In marketing terms, user-generated content (UGC) is a form of content that comes from a publisher’s audience and is usually repurposed for a marketing campaign or published as an article or blog post.
In this definition...
What is considered user-generated content?
This content may include articles, videos, pictures, social sharing, or written reviews that are related to a product or service in some way.
User-generated content is the opposite of publisher-generated content, which is produced by a company exclusively for advertising, educational, or journalistic purposes. Organic UGC is not to be confused with influencer marketing, which uses content that a user creates because they are being compensated instead of volunteering to do so.
More broadly, UGC also includes content that is published on a social media platform, forum, or similar application, but those instances are rarely used for marketing purposes. This categorization includes most public-facing content, but excludes private communications between individuals on the same platform(s).
How does user-generated content differ from influencer marketing?
Organic user-generated content is not to be confused with influencer marketing, which uses content that a user creates because they are being compensated instead of volunteering to do so. The majority of influencer marketing is done through influencer-generated content (IGC). Influencers often provide more value with their IGC because they already have a well-established and large audience present to market products and services.
IGC is commonly a paid investment from the company to an influencer with an established, attentive, and engaged audience, resulting in stronger impressions on the marketed products and services. Unser-generated content can sometimes lack the consistency of quality audiences because those marketing the products could miss key marketing strategies like solving consumer pain points and utilizing call-to-action prompts.
User-generated content has been around for longer than most people may realize. Historically, one of the first uses of UGC was when the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) was founded in 1857. The founder of the OED, Richard Chenevix Trench of the London Philological Society, pursued assistance from the public English-speaking world to create the dictionary’s first edition.
With the evolution of technology, there has been an increasing presence of online discussion forums and bulletin boards that use UGC to aggregate information on specific topics. One of these online bulletin boards became what is known now as IMDb, specifically for people in the film industry to showcase their résumés. More recent UGC content has become widely used among the rise of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Type of UGC
Social media content, blog posts, and video sharing from platforms such as Instagram and YouTube are the most widely used types of UGC used today. However, UGC content published on a social media platform, forum, or similar application is rarely used for specific marketing purposes. This type of UGC includes more public-facing content shared among users and does not include private communications between users.
Other types of UGC used for marketing purposes include reviews and testimonials. Reviews and testimonials provide information to other potential buyers or existing customers about a brand’s products and services. Customer-driven UGC uses reviews and testimonials as essentially online word-of-mouth. This type of UGC helps other customers know about the brand before visiting a store or website.
Distinguishing UGC from other types of content can be challenging at times. Using Webopedia as an example, this article (when housed on www.webopedia.com) is considered publisher-generated content and any comments submitted by visitors to our site would be considered UGC. A social media post containing a link to this article with added commentary is also considered UGC and could be repurposed for a Webopedia marketing campaign with permission from the user.
Impacts of user-generated content
Utilizing UGC can be beneficial to brands for marketing and branding opportunities and can be used effectively regardless of the generation of the target audience. A study done by Bazaarvoice surveyed a group of Millennials and Baby Boomers on how much UGC played into their purchase decisions.
The study uncovered that 84% of Millennials said UGC somewhat influenced purchasing decisions compared to 70% of Baby Boomers. Furthermore, over 25% of each generation said UGC greatly influenced their purchasing habits.
UGC software for brands
UGC software can be highly beneficial for brands to use. While there may be numerous options available, here are some of the four top UGC software for brands:
- Bazaarvoice: Using UGC organically allows influencers to connect with brands, share reviews, photos, and videos, and ask or answer questions
- Yotpo: Helps brands find and leverage social proof to boost sales with features such as displaying UGC on the checkout page
- Trend: Assisting by partnering with influencers to utilize UGC content according to brand guidelines and promote content to target audiences
- Pixlee: Allows brands to collect, curate, create, and discover UGC by automatically sourcing content from social media, influencers, shoppers, and even brand employees
This article was reviewed and updated in February 2022 by Amanda Scheldt.