Many times I’ve tried to withhold myself from hitting the “checkout” button while shopping online, only to be convinced to do so anyway because of a glowing review from a previous customer. As a marketer, I think it’s brilliant. At the very edge of a purchase decision, it was real, authentic insight from a fellow customer that ultimately convinced me to complete a purchase.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve encountered situations like this yourself. Perhaps you were convinced to try a new local restaurant because of its track record of positive Google reviews. Or maybe you tried out a new clothing brand because you saw others wearing it on its Instagram account.
There’s a name for that strategy: UGC marketing, aka user generated content marketing, and it’s an increasingly valuable marketing method for businesses. And not just for large companies either—in fact, UGC is one of the most cost-effective strategies you can use to market your small business.
What UGC Marketing Is & How It Works
You can think of UGC marketing as word-of-mouth marketing adapted for the digital age. UGC stands for “user generated content,” and it’s when brands use content created by users in marketing strategies. Some examples of this are brands reposting brand-related photos by customers on their social media accounts or customer testimonials on business websites.
UGC content marketing works because it highlights real customers, which makes your brand feel more authentic and overall boosts your brand’s credibility.
Below, we’ve outlined 11 UGC content marketing ideas you can adopt to grow your small business and its brand presence today.
1. Collect Reviews for Your Google Business Profile
Why it works: It boosts your credibility on Google
Your online reviews count as UGC. They’re one of the most underrated but impactful types of UGC content because they instantly make your brand more credible and trustworthy to the public, sometimes even more so than traditional marketing strategies. In fact, studies find that 98% of customers find online reviews an essential resource when making purchase decisions.
Many people use Google to search for new local businesses to try. And when your Google Business Profile (GBP) listing shows up on their search results, positive reviews from happy customers instead of radio silence could mean the difference between them choosing you over a competitor.
If you don’t have one yet, set up your Google Business Profile, then collect reviews from your customers to populate it. It’s one of the easiest ways to know how to increase user generated content, and it’s effective at turning casual visitors into leads.
2. Repost Your Followers’ Content on Social Media
Why it works: It leverages social media to build your online community
Resharing content on social media is one of the most established UGC marketing strategies, and you’ve probably encountered it while scrolling through your own social media feed. Many people already habitually post about their favorite brands and products on social media. And if you’ve ever received a few mentions from your own customers, resharing them on your feed is an easy way to build your online community—which is essential in social media marketing.
Social media is an inherently interactive platform, so it’s no wonder that it’s one of the most effective avenues for UGC, especially in today’s marketing landscape where consumers expect more brand affinity than ever on social media. When reposting your followers’ content, be sure to get their consent first and credit them accordingly in your post. Some of the best platforms for doing social media UGC are Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest.
3. Feature Customers’ Content on Your Blog
Why it works: It puts your customers front and center of your website and establishes your brand’s credibility
Blogging on your website is the most fundamental form of content marketing for search engine optimization (SEO) and helps establish your online authority. But blogs can also be useful for another purpose: to build your brand’s credibility with the help of UGC. Beyond posting your customers on your social media, you can feature them directly on your website blog via case study articles or “customer highlight” blogs.
The key to making this work is to use original content by your users in your articles—original photos, videos, or social media posts—instead of using generic stock photos. This makes their stories feel more personal, authentic, and credible and is overall one of the most impactful ways to use UGC to its full benefit.
Blogs featuring your customers humanize your business (especially to new visitors) and show that you care about your customers. As with UGC best practices, always get permission before publishing users’ content and credit them accordingly.
4. Launch a Social Media UGC Contest or Campaign
Why it works: It incentivizes social media to create authentic content
@mvnnyrose here are some lid flip fails for y’all 😂#ChipotleLidFlip @chipotle #foryoupage#foryou ♬ Flip – Future
Social media contests are a proven effective way to generate user content—like Chipotle’s TikTok #ChipotleLidFlip challenge. (Source: @mvnnyrose)
When it comes to UGC social media marketing, you’ll sometimes need to be more proactive to get your users’ content flowing in. One of the most tried-and-true solutions for this is to run a social media campaign or contest that incentivizes user content. Examples of these are Trivago’s #trivagofaves contest on Instagram and Chipotle’s #ChipotleLidFlip challenge on TikTok.
Social media contests and campaigns work, even for small businesses, because they leverage the inherent social aspect of social media. If you have a steady following on a particular social platform, UGC social media contests or campaigns are one of the most established ways to address how to encourage user generated content. They incentivize your followers to create original content and strengthen your online community.
