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Content Marketing 26 min read March 24, 2022

Why User-Generated Content Matters and How to Get the Most out of It

Top eCommerce Lead Generation Strategies
Why User-Generated Content Matters and How to Get the Most out of It

Сo-founder and CEO at inBeat
UGC is a tool many marketers praise as the ultimate recipe for success. It is credible, cost-effective, authentic, and convincing. No wonder it is now part of the promotional efforts of such industry A-listers as Google, RedBull, and Sephora.

However, if you have a growing business that has yet to establish a solid reputation on the market, you might have doubts about incorporating UGC into your marketing strategy. You may worry:

  • What if a client leaves a negative review?
  • What if people won’t engage with your campaign?
  • Is it going to affect the brand’s identity in the wrong way?

These concerns are indeed legit. And we're going to address them and prove that UGC is worth taking a closer look at in this detailed article. So rest assured: UGC can be that extra push your marketing strategy needs to make those sales skyrocket.

What is User-Generated Content?

Let's go through this step by step. First, what is UGC, and what comprises it?

You can safely take UGC at face value when it comes to the meaning of the abbreviation. It includes all types of content a consumer (or any person not involved in your business) produces voluntarily. In other words, people do not get paid to create content related to your brand or product – different kinds of incentives are at play here (more on that a bit later).

The main types of UGC include:
  • Product reviews and testimonials;
  • Blog entries;
  • Pictures and videos;
  • Interviews;
  • Polls and surveys;
  • Hashtags;
  • Q&A’s;
  • Case studies, etc.
Where do people post UGC? The heaviest flow of UGC runs through social media, including Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. But it doesn’t end there. Many e-commerce websites give users the opportunity to contribute and share their opinions and reviews.

Consumers’ voices are now more visible and relevant to businesses than ever before.

Why Should You Care about UGC?

Is UGC really that big of a deal when it comes to a successful business?

Yes. Absolutely.
Here’s what Wendell Lansford, co-founder at Wyng, said about UGC at a 2016 New York Participation Marketing Conference:

“When 85 percent of consumers say they find UGC more influential than brand-created content, it’s time for marketers to listen. It’s more important than ever for brands to have a proactive strategy for connecting with consumers, inspiring UGC creation and leveraging that content to increase performance across all of their channels.”

Let’s see why UGC seems to have become the cornerstone of any successful marketing strategy these days:

  • UGC translates into your brand’s trustworthiness and credibility.
More than 70% of marketers incorporate UGC into their marketing campaigns precisely for this reason – and it pays off!

How does it look? Well, people trust other people – UGC is raw, accurate, and, therefore, much more believable than an old-fashioned ad. The quantity and quality of UGC related to your brand represent how much people appreciate and value it.
  • UGC is excellent if you rely on word-of-mouth marketing.
Word-of-mouth marketing is exactly what it sounds like. This strategy is all about encouraging consumers to spread positive discussions and narratives about your brand in a natural, non-intrusive way. The secret here is to give the people something to talk about constantly. And generating such a flow of ideas proves challenging these days: we live in a world of endless informational white noise and forget things quickly.

Here’s where UGC becomes an unlimited source of new talks and impressions people can share. In a way, UGC is word-of-mouth. And it serves the purpose perfectly.
  • UGC guides purchasing decisions….
It is especially true for Millennials and Zoomers: an astounding 97% of people between 18 and 29 say UGS has “extreme influence” on their buying choices.
  • … and it helps people deal with purchasing anxiety.
73% of people claim that UGC is their source of purchasing confidence. The more reviews and visual content your potential buyer goes through, the better understanding of the chosen product they have. This awareness and growing familiarity will help them shake off doubts or questions.
  • UGC helps you build a community around your brand.
A community is a group of like-minded individuals who constantly interact and share similar interests or values. Your brand can become this value!

The more customers share their experiences with your product and recognize that you appreciate their voices, the more devoted they will be to your brand in general. Besides, the sense of community will encourage customers to align with your vision and mission.
  • UGC consistently drives conversion rates up.
Yotpo’s research shows that businesses in all industries witness a remarkable 161% increase in conversions in users who see UGC on e-commerce websites and social media compared to those who don't.

