11 benefits of user-generated content (UGC) you simply can’t ignore

The digital landscape is continually changed by technological advancements, consumer behavior, and market trends. Despite these shifts, one constant remains: content is, and always will be, king. But while high-quality, brand produced content still holds its ground, a new contender has emerged in recent years and is proving to be a game changer, and that’s user-generated content (UGC).

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The benefit of user-generated content is undeniable. It plays a huge role in shaping brand perceptions, driving consumer engagement, and influencing purchasing decisions. It’s raw, real, and relatable, and it encapsulates the unvarnished experiences, perspectives, and opinions of the people who matter most to your clients’ brands—the customers.

Here are 11 undeniable UGC benefits that you simply can’t ignore.

What is considered user-generated content?

UGC can take many forms. It could be a photo shared on Instagram, a product review on a retailer’s website, a how-to video or an unboxing on YouTube, a testimonial on a blog, or simply a Tweet that sings praises or voices criticisms.

Regardless of its form, UGC serves as a testament to a customer’s interaction with your brand and it offers an authentic window into the real-world application and impact of your client’s products or services.

11 benefits of user-generated content to consider for your social media strategy

Why is user-generated content important? The reason is simple: it offers a host of benefits that traditional content can’t compete with. Here are 11 benefits you need to consider with UGC and why it may serve your social media strategy moving forward.

1. Authenticity

User-generated content provides an undeniable layer of authenticity that brands often strive to achieve and it’s one that traditional marketing methods simply can’t replicate. It comes straight from your customers or followers and provides a genuine, real-life perspective of your brand. The level of authenticity it adds helps to build trust and credibility among your audience and better yet, it offers a transparent look at what the brand actually offers.

UGC represents the raw, unfiltered voice of the consumer. That includes their experiences, joys, challenges, and triumphs. It captures the human element of brand interactions and makes a company feel more relatable and more trustworthy at the same time. At a time when consumers are becoming more discerning about the products and services they buy, user-generated content can be a huge differentiator.

While UGC embodies authenticity in words, it also offers it in visuals. Photos and visuals shared by users depict real people in real world situations instead of staged models or actors in carefully crafted scenes. The genuineness of these visuals typically resonates deeply with audiences thanks to the authentic glimpse it gives into the use and impact of what your client’s products or services are.

The authenticity that UGC provides isn’t just a beneficial byproduct; it’s also a crucial element in building a trustworthy brand image, one of the most important benefits of user-generated content.

2. Increased engagement

User-generated content often triggers a higher level of engagement than brand-generated content. Why? The reason lies in the relatability and genuineness of UGC. Seeing content from peers rather than a corporate entity instills a sense of trust among users. That makes them more likely to interact, comment, and share, therapy increasing your content’s reach and visibility. It’s also worth noting that 93 percent of customers feel that user-generated content helps them make buying decisions (Everyone Social).

Is that why user-generated content is important when it comes to engagement? Partially! A large part of this engagement stems from the social aspect of UGC. People love to share their experiences opinions, and ideas. By providing a platform for users to share their content, you’re essentially fueling a social exchange that encourages more users to join the conversation.

It also brings an element of diversity, and that’s a prime contributor when it comes to engagement. The range of perspectives, voices, styles, and creativity is why user-generated content is so important. It caters to the different tastes and perspectives within your audience, enticing them to participate and share their unique experiences.

UGC encourages a two-way conversation. It’s not just about passive content consumption but it’s also about actively participating, sharing their thoughts, and feeling heard. When audiences see brands valuing their input and acknowledging their contributions, they’re more likely to continue engaging in the future.

3. Cost-effective

Among the myriad benefits of UGC, cost-effectiveness often stands out. Leveraging this user-generated content is a budget-friendly strategy that can reduce your content creation costs substantially, giving you the opportunity to earn more in your own social marketing business. Traditional content production often involves a variety of expenses, including photography and models, graphic designers, location scouting, props, and post-production costs. UGC, on the other hand, is created by users and of little to no cost to the brand.

Users that generate this content are enthusiastic creators who frequently share their experiences, opinions, and images online. By repurposing their existing content, you can populate your brand’s platforms with engaging content and avoid the additional expenses. That puts more room in your budget for other marketing strategies and frees up your time to focus on other strategic tasks.

User-generated content often brings unexpected creative approaches that you and your team might not have already considered. This user-driven creativity can add unique value to your content strategy and help your client’s brand stand out from the crowd.

