice. In turn, you’d be creating a cynical image of your brand, that you only want posts that serve your interests. The better goal is to work on creating a brand that is worthy of genuine praise.

Given the importance of authenticity, it’s imperative to share honest user reviews through UGC. Although users aren’t paid to post UGC, it’s better to encourage them by creating buzz for your brand, not be requesting contributions outright. Can you really call a compliment sincere if it’s been asked for?

It’s also crucial that you acquire express permission when sharing your audience’s content. Most people would be grateful for the recognition, but it’s essential that you give them the choice. In the same vein, give clear credit to the original author by tagging them directly in the shared post.

Diverse UGC is Best

How can user-generated content be used to create an authentic brand-image? Primarily, it’s important to share content created by a variety of users. If you demonstrate that your brand is enjoyed by a large range of people, you show that your product speaks for itself. You create the idea that your brand has genuine benefits, that you don’t need to cultivate a relationship with a very specific (and familiar) type of influencer. Not only does this create inclusivity and diversity, but make your brand relatable to a wider audience. For example, Fenty Beauty, a brand celebrated for its intersectionality, has created a YouTube playlist dedicated to Arabic user-generated content.

Encourage Community

If done properly,  a UGC strategy can foster a sense of community amongst your followers. You can make your audience feel that they’re part of something bigger than a simple repost. Although I’m always tentative to talk about the merits of giant brands, it’s true that they often have the resources to do this effectively.

Take Coca-Cola for example. The brand’s ‘share a coke’ campaign was famous throughout social media. Back in 2011, Coke decided to print 150 of the most common names on its bottles, asking people to ‘share a coke’ with their loved ones. The campaign was rolled out internationally, and people began to share photos with the bottles on their social media across the globe.

Most social media users are probably aware of the #ShotOniPhone hashtag. Apple is famous for its annual UGC contests, where iPhone owners submit photos to be reviewed by a panel of judges. Each year, the 10 winning photos are featured on billboards in select cities across the globe.

What’s the takeaway? Applied to your business, inviting UGC that reflects an audience’s interests can strengthen a sense of community, while reinforcing your brand values across your social channels.

Make it Entertaining and Shareable

It goes without saying that UGC should be entertaining for your audiences. That means it doesn’t always have to be product related. If your intention is to use authentic customer voices to endorse your brand, then you should celebrate them as you find them. As long as the content serves the intended purpose – to inspire, endorse or showcase your brand, then there’s no shame in celebrating the witty musings of your willing followers.

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