Here’s how it affects various commerce spheres:
Yotpo’s research: how user-genereted content impacts conversion rate
How user-genereted content impacts conversion rate
  • UGC is a SEO asset.
Lots of e-commerce websites struggle with navigating SEO practices, especially if they’re just starting out. The good news is UGC does a fantastic job at strengthening SEO for your business:

  • UGC ensures the inflow of fresh and relevant content for major search engines;
  • It boosts social optimization;
  • UGC contributors (users) play an essential role in shaping an SEO framework with authentic and appropriate keywords and internal links.
  • UGC is very affordable.
Last but not least. The whole idea of UGC revolves around its voluntary character. It’s your customers who run the show and create entire narratives around your brand, not asking for any immediate material compensation.

Investing in a solid UGC marketing strategy will cost you much less than squandering money on paid posts and glossy ads. And the jump in conversions and sales will be much more sustainable.

8 Ways to Get the Most out of UGC

Now that you know how pivotal UGC marketing can be for the growth of your brand, let’s get down to business. Find 8 unique ways to leverage UGC below.

  1. Show Customer Ratings And Product Reviews On Your Website

Customer feedback is nothing short of essential to the success of your business. This is the source of validation and recognition that will drive more and more traffic to your e-commerce webpage. Besides, reviews are vital cues for potential customers who may still choose the brand to go with.

Then why have your potential customers look for reviews of your products at third-party online platforms when you can display UGC directly on your brand website?

Use these simple tips to make the most of adding ratings and/or reviews to your webpage:
  • Update reviews and ratings often: outdated information would hardly pique your potential customers’ interest. Keep the surveys fresh and relevant.
  • Sort reviews geographically: if your business covers more than one region, site visitors will benefit from being able to select location-specific ratings and reviews.
  • Introduce eye-catching widgets: embeddable widgets allow your webpage visitors to leave a review on major sites like Google. Yet, you can link and display them on your website.
Pro-tip: engage with reviews displayed on your site! Reply to them, address customers’ concerns, and thank them for placing their trust in your brand. Faster review response times are closely linked to having a positive reputation.

2. Have Fun With The Poll Function

People love polls. It’s that easy.

And when it comes to marketing, poll function on social media such as Instagram or Facebook can drive audiences engagement up due to several simple factors:
  • People feel that their opinion counts;
  • When you ask to choose between specific options, people respond with more enthusiasm;
  • Results are instantly visible – it spikes visitors’ curiosity.
Create polls related to your brand and products to get people to discuss them, want to try them out, or even have a say in how your company can grow and develop.

Want a stellar case study? Take a look at HelloFresh: the prep-meal company regularly conducts Instagram polls and asks followers to decide which recipes and meal choices they want to see on sale. People know their opinions matter, and it manifests in HelloFresh constantly changing their menus to cater to the respondents' wishes. Excellent work with feedback!
Instagram polls by HelloFresh
On top of that, the brand uses polls to run quizzes and keep its audiences engaged. This interactive mode of communication with followers encourages more and more people to visit the brand’s website and try out their products.

Extra idea: another way to take advantage of UGC is to create poll ads on Facebook and Instagram. A recent Meta study shows that poll ads are more effective than traditional video ads when it comes to boosting engagement and brand awareness.

3. Do Not Shy Away From Negative Reviews

No brand wants to have negative feedback on their products or services for public display. And when you stumble upon a 2-star review, your first urge might be to delete it. Besides, no business is immune to falling victim to fake or paid negative reviews or comments.

Yet, honest critical feedback from real customers is a valuable source of growth for your brand. If you think you can’t benefit from actively engaging with negative comments on your webpage or review platform, consider this:

53% of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week. Yet, 63% of people say that they never got back to them at least one company they reviewed.

It’s not about being grumpy – customers want honest interaction, and they wish to witness the brand’s accountability for possible flaws or mistakes.

How can you respond to negative customer feedback responsibly?
  • Acknowledge the problem and apologize to the user for the inconveniences;
  • Personalize your response;
  • Put forward possible solutions to the problem;
  • Offer compensation or a replacement to the flawed item/service;
  • Be friendly and respectful throughout all stages of interaction with the customer.
Once the buyer feels you are dedicated to correcting your mistake and giving them a positive experience, their dissatisfaction will start turning into trust.

Pro Tip: to be able to track and address negative feedback and customers’ concerns in general, you can create a separate webpage where your brand will respond to reviews quickly. Some companies take it a step further and bring it on social media: Xbox and Nike have special Twitter accounts (@XboxSupport and @NikeSupport, respectively) whose sole purpose is to be there for their customers around the clock. This sort of attention to feedback is something to look up to.

4. Prioritize Visual UGC

People are drawn to images – no wonder social scientists label our digital generation as possessing “clip thinking.”