4. Diverse content

One of the big benefits of user-generated content is that it’s inherently diverse. It reflects a wide array of perspectives, styles, and formats. This diversity is its strength, adding a multi-faceted dimension to your client’s content strategy. Different users bring unique viewpoints, cultural nuances, creative expressions, and personal experiences to the table, contributing to a rich tapestry of content that resonates with various segments of your audience.

What’s more, UGC also introduces different types of content to your mix. From photos, videos, reviews, and testimonials to blog posts, comments, and social media shares, this variety of content can help keep your audience engaged and interested.

The diversity of user-generated content ensures that your brand stays dynamic and evolving. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, UGC offers a wide spectrum of voices and narratives, keeping your content current. It allows your client’s brand to connect with different audience segments on a deeper level, fostering inclusivity and representation for everyone. By showcasing UGC, you’re demonstrating the brand’s commitment to celebrating uniqueness and individuality.

5. Social proofing

The digital world operates almost exclusively on influence. Most consumers rely on the actions and opinions of others before making any major buying decision and this is one of the most prominent benefits of user-generated content: it’s an incredibly powerful form of social proof. When potential customers see real people using and enjoying your client’s products and services, it instills a sense of trust and reliability in the brand.

UGC in the form of testimonials and reviews can have a profound impact on consumer behavior. 91 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (BrightLocal). That statistic highlights the influential role UGC plays as a form of social proof.

It also has the power to dramatically enhance your client’s brand reputation. Sharing it on various platforms can shape public perception of the brand, improve customer retention, and attract new customers. When users go that extra mile to create content about positive experiences with the brand, it speaks volumes about their satisfaction and loyalty.

6. Community building

A significant benefit of UGC is its ability to foster a sense of community among an audience. UGC encourages active audience participation, and that leads to fruitful interactions and discussions.

User-generated content gives your audience a platform to voice their opinions and experiences. It also helps them feel valued and heard by the brand and by other members of the community. This feeling of being valued leads to customers who are more satisfied, connected, and loyal to your brand. It also forms a shared identity among customers, facilitating deeper connections between users as they bond over share experiences or perspectives related to the brand.

This interactive ecosystem strengthens the bond between your brand and your audience, turning the brand from a simple product or service provider to a hub for engagement and connection. The community built around the brand becomes a potent promotional force and their advocacy helps you increase reach and organically enhance the brand image.

7. Increased reach

Let’s reiterate: UGC can significantly enhance a brand’s reach. This is a huge benefit of user-generated content. When users create content and share it on their own social media profiles, they’re indirectly endorsing your brand to their personal networks. This endorsement, coming from trusted sources like friends or family, holds immense persuasive power and as a result, it leads to increased interest and potential conversions.

The power of UGC extends beyond the creator’s immediate network. If the content is unique, engaging, or valuable, it has the potential to go viral, catapulting the brand’s reach to unprecedented levels. This amplification effect maximizes your reach and enhances its reputation among a broader audience. Think of it like having an army of brand ambassadors who promote you to a large audience—for free.

As an added UGC benefit, the resulting increase in reach provides you with more data to analyze and leverage. That gives you more insight into your audience and helps you better refine your marketing strategies.

8. Better SEO visibility and rankings

You might wonder how a benefit of user-generated content could possibly be better SEO when the users who generated it are unlikely to know or even understand vital SEO elements like keywords and localization. The answer lies in how search engines interpret user engagement. UGC is naturally engaging, often prompting interactions such as likes, shares, and comments. These are all signals to search engines that your content is valuable, active, and relevant, and that can potentially lead to improved organic traffic, reach, and visibility.

UGC keeps your website up to date with fresh content. Search engines like Google typically favor sites that upload new content regularly. These sites are considered more dynamic and up to date. Fresh content can also diversify the keywords associated with your site and that expands the list of search queries your site can rank for.

An additional benefit of user-generated content is that it extends the amount of time users tend to stay on your website, which is an important factor for search engine rankings. That’s particularly true for the most engaging types of UGC, such as reviews and testimonials, user-generated videos, and comments on blogs or social media posts. The longer visitors stay on your website, the lower your bounce rate becomes and that indicates to search engines that your site is providing quality content.

