The Relevance of UGC in Today’s Social Media Landscape
User-generated content (UGC) refers to any unsponsored social media content that’s produced and shared by users of an online social media platform. UGC can take the form of images, videos, and blog posts – typically shared by everyday people. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), UGC needs to fulfill three basic requirements:
- UGC is intended for social networking site or on a website.
- UGC must demonstrate creative effort.
- UGC is most effective when created outside of professional routines.
Whether it’s a photo shared to my Instagram (of my new shoes that I purchased from @nordstrom) or a styled “flat lay” photo (of my desk accessories from @shopbando), the content I share from my social media channels with my community adds value to these brands. How so? According to data presented by AdWeek, 85% of users find UGC more influential than brand photos or videos. Additionally, an article published by DMN revealed Millennials ages 25 and above are the most significant contributors of UGC, contributing nearly 70% of all UGC. User-generated content is big business, and it’s an inexpensive tool that brands and organizations can leverage to turn their customers into brand advocates.
The Role of UGC Within the Organization
For many brands and organizations, social media is a free marketing and public relations tool with a low barrier to entry. As mobile technology and smartphone usage has become commonplace, the opportunity for customers to create content has grown exponentially. Walk into any coffee shop on Abbott Kinney in Venice Beach, CA, and you’ll see customers Instagramming their latte art. If you’re from the suburbs of Orange County, like me, the allure of an “Instagram destination” is strong enough to outweigh the distance and traffic associated with the trip.
UGC has become such an important aspect of a brand’s social media strategy that many brands and organizations now rely on UGC as a tool to drive sales. Companies such as Curalate, FourSixty, and Olapic have created shopping tools to monetize UGC for brands and organizations by providing the technology to incorporate them into website product pages and email blasts.
UGC In Action
Through my professional experiences, I have realized the opportunity for UGC to drive brand awareness and sales. As a Freelance Social Media Strategist and Consultant, I work with a variety of small start-up businesses in the e-commerce space. When designing their social media strategy, I encourage my clients to create opportunities for “shareable” social media moments. From designing Instagrammable packaging to including a personalized note from the brand –these are crucial elements in encouraging customers to share content on social media from the moment the package arrives at their door. From the moment the customer receives the product, we want them to feel part of the brand.
Leveraging UGC and Strategic Social Media in the Current Business Environment
Social media is no longer an option but a requirement in today’s business environment. Although establishing a presence across social media networks is essential, brands and organizations must be willing to create opportunities to encourage customers to share content. How do you incentivize your customers to share UGC? Here are 3 takeaways from Sprout Social on how to encourage customers to share their content about your brand:
- Choose the social media network most effective for your campaign. Know your audience and where their spending their time on social media is a great place to start. If you’re a millennial beauty brand like Glossier, Instagram might be the most effective platform of choice.
- Tell your audience what type of content you want. How does your customer know what kind of content you want, if you don’t tell them? This can be as simple as including a CTA inside the customer’s package that says, “Share where your travel takes you using #travelaway on Instagram.”
- Focus on the community aspect and collaborate. UGC doesn’t work unless your brand or organization takes the time to engage with your customer’s content.
 Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Business Horizons 53(1), 59-68.
 Morrison, K. (17 May, 2016) Why Consumers Share User-Generated Content. Retrieved from: https://www.adweek.com/digital/why-consumers-share-user-generated-content-infographic/
 10 Stats That Show Why User-Generated Content Works. (16, October 2015). [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://www.dmnews.com/content-marketing/blog/13042512/10-stats-that-show-why-usergenerated-content-works
 York, A. (23, May 2018). User-Generated Content: 5 Steps to Turn Customers Into Advocates. [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://sproutsocial.com/insights/user-generated-content-guide/