5. Display Customer Reviews on Your Online Store
Why it works: Customer reviews are effective at converting end-of-funnel leads into customers
Customer reviews are a proven effective marketing asset, especially in influencing purchase decisions. And they can be a powerhouse for your small business when displayed the right way—for example, on your website’s online store. In fact, landing pages with UGC convert up to 8.5% more effectively than those without.
It’s not hard to see why. Reviews by real people immediately convey a sense of authenticity, so showcasing the best ones on your website can be one of your most powerful strategies, especially on your product pages where visitors are at the bottom of the sales funnel. And the best part is that it isn’t even difficult to set up: Many small business website builders have plugins for reviews, or you can embed them manually from each review site.
6. Include Customers’ Social Media Posts on Your Website
Why it works: It acts as social proof for your site visitors
Aside from customer reviews on your site’s product pages, another great way to leverage your UGC on social media is by incorporating them in your website marketing plan. This is especially helpful if you already have a strong presence and community on your socials. Your customers’ social media content acts as social proof for your site visitors, which makes your brand appear more credible.
An easy way to collect social media content to embed in your site is by encouraging your followers to post content using a specific hashtag, as in the example above. Then, filter the best ones that fit your standards and brand voice, get your followers’ consent, and embed them onto your site. Most site builders also have widgets that can easily help embed social media posts on your site.
7. Build a Testimonial Page on Your Website
Why it works: It consolidates all your best user reviews and builds your credibility
Adding reviews to your online store’s product pages is all well and good to help convert leads into sales. But once you’ve amassed a good number of them, you can go a step further and build a full testimonial page on your website to house all your best reviews. It’s as simple as creating a new page on your website, then copying and pasting your best user reviews as quotes.
You can even be as creative as you like in your page layout and include photos and infographics. Of course, be sure to get permission from your customers before publishing their reviews on your site. Besides user-created testimonials, see what makes a good website and get tips to make yours stand out.
8. Repurpose Reviews Into Other Marketing Collateral
Why it works: It expands the reach of your customer reviews
There’s no question that positive reviews are one of the most powerful types of marketing content for small businesses, and they won’t even cost you a penny. Plus, they’re also versatile, meaning they’re effective no matter what marketing material they’re used on, from your business website to direct mail assets like flyers or postcards.
Part of knowing how to do UGC is knowing how to get the most out of each piece of content created by your users. And for customer reviews, this can mean repurposing them into other types of marketing content, like social media posts, videos, or even on your marketing brochures. They’re the ideal addition to boost the credibility of any marketing campaign.
9. Highlight Customer Reviews on Your Social Media Profile
Why it works: Customer reviews can help turn casual social media followers into leads
If you’re still figuring out how to start user generated content marketing, here’s a simple one you can do on your social media profiles: make all your best user reviews easy to access. Many social platforms have tools that help you do this easily, e.g., Instagram has Instagram Story Highlights and Facebook has the “Featured Posts” feature, both of which highlight chosen content on your profile.
Use these features to collect all your best user reviews in an easily accessible way for casual visitors on your profile. It’s a simple and no-cost way to make UGC content effective on social media and potentially convert your casual visitors into leads. This is especially important because social media is steadily growing as a search engine: 75% of consumers use it to search for brands and products.
10. Use UGC in Paid Ads
Why it works: Authentic content generates more conversions than generic content
While UGC marketing is an overall cost-effective strategy, another option is to use them in paid ads on Google and paid social media in place of generic stock images and video. In fact, while this strategy has yet to gain wider traction, UGC-based ads have already returned overwhelmingly positive results, including an up to 98% higher click-through rate (CTR).
The indications are all clear: Today’s consumers are increasingly shunning generic branded advertising in favor of real experiences from fellow customers—another reason why learning how to get UGC content is more valuable than ever. As always, be sure to get consent from the content’s original creator before using it for advertising. An alternative is to hire UGC creators to create content for your ad, which often costs anywhere from $200 to $300.
11. Produce a UGC Video Series
Why it works: It uses video to showcase your customer community
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There’s no underestimating the power of video marketing, with 89% of customers saying videos directly influence their purchase decisions. And if you’re planning on starting video marketing for your brand, consider producing a UGC video series—especially if you already have an active community on social media.
The key to learning how to create a user generated content video series is to first decide on the type of series you want to produce. For instance, some simple and popular UGC video ideas are how-to tips from your customers about your product, or video testimonials of customers sharing experiences with your brand.