Marketing is no exception to this dominance of visual media. Would you rather read a lengthy product description or watch a YouTube user review on the product of your interest?
The absolute majority of potential buyers opt for the latter nowadays. More than 80% of people say that visual UGC is more influential than any kind of official promotional brand materials.

Visual UGC provides a number of specific advantages over other types of user-generated content:
  • People can see what your product looks like in reality;
  • It is possible to analyze the product’s performance;
  • Visual UGC is authentic and relatable.
Encourage visual content from your customers: ask them to take pictures of your product or even create video reviews you can then post to your social media. Various tools are designed to convert images to videos that can help increase engagement. You can also prioritize customer feedback accompanied by pictures and/or videos to display ratings and reviews on your website.

5. Use UGC As The Basis For A Customer Loyalty Program

Fostering customer loyalty should be any brand’s priority. According to a 2020 study, acquiring a new customer costs 5 times more than keeping an existing buyer.

Suppose you want people to continue to choose your product on the market, where alternative options are nearly endless. In that case, a solid customer loyalty program is just the right kind of incentive for a buyer. And you can leverage UGC to create and develop such a program.

How does it work?

In a nutshell, you motivate your customers to contribute reviews, images, and videos of your product in return for a reward of your choice:
  • Offer a discount for a future purchase to users whose pictures accumulate a high number of likes on social media;
  • Organize giveaways to those buyers who have consistently shared reviews of your products;
  • Give customers points for UGC submissions and exchange them for promo codes, discounts, other rewards, etc.
Incorporating UGC into the customer loyalty strategy will encourage your top reviewers to stay active and motivate newcomers to stay with your brand, spreading the word about your product on social media and review platforms. Everybody wins!

Björn Borg is a remarkable case of a loyalty program based heavily on UGC. The company organizes sports events and contests, motivating their customers to share the pictures and videos of their training sessions wearing the brand’s clothes on Instagram. As a result, customers get rewarded for staying active and promoting the brand’s image and values at the same time.

6. Start And Spread a Hashtag

Hashtags are the new (well, not so new) black, and they come with a lot of benefits if you use them correctly.

A hashtag is a label you attach to the content related to your brand so that audiences can quickly identify and find it. So why not create a unique hashtag for your brand or campaign? People are so used to adding hashtags to all kinds of UGC that you won’t even need to convince your customers and social media followers to spread your brand-specific hashtag.

The more people include your hashtag into their reviews, photos, or comments, the more traction you get online, which will inevitably increase conversions.

If you’re new to hashtags as part of UGC-oriented marketing, here are some tips to help you reach bigger audiences and encourage people to spread your brand’s hashtags:
  • Create a unique hashtag associated with your brand, people can include in their UGC. If it is concise and catchy, it can simply be #yourbrandsname or your brand's slogan.
  • Start hashtags for your promotional campaigns, contests, and other events. Get people to use them as part of the whole company-buyer interaction process.
  • Combine your unique brand hashtag with currently trending tags. Get people to associate your brand with major social media tendencies, events, or agendas. Remember the #icebucketchallenge that has conquered the Internet? Many businesses encouraged their customers to partake in the challenge to support the cause and stay on top of the public agenda. You and your buyers can be part of the hot trends, too.
  • Use location-specific tags. If your business covers multiple regions, local hashtags will help customers create a sense of community. Plus, it will be easier for you to track your audiences’ activity geographically.
If you look for some inspiration, consider Lululemon as a brand that has mastered the use of hashtags. Apart from using their unique #lululemon tag, they have started the #thesweatlife campaign and asked their followers and customers to contribute workout images wearing their clothes. As a result, thousands of tagged posts with endless likes, reactions, and comments spring up every day, and the brand shares them on their main social media pages.
An example of using hashtags to increase activity on the page

7. Organize A UGC Contest

More than 80% of marketers agree that interactive content is highly effective at attracting potential and actual customers’ attention. On top of that, interactive content leads to twice as many conversions as traditional, “passive” content.

Combining the power of interactive content with UGC is a killer tactic for spreading brand awareness and increasing sales.

People love the sense of adventure and competition, and you can leverage that by hosting a UGC contest – probably the most entertaining and viral-worthy type of interactive online event.

Come up with an engaging concept for the contest, and make UGC its central element.
As a prize, you can offer a free product, a sum of money, a spot in your ad campaign – whatever works for the brand.