9. Emotional connection

The emotional connection that UGC fosters is arguably one of its most important benefits. Unlike the usual brand-centric content that companies post, UGC holds a strong emotional value that helps it resonate deeply with audiences.

Studies show that 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual and that visuals are processed as much as 60,000 times faster than text (Hubspot), so keep that in mind when you’re posting user-generated content. When users share their experiences through personal images and videos that feature the product or service provided by your client’s brand, it’s more likely to evoke stronger emotional responses in the viewer than text-based content would. These emotions might include joy, nostalgia, inspiration, empathy, or humor depending on the content and each one of those leads to a deeper, more meaningful connection between the brand and its audience.

Antonio Damasio, a renowned neuroscientist conducting research surrounding how emotions play a role in decision-making, discovered that people with damage in the part of the brain where emotions are generated struggle to make decisions (Harvard Business Review). This further indicates the power emotions play in purchasing decisions.

User-generated content often encapsulates personal stories and experiences that elicit strong emotions. Whether it’s the excitement of unboxing a new product, the satisfaction of a relatable problem being solved by a service, or the joy of a memorable experience that’s tied to a brand, these emotions can drive stronger brand loyalty. When consumers see each other deriving joy or satisfaction from your client’s offerings, they’re more likely to relate to the brand and make a purchase of their own.

10. Insightful feedback

When it comes to making data-driven decisions about your marketing strategy, feedback is gold. One of the many UGC benefits is the open, unfiltered source of feedback that it can provide, along with valuable insights into your customers’ preferences, needs, and behaviors.

77 percent of consumers hold a more favorable view of brands that incorporate customer feedback (Microsoft). Furthermore, the companies that act on that feedback have a 14.6 percent higher user retention rate than those that don’t (Alchemer). These statistics underline the potential of UGC as a feedback mechanism and highlight its importance when it comes to improving customer retention.

By now, we know that UGC can come in various forms such as reviews, comments, social media posts, and blogs. While positive UGC can affirm the effectiveness of your strategies, negative UGC can actually be equally beneficial. It can help you identify areas of improvement, as well as give you the opportunity to show your audience how far you’re willing to go to keep customers happy.

In essence, UGC gives you a direct line to your customers’ thoughts and experiences, ensuring your brand remains relevant, appealing, and customer-centric. By analyzing UGC, you can make informed decisions, tailor your marketing strategies, and refine your products or services to better meet consumer needs.

11. Storytelling opportunities

User-generated content brings with it a plethora of authentic stories and experiences, offering unique opportunities for your brand. Incorporating these narratives into your marketing strategy adds depth and authenticity to your brand’s image, distinguishing you from the competition.

Stories are innately human and they’ve got the power to captivate and engage large audiences. When customers share their experiences with your client’s product or service they are, in fact, narrating the story of their personal journey with the brand. Harnessing these stories is the key to humanizing the brand to create a more personal and relatable image.

Moreover, stories evoke emotions, giving you the opportunity to create memorable moments that leave a lasting impression on your audience. This drives brand loyalty and affinity and that ultimately is what makes a successful brand.

Frequently asked questions

How can I encourage my audience to create and share user generated content?

Encouraging your audience to create UGC involves fostering a positive relationship and often, providing incentives. Open up channels for feedback and conversations. Engage with your audience on social media platforms, respond to their questions, and appreciate their efforts when they leave you a comment or create UGC.

Run contests or campaigns that invite your audience to share experiences and ideas, offering rewards for participation such as a prize draw. Feature UGC on your website or social media platforms to show your audience that their content is valued. Providing a platform that fosters creativity, inclusivity, and engagement will naturally encourage followers to actively participate and create more UGC.

What are the benefits of using user generated content for SEO?

UGC provides multiple SEO benefits. First and foremost, it keeps the content on your website fresh, which is a factor that search engines value. Second, it diversifies the keywords associated with your website, expanding your visibility for various search queries. Third, it engages users and increases user interaction, which increases the amount of time they spend on your website and signals to search engines that you’re creating quality content. And fourth, it’s a great way to generate backlinks for your website if the content is shared to their own platforms, too, and that boosts your site’s authority.

About the Author

Lawrence Dy is the SEO Strategy Manager at Vendasta. His career spans from starting as a Jr. Copywriter in the automotive industry to becoming a Senior Editorial Content Manager in various digital marketing niches. Outside of work, Lawrence moonlights as a music producer/beatmaker and spends time with friends and family.

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