While producing videos can take more effort and slightly higher costs, it’s one of the best ways to showcase your customer community online.
How Much UGC Marketing Costs
One of the best parts of UGC is that it can be a completely free marketing strategy. In many cases, such as in collecting customer reviews and testimonials, or reposting users’ content, you’ll only need to ask permission to use them as marketing collateral. However, recent years have also seen UGC growing as a market, with many by-commission UGC creators who create all types of content for brands for a fee.
According to UGC platform Collabstr, the average cost of user generated content is $320 as of October 2023. However, this also varies by industry, time, and each creator’s niche (e.g., video, photography, etc.). Here are the average UGC prices across various industries according to Collabstr as of this writing:
- Beauty: $270
- Art & Photography: $325
- Animals & Pets: $230
- Entrepreneur & Business: $330
- Lifestyle: $310
- Travel: $290
- Food & Drink: $310
- Gaming: $300
- Sports: $325
- Healthcare: $275
- Fashion: $295
- Technology: $290
Prices can also increase for creators with larger follower counts. However, many UGC creators offer bundled packages with multiple content at discounted prices.
UGC marketing vs influencer marketing: You’d be forgiven for mistaking UGC and influencer marketing as one and the same, and they do have several overlaps. But the key difference is that UGC creators don’t necessarily have large online followings. They’re squarely consumers who create content—such as videos, images, or blogs—for brands for a fee. In contrast, influencers post content expressly to influence purchases among their followers.
Why UGC Marketing Is Worth It
If you’ve ever considered whether UGC marketing is worth trying out, take the UGC ideas above as an indication of how effective it can be for your small business. At its core, UGC humanizes and adds a degree of authenticity to your brand, making it easier for people to connect to no matter what stage of the buyers’ journey. Here are more of the best reasons to include UGC in your marketing plan.
- It’s affordable: One of the best cases for leveraging UGC for your small business is that it’s one of the cheapest digital marketing strategies around. Many UGC strategies, like collecting reviews and leveraging users’ social media content, only cost the users’ permission. Meanwhile, UGC creators usually don’t go higher than $350 for content you can use for multiple purposes.
- It’s easy to make: Even if you don’t source external creators to create content for your brand, it’s simple enough for nearly anyone to master. In most cases, all you need is a good camera phone, some editing tools (even editing apps work), and an understanding of your target audience. Spend time researching UGC on social media to get a better understanding of how it looks and feels.
- It’s versatile: One of the best benefits of knowing how to get more user generated content is that each piece you get can serve multiple purposes. You can repurpose virtually any UGC content into multiple formats and marketing assets. For example, use customers’ social media images as blogs or as paid ads, or use your best reviews as testimonials on your website.
- It has low competition: If you’re thinking of when’s the best time to try UGC marketing, the answer is right now. According to surveys, 93% of marketers still don’t fully utilize UGC as a full marketing strategy, so for now and the near future, your UGC content has a greater chance of standing out.
- It’s effective: Finally, there wouldn’t be any merit to UGC if it weren’t so effective. The fact is, it’s one of the most effective marketing strategies today: Up to 74% of customers find UGC more trustworthy than traditional marketing in making purchase decisions. It’s also proven to have higher engagement and conversion rates.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
UGC stands for user generated content, and it refers to any content created by regular users and customers that brands use for marketing. Examples of UGC are social media posts by customers that brands reshare on their own feed, or user reviews on Google or Yelp that brands use as testimonials on their websites. By highlighting customer content, UGC lends brands a sense of authenticity, which helps increase their credibility.
No, they’re not, but UGC and influencer marketing overlap in that they both leverage social proof for marketing. For one thing, UGC creators don’t necessarily have a built-in social media following like influencers do. They’re primarily content creators who make content for brands to use, usually by commission. In contrast, influencer marketing directly leverages a public figure’s clout, influence, and credibility to promote a product or service.
You have the option to commission UGC content creators to create content for your business, and most usually charge anywhere from $200 to $300 per piece of content. However, there are also ways to source UGC for free, such as by launching social media contests and campaigns or by simply asking permission to reuse customers’ content.
UGC content is increasingly growing into an invaluable strategy for marketing your small business thanks to its accessibility, affordability, and effectiveness. It is even very versatile and can fit into nearly any marketing campaign, from growing your brand awareness to increasing your sales. Use the tips above as a starting point to leverage UGC marketing to grow your small business.