If you’ve ever wondered whether user generated content (UGC) is beneficial for marketing a small business, the answer is yes. In fact, UGC can be one of your best marketing strategies because it’s simple, versatile, and costs almost nothing. If you’ve ever been convinced to buy a product from a good customer review, you’ll know how effective it is.
Keep reading to learn more about what UGC means and how to use it for marketing, with examples to get you inspired.
What Is User Generated Content?
User-generated content (UGC) is any content about your brand created by your customer community in a public forum. It’s essentially promotional content not created by your brand.
Think of UGC as an evolved form of word-of-mouth marketing for the digital age, but with greater authenticity than influencer marketing. This is because content by regular “everyday” users (i.e., non-paid endorsements) helps people visualize themselves as customers of your brand.
It’s effective because it’s authentic (especially in an age where up to 77% of consumers value brand authenticity in purchase decisions). UGC makes your brand more transparent to customers, increasing your brand presence.
Some examples are social media posts by customers featuring your products, or public reviews on your Google Business Profile. As a marketing asset, UGC works because it highlights your customer community, increasing your brand credibility.
Keep reading below to see user generated content examples in action, and how you can adapt it for your small business.
1. Showcase Customer Testimonials on Your Website
Customer testimonials are one of the oldest forms of user generated content marketing—they’ve been around long before the term was even coined. Testimonials are proven effective at increasing customers’ trust in your business because they’re an account of positive customer experiences on your brand. They’re so effective, in fact, that 93% of shoppers say online reviews directly affect their purchase decisions.
One of the best ways to leverage customer testimonials is to highlight them in a section on your small business website. Because your website is likely the first point of contact many people will have with your business, it helps to boost your credibility, which customer testimonials are best suited for.
2. Leverage Social Media Posts About Your Brand
You’re well aware by now that social media is a powerhouse for customer interaction and engagement. So, it’s no surprise that social media has some of the best user generated content examples you can take cues from.
The possibilities are nearly endless in using UGC for social media marketing: Many of today’s consumers already regularly post photos on Instagram or Facebook with products they enjoy using, which is already free advertising for brands. This is exponentially true on TikTok—just search the #brandrecommendation hashtag and you’ll find thousands of creators making all types of brand-related content.
All of that original content are areas of opportunity to promote your business, and there are two main ways to leverage them: by re-sharing them on your own social media profile (e.g., as reposts, Instagram Story shares, and so on), or as a basis for social media contests or challenges. For instance, branded hashtag social media campaigns are one of the most popular campaigns that utilize UGC content on social media.
Pro tip: To maximize the effectiveness of your UGC on social channels, make it part of your social media strategy. Learn more about creating an effective social media plan, which also includes a template you can use.
3. Share YouTube Vlogs by Customers
With YouTube being the second-largest social media platform in the world, it isn’t surprising that user-created content is rife on the platform. In fact, YouTube was the original “creator community” before TikTok came along, as it was the platform of choice for people to create everything from product reviews to unboxing videos to makeup tutorials. Videos like these organically introduced brands to new audiences and gradually developed online fanbases.
UGC on YouTube offers several opportunities: You can reshare them on your other social media pages, link to them from your website, or re-upload them on your channel. Of course, be sure to get the creators’ permission first. Online videos by users are proven effective at growing your online presence organically—and they won’t even cost you anything to produce.
4. Encourage Online Customer Reviews
If you own a local business, your Google Business Profile (GBP) is an essential lifeline you shouldn’t skip out on. Your GBP shows up as a listing when people search for businesses local to your area, and can potentially generate high-quality leads. But Google Business Profiles are also important for another purpose: to showcase positive customer reviews about your brand, increasing your credibility with potential customers.
UGC isn’t limited to social media—anywhere users get a say about your business, you need to be sure it gives a good impression. And your Google listing shouldn’t be discounted, especially as 98% of customers read online reviews when deciding to try a business. The best part is that reviews are easy to collect: All you need to do is ask customers who’ve had positive experiences at your store to leave a review, which most are happy to do.
Pro tip: While Google Business is the largest online review platform, you can expand to other review sites too, depending on what works best for your brand. For instance, restaurants often use Yelp as it’s where foodies flock, while local hostels would likely get on Agoda or Tripadvisor. Find out more about the best online business directories to list your business on.
5. Publish Case Studies
You can think of case study blogs as the longer form of customer testimonials on your website. They work because they illustrate a comprehensive account of a customer’s experience with your business, which makes your brand more credible to prospects. Case studies are especially helpful for introducing a brand-new product to audiences—for example, new tech software.