National Geographic aced the UGC competition strategy by starting the Wanderlust campaign in 2015. People shared their best travel and nature photos on social media and competed for a week-long photo expedition to Yosemite National Park. This contest gathered hundreds of beautiful shots and helped increase the brand’s publicity.

So don’t be afraid to explore the engaging potential of a UGC contest for your brand. The money you invest in the campaign and the prize will come back, and then some – in the form of conversions, sales, and the brand’s increased visibility.

8. Collaborate With Micro-Influencers

Influencer marketing is booming right now, and for a reason. Just under 50% of customers depend on influencer recommendations when making a purchasing decision, and this number is even higher for people under the age of 21 – up to 71%.

If you want to maximize the flow of unique UGC related to your brand, consider collaborating with micro-influencers within your business niche. The benefits are multiple:
  • Micro-influencers are easy to reach compared to major celebrities;
  • Their audiences are dedicated and active, which boosts engagement rates;
  • They will represent your brand in an authentic way.
Once you’ve established a collaboration with an influencer, they will open your brand to their follower base, and this introduction will open the door for more conversions and sales.

Partnership with social media micro-influencers can take many forms. Consider the following to boost UGC related to your brand:
  • Let the influencer review one or several of your products based on the followers’ questions;
  • Have the influencer request photo and video submissions displaying or using your product;
  • Organize a giveaway for the influencer’s followers based on their reviews (it can take the form of a UGC contest).
Or, you can take it a step further and attract influencers to be part of a specific campaign. Boxed Water is a brand that regularly teams up with micro-influencers on Instagram to promote the brand and its eco-friendly cause. Influencers encourage their followers to post pictures and videos featuring Boxed Water cartons under their #ReTree hashtag, and the company promises to plant 2 trees for every repost. It is a perfect combination of a social campaign and a UGC-based promotional strategy.

How to Audit Your Content Production: a Step-By-Step Guide

Leveraging UGC: Mistakes to Avoid

Now that you’re fully equipped with the best UGC marketing practices, it’s time to give a bit of cautionary advice. Avoid making these 3 mistakes to make sure your UGC strategy runs smoothly:
Publishing or sharing UGC without the contributor’s consent.
57% of marketers who have not yet incorporated UGC into their strategies claim that copyright is their most significant point of concern. It’s not surprising – no one wants to deal with legal copyright issues, and sometimes the concept of authorship can get blurry when it comes to stuff posted online on a public platform.

However, don’t let this fear stop you from leveraging UGC. Just make sure you always ask the contributor’s permission to share their content and don’t forget to give them credit. When you organize an extensive campaign, explicitly have people know that their images, videos, and other materials can appear on your brand’s web pages or social media.
Sharing or reposting without purpose.
Blindly reposting any piece of UGC, even loosely related to your brand, is not the best idea – people might have a hard time relating to it.
Develop the core concept of your UGC strategy and decide what kind of content would present your product and brand in the best light. Then follow this view when selecting the repost-worthy material.

Better yet, tell your audiences exactly what you want!
53% of contributors would like to receive clear guidelines on what kind of content the company expects them to create, and 42% would appreciate specific examples.

Define the format, tone, and style of content you think works best for the brand, and don't hesitate to encourage potential contributors to follow suit.
Going against your brand’s values.
It’s certainly great to see that your brand appeals to various audiences and types of consumers. Yet, you have to remember that the UGC you display and spread across your marketing channels should align with the values and vision of your company.

For example, if you're an openly eco-friendly brand, avoid partnering with nano- or micro-influencers who may wear fur or promote animal-tested cosmetics. People are quick to spot such inconsistencies and will label your company as two-faced or insincere. This reputation will hurt both your credibility and sales.

The same goes for individual contributors. Do not repost offensive, controversial, or politically charged UGC to stay away from potential conflicts.

To be extra-safe, establish a way of tracking your UGC and make sure you do not abandon your core philosophy while chasing UGC flow. You may also consider creating specific ethical UGC guidelines for users.

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User-generated content has solidified its spot as the ultimate marketing tool to boost brand awareness, conversions, and sales. As a result, bold startups, small businesses, and industry giants increasingly include UGC in their marketing efforts.

Whether you are investing in a well-thought-out UGC campaign or simply reposting occasional reviews from your customers – UGC has a way of attracting people to your brand and manifesting its quality. Nothing speaks louder than honest feedback from real people.

Don't be afraid to engage with UGC marketing and take advantage of this article's tips, examples, and guidelines.
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