A Complete Guide To User Generated Content

Online user generated content (UGC) is taking over the internet. Platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Reddit are dominated by posts created by everyday users - not brands. In fact, UGC receives 3 times more engagement than brand-created content.

Clearly, UGC is resonating with modern audiences and revolutionizing digital marketing. Brands that tap into authentic user content reap major rewards through increased engagement, conversions, and brand awareness.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore what exactly UGC is, why it’s important, and how your brand can leverage user generated content successfully. You’ll learn UGC best practices to amplify your reach, while avoiding potential pitfalls. Let’s dive in!

What Exactly is User Generated Content?

User generated content (UGC) refers to any form of content that is created by unpaid users of an online platform or service. It is content created independently by the user, not sponsored or mandated by the brand.

Some examples of user generated content include:

  • Social media posts (e.g. tweets, Instagram photos)

  • Blog posts and articles

  • Forum and discussion board posts

  • Reviews and ratings of products/services

  • Comments on websites, videos, etc.

  • Videos (e.g. YouTube videos)

  • Podcasts

  • Images and memes

  • Q&A content

Essentially, any content created and shared by regular everyday users can be classified as UGC. It spans a wide range of formats from written text to photos, audio, and video.

User generated content differs from brand generated content in a few key ways:

  • Created organically by users, not by brands

  • Seen as more authentic and trustworthy

  • Not professionally produced or optimized

  • Promotes the user’s personal brand, not the brand they are discussing

The main takeaway is that true UGC is independently produced by users based on their own experiences and opinions. It is not sponsored by brands or created on a brand’s behalf. This lends UGC a high degree of authenticity and credibility with audiences.

Why is UGC Important?

User generated content has become a crucial part of most brands’ marketing strategies. Here are some of the key reasons why UGC is so valuable:

It provides free marketing for brands

  • When users post positively about a brand or product, they are essentially promoting it for free. For example, an Instagram user posting a photo featuring a product is giving that brand exposure to all their followers.

  • UGC is seen as more authentic and trustworthy than brand-created content. Consumers rely heavily on UGC when making purchase decisions.

It builds a strong community and engages users

  • UGC gives users a way to interact with the brand and fellow customers. This facilitates community building.

  • People enjoy engaging with content created by other real users. UGC satisfies this need.

It provides customer insights

  • Analyzing user generated content can provide invaluable insights into your target audience, their interests, and perceptions of your brand.

It drives conversions

  • 72% of consumers say UGC highly informs their purchasing decisions. They are far more likely to buy after engaging with authentic user content.

It improves SEO

  • UGC helps build domain authority and brings fresh, high-quality content to your site, boosting search engine rankings and traffic.

The data shows UGC should now be a core component of any brand’s strategy. It offers an authentic way to reach and engage potential customers while building a community.

How Can Brands Get More UGC?

Given the tremendous value of user generated content, all brands should be looking for ways to encourage and optimize for UGC. Here are some of the most effective tactics:

Ask directly for UGC

  • Run contests and campaigns prompting users to create branded posts and content. Offer prizes and giveaways in exchange.

  • Add website/social media calls to action for reviews, testimonials, user photos/videos.

Make it easy for users to create UGC

  • Provide templates, hashtags, and content ideas for social media posts.

  • Enable ratings, reviews, and FAQ sections on your website. Have a visible and straightforward submission process.

  • Host dedicated forums/communities where users can discuss products.

Promote and showcase UGC

  • Share great user generated social posts on your own accounts. Repost customer images/videos.

  • Feature user reviews, testimonials, and videos prominently on your website and other assets.

  • Doing so incentivizes users to create more UGC in hopes of being amplified.

Interact with and engage UGC

  • Like, share, and comment on user generated social posts related to your brand.

  • To leverage the pros of replying to reviews, respond promptly to user reviews and forum/community questions and discussions.

Additional tips:

  • Optimize website for video embeds, image sharing, and hashtag aggregation

  • Offer discounts or perks for valuable contributions

  • Create content specifically designed to be shared as UGC

The more UGC options you provide, and the more you promote quality UGC, the more users will want to generate branded content benefiting your brand.

Best Practices for Leveraging UGC

Once you have a steady stream of user generated content, you need to leverage it effectively. Here are some best practices brands should follow:

Get permission to share UGC

  • Always confirm that you have the rights to share user photos, videos, etc. on your own channels. Ask for permission when possible.

Credit the UGC creator

  • When sharing UGC, link back to the original creator’s profile/website to credit them. Users want recognition for their content.