In this context, the UGC in question is your customers’ experience in itself, which you’ll need to document via text, images, or even video. However, you can maximize your impact further by using original content by customers themselves, like their own before-and-after images, or direct quotes they’ve said about their experience. Original content like these increase your case study’s authenticity and credibility.
6. Share Articles by Bloggers
Don’t forget the power of the written word in promoting your brand online. In the past, this meant that a critic’s review in the newspaper could make or break a small business, but all that’s changed in the digital age. Since the internet came about, bloggers of all types and interests have grown into a considerable force in helping promote small businesses and local brands.
This is especially true in the lifestyle sector, where thousands of food, fashion, and beauty bloggers actively publish articles highlighting their favorite locations and products. Not only do these blogs organically promote your brand online, but they also often create backlinks to your website and increase your authority.
Getting mentioned by blogs is overall one of the best examples of user generated content. Leverage them by resharing articles on your social media profiles or pulling quotes (with the bloggers’ consent) to use for other marketing materials like brochures, flyers, or even on your website.
Great User Generated Content Examples From Brands
With UGC offering so many benefits as a marketing strategy, brands of all kinds have since leveraged it to reap significant results. From turning users into brand ambassadors by highlighting their original work in ads to organically creating a steady stream of user content, check out these three great examples of UGC marketing from brands you can take notes from.
Apple’s #ShotOniPhone Campaign
When Apple launched their newest line of iPhones featuring their highest-resolution cameras yet, they wanted the world to know. So, instead of going the traditional route of explaining all the new camera tech in their campaigns, they rallied their fanbase to join the #ShotOniPhone social media challenge. The campaign challenged customers to post original photos taken on their iPhones on social media with the hashtag.
Millions of users joined the campaign, and iPhone even featured some of the best in their marketing collateral and ads. By leveraging UGC, the campaign highlighted the capability of iPhone cameras to capture diverse types of images, and how easy it was for anyone to use—a far more effective strategy than simply listing its features.
noissue’s UGC-centric Blog
noissue produces branded packaging materials for micro-businesses. The brand hinges on creativity and branding design, so it regularly publishes blogs highlighting its customers’ work front and center on its website. When visitors scroll through the noissue website, they’ll be greeted with a wide variety of packaging designs from fellow customers.
By spotlighting its customers’ work, noissue successfully built a strong customer community that eventually translates to brand loyalty. What’s more, it even encourages customers to willingly submit content by themselves in hopes of being featured on the blog—effectively creating a steady stream of UGC content.
99designs’ Testimonial Page
When building your business website, you want to establish credibility with your site visitors. The best user generated content examples that help with that are customer testimonials, which is what 99designs used to promote its services.
As a design platform, 99designs also offers custom design services by professional designers. So, to boost their credibility, they built a testimonial page on their website expressly to showcase positive reviews from previous clients, even including video testimonials. Doing so significantly increases their credibility to site visitors and potentially converts more leads.
Best Practices for Promoting Your Business With UGC
UGC can be a powerful tool for growing your business, and the user generated content examples above are proof of that. But there are certain ways to get it right for your business. For one, UGC thrives on authenticity—people can easily tell when it’s forced, which can cause your business harm instead.
Now that you know what UGC is and the basics of how to use it for marketing, here are some user generated content marketing best practices to follow:
- Make it part of your marketing strategy: The user generated content examples above are a result of planning and strategizing, not a mere one-off tactic. To maximize UGC’s benefits, incorporate it into your marketing plan. For instance, you can start by setting up your Google Business Profile to collect reviews, then expand to social media campaigns that encourage UGC.
- Repurpose into multiple formats: One of the best benefits of user generated content is its versatility. This means you can repurpose one form of UGC into another, like turning blog posts mentioning your brand into testimonials on your website. Or, turn social media posts by customers into a blog article. The possibilities are plenty, so get creative.
- Be proactive: In an ideal world, users would constantly create content about your brand. But in reality, you’ll have to be a little more proactive and encourage content to come in. This means making it easy for customers to leave reviews (or sometimes directly asking them), creating campaigns that prompt user content on social media, and so on.
- Curate the best content: While sourcing content from your community is great for boosting your authenticity, you’ll still need to maintain a standard of quality. If you’re reposting users’ images on your business’ social profiles, choose those that are high-quality, fit your visual branding, and promote your brand values.