Moderate UGC when necessary

  • Lightly review UGC before amplifying to ensure it meets guidelines and is high quality. Remove inappropriate or hazardous content.

Prioritize quality over quantity of UGC

  • Avoid sharing mediocre content just to increase UGC volume. Vet and amplify only the best examples that align with your brand image.

Use multimedia UGC

  • Photos, videos, GIFs and other engaging formats tend to perform well and get higher engagement.

Curate different types of UGC

  • Showcase a healthy mix of reviews, social posts, video testimonials, images, etc. Variety will resonate best with your audience.

Stay on top of UGC trends

  • Monitor viral memes, popular hashtags, and topics related to your brand. Timely, trending UGC can be very impactful.

Be authentic in your curation

  • UGC should not seem overtly promotional or heavily curated. Maintain a human voice.

Employ Text Moderation

  • Given the risks associated with harmful or inappropriate content, having some level of text moderation for user generated content is highly recommended. A light touch that reviews UGC prior to amplification can greatly mitigate risks from negative, false, or improper content while still maintaining the authenticity that makes UGC so valuable.

Smart UGC curation, built on user trust and quality content, will maximize the impact of your user generated content strategy.

UGC Ideas and Examples by Platform

User generated content can take many different forms across the various social media, community, and content platforms. Here are some examples of great UGC content opportunities on different sites:


  • Product unboxing and review videos

  • Tutorials and demonstrations featuring products

  • References and mentions of your brand in existing videos


  • User generated photos and videos featuring your products

  • Showcasing products being used in real-life settings

  • Leveraging branded hashtags and tagging your brand


  • Tweets mentioning your brand or praising your products

  • Engaging with followers and answering questions

  • Reposting memes and viral content referencing your brand


  • Sharing customer product reviews and ratings

  • Encouraging user photos showcasing products

  • Monitoring and participating in related Group discussions


  • Paying close attention to relevant subreddits

  • Joining in discussions and considering doing an AMA

  • Sharing viral Reddit content relating to your industry

Forums and Communities

  • Providing value by assisting with product questions

  • Requesting reviews and ratings after purchases

  • Recommending products to help other members


  • Seeking out brand interviews and reviews

  • Finding influencers/experts to discuss your industry

  • Sponsoring podcast content and requesting a mention


  • Guest articles and contributor opportunities

  • Giveaways and discounts in exchange for reviews

The key is determining which platforms your audience uses most and providing them opportunities to showcase their brand love through UGC.

Potential Pitfalls of UGC

While user generated content offers many advantages, there are also some potential downsides brands should be aware of:

Negative or harmful content

  • UGC is created by users, so occasionally it manifests as negative reviews, offensive comments, or even dangerous challenges. Brands must moderate closely to remove truly harmful UGC.

Misinformation and false claims

  • As UGC is often opinion-based, false information and reviews may be shared sometimes. This needs to be monitored and corrected when found.

Copyright and permission issues

  • If brands do not have the proper rights or permission to share a piece of UGC, legal issues can arise. Always confirm you are allowed to redistribute UGC.

Resource intensive to manage

  • An effective UGC strategy requires constant community monitoring, content moderation, amplification through your own channels. The resource commitment should not be underestimated.

Potential to dilute brand image

  • Low-quality images, amateurish videos, or embarrassing memes have the risk of reflecting poorly on a brand if shared. UGC must be vetted.

Lack of control over messaging

  • Brands cannot dictate what type of content users create about them, which may not always align with positioning.

With the right strategy focused on quality control and community management, brands can sidestep many of these potential UGC pitfalls.


User generated content presents a tremendous opportunity for brands to connect with customers in an authentic way. By encouraging users to share their brand experiences through reviews, social posts, videos, and more, companies can earn trust, improve engagement, and drive growth.

Here are some tips to get started with UGC:

  • Audit your platforms and identify where UGC opportunities exist. Look at direct integrations like reviews, but also UGC potential through social media and community discussions.

  • Make it as easy as possible for users to create UGC. Give them templates, incentives, and prominent calls to action inviting their contributions.

  • Amplify the best UGC by sharing it across your social channels. Credit the creators and ensure you have their permission.

  • Follow UGC best practices around quality control, legal permissions, moderation, and crediting creators.

Brands that embrace user generated content build strong evangelists and loyal brand advocates. They also enjoy content that is far more credible and engaging than branded content alone. UGC truly allows brands to involve their community in sharing their story.

Hopefully this guide has provided a comprehensive overview of what UGC is, why it matters, and how to cultivate it successfully. The future of marketing is user generated!

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