- Tailor to each platform: UGC can be very varied, so what works best for one asset may not do so well for another, even across social media platforms. For example, resharing users’ posts on your Stories may be enough for Instagram, while you might need to completely repost them on Facebook. Meanwhile, written testimonials might work perfectly fine for your website.
- Get permission: This is important: Always get permission from the original creators before using or reposting UGC on your platform. This is especially true if you’re collecting testimonials for other marketing assets—getting permission first is a common courtesy. However, this can differ on social media. Depending on the platform, resharing or retweeting posts that mention you is widely accepted.
- Credit the original creator: Finally, always credit the original content creator when you reshare UGC posts. UGC marketing is a two-way street, and you need to maintain good relationships with your customers to keep their content coming in. Plus, giving credit to creators shows your transparency.
Do’s & Don’ts for User Generated Content Marketing
Knowing what UGC is and how it can work for your business also depends on how you leverage it. The best practices listed above offer some guidelines on how to best benefit from it, but here are some equally important do’s and don’ts when using UGC for marketing.
|UGC Do’s||UGC Don’ts|
|Do get permission before using UGC in your marketing||Don’t force UGC by paying for it (see influencer marketing for this instead)|
|Do credit the original creator||Don’t ignore or delete negative feedback|
|Do know what UGC works for each platform||Don’t forget to interact with people who respond to your UGC|
|Do verify users’ content before posting it (check its authenticity for plagiarism, etc.)||Don’t alter or edit users’ content without their permission|
Statistics: Benefits of User Generated Content for Marketing
One of the best parts of UGC is that it’s cost-effective, meaning you won’t have to invest too much money or effort to get good value out of it when done the right way. This makes UGC a great match for small businesses. It helps you build good relationships with your community, reinforces your credibility, and much more. Consider these statistics on the benefits of UGC for growing small businesses.
- It directly impacts purchase decisions: According to a 2023 study, 96% of consumers across all ages refer to UGC when considering whether or not to purchase from a brand. Of that number, 32% always relied on UGC as a decision-making factor.
- Consumers trust it more: 74% of consumers are more likely to trust UGC over traditional top-down marketing from brands, the study also found. In contrast, only 10% of consumers were unlikely to trust content from fellow users.
- Most users don’t trust sponsored content: While the credibility of sponsored content differs across ages (with younger age groups trusting it the least), consumers overall are more skeptical of non-organic content. On average, 62% of consumers trust sponsored content less than organic content.
- Social media is growing as a search engine: While Google retains its throne as the place where users search for information, you’ll need to start optimizing your social profiles too. In 2023, 76% of consumers said they used social media as a search engine, whether to search for brands, products, reviews, or other content.
- People like seeing real photos over stock photos: If you use stock photos in your small business’ marketing materials, it might be time to replace them with original content from real users. Eighty percent of consumers say they prefer seeing real photos from actual customers over generic stock images.
- It boosts conversions: Higher consumer trust directly leads to more conversions. A study conducted across thousands of product pages found that those with UGC had an 8.5% higher conversion rate compared to those without. Even more, people who interacted with the UGC had up to 100% higher conversion rates.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
On TikTok, UGC stands for “user generated content,” and it refers to any TikTok marketing content about brands or products created by TikTok users instead of the brands themselves. Because of TikTok’s status as a creator platform, UGC is a common marketing tactic on the app. TikTok creators often make videos featuring products and brands, such as “get ready with me” or “life hacks” videos, which brands then feature on their own TikTok accounts.
UGC is important for small businesses because it’s a low-cost marketing strategy that effectively grows your online presence. Sharing and interacting with content by users builds your brand community and boosts your credibility, in turn earning more customers. UGC marketing is also easy to set up (i.e., you won’t need any advanced tools to do it), and it’s completely free.
You can get customers to create content about your brand by asking them to leave online reviews and by prompting them via social media campaigns like contests or social media challenges. You can also request images and videos directly from your customers or interview them for direct quotes to use for testimonials or case studies. Of course, always get permission before publishing their content live and credit them in your post.
In hindsight, the growth of UGC as an impactful marketing strategy isn’t so surprising. It signals new changes in the marketing landscape, where consumers have more control over their purchasing decisions instead of relying entirely on brands. To adapt, businesses need to keep up with these changes and engage with customers in authentic and meaningful ways. Use the user generated content examples above as a guide to create your own effective UGC strategy.