What Exactly Is User Generated Content?

User Generated Content (UGC) is any form of content created by ordinary people as a means of sharing and documenting their thoughts, opinions and experiences.

It includes images, videos, and written comments but nowadays, UGC is mostly shared online. With the rise of social media and monetised, dedicated reviews sites, it’s never been easier to produce, distribute and find (supposedly) impartial advice and recommendations.

The volume of UGC created daily has exploded with an average of 500 million tweets, 80 million Instagram posts and 350 million Facebook photos everyday (Source).

Why It’s So Effective

To cut a long story short, it’s effective because of 2 reasons.

1. It’s seen as far more trustworthy than Brand Generated Content (BGC). In fact, it’s trusted 12x more than adverts (Source).

And 2. It’s part the ‘Content Conundrum’ – a constantly replenishing, never-ending circle of content creating and seeking. Customer’s love to create content about brand interactions, whether it’s for attention, because they’ve had a particularly strong experience or a primal urge to tell stories. They then naturally look for similar content when they need help validating a purchase.   

This creates a significant opportunity for all brands. By encouraging, collecting and correctly harnessing UGC from customers, fans, supporters, advocates and influencers, marketers can incorporate this continuous social proof into their marketing, offering a more authentic and trustworthy message to current and future customers.

And if you still need convincing of its marketing value, it’s also free. Considering that content marketing spend in the UK is set to rise 179.2% to £349 million in 2020, from £125 million in 2014 (Source), it can offer some significant budget savings. 

Types Of UGC & Ideas On How To Use Them

If you’re low on resources but want to shake up your marketing campaigns, we’ve listed several types of UGC and how you can easily use them for maximum effect.

Reviews & Testimonials

These are probably the most straightforward types of UGC; customers ratings get straight to the crux of product and service validation. From the customer’s point of view, they offer a full insight into what a product or service is really like, which is so important now that online shopping has boomed. Not only are customers sat at home judging your brand, 54% of customers now use their mobile devices to look for product reviews while shopping in-store (Source).

From your point of view as a marketer, a positive review can sway a ‘maybe’ into becoming a ‘yes’. On top of that, adding them onto your website at key decision making moments will stop customers from leaving to find reviews elsewhere. The moment a customer leaves your website to look for social proof, they become vulnerable to Search Snatching!

Using UGC

When it comes to sourcing reviews, there are dedicated websites for particular industries such as TripAdvisor for travel, leisure and hospitality, and TrustPilot for retail. For a more direct approach, you could simply ask you customers to post a review upon purchasing.

Using UGC


Visual content is key to creating engaging and enticing marketing campaigns. It’s easy to perceive, capable of communicating clear messaging and can connote deeper ideologies. Visual content is capable of receiving 94% more views than text only marketing (Source). 

High-quality, eye-catching photos are expensive and stock imagery is blasé, whereas User Generated photos build trust. They show the real value proposition of a product or service, no photoshop, no fancy lighting and no artistic license (most of the time), just pure and honest real-life.

One ingenious way to prosper from UGC photos would be to swap stock photos for UGC in social campaigns. Whether it’s a simple post or social advertising, they can reassure customers that the quality they see is what they really get. And in terms of ROI, when StoryStream set up Gousto’s UGC social advertising capabilities, they saw a 30% increase in conversions and lowered cost per acquisition by 37%.


A Note On Rights Management

Whilst using User Generated images can bring many benefits to your engagement and conversion campaigns, bear in mind that every image, regardless of where it was posted or who it was posted by, is bound by copyright and is the property of the photographer.

You will always need permission to reuse customer images.



If your product or service is a bit more complicated or needs to be demonstrated, User Generated videos are a fantastic way of showcasing the experience customers can expect themselves. With no special effects, the impartial videos depict real life, in the moment evidence and stories, making it much more engaging and interactive.

If you’d like to monopolise on the emotive, expressive format of video you could look into creating a viral video campaign, asking users to not just create unusual, attention grabbing content but also advertise it.

Think outside the box for an extraordinary campaign and attach an altruistic, entertaining message to your call for content.

The Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association in the US did just that with its Ice Bucket Challenge campaign. e format was simple, throwing ice water over your own head; and yet it attracted the attentions of ordinary people and celebrities alike across the world.

The campaign was a massive success; playing on human traits such as competitiveness, narcissism and love of social media they received 37,205 media mentions and raised more than $100m in a 30 day period. There have been in excess of 2.4 million ice bucket-related videos posted on Facebook, and 28 million people have uploaded, commented on or liked ice bucket-related posts (Source). And most importantly, in 2016 they announced the donations had led to breakthrough research findings.


When blogs for started out, they were more in the style of glorified digital diaries but they have since developed into a legitimate career for talented and authentic content creators.

Bloggers want to share passions, express interests and become authority figures, making their  content produced perfect for social proof purposes.

In fact, a lot of high quality bloggers have built up a loyal following, becoming celebrities and influencers in their own right.

If you’re looking at working with a blogger/influencer, start by making sure that your brand images and their values align. It’d be pointless to use a blogger who’s following didn’t match your target audience.

Also, make sure you agree on deliverables. Communicate exactly what type of content and how much you’d like in return for them using your products and services. Just bear in mind, that to make sure the content produced is as trustworthy as possible, you shouldn’t be dictating the tone or direction of the content produced.

Birchbox, an online beauty subscription service, partnered with lifestyle blogger Emily Schuman to custom-make one of its monthly beauty supply boxes. With free reign over the products that could be picked, Emily chose ones that she knew would be popular with her 380,000+ followers and worked with Birchbox to promote her box.

In a short amount of time, Birchbox had grown their own following and reached more than half a million additional customers.

Content Optimisation Framework

UGC is a powerful marketing weapon that brands of all sizes should be leveraging. To have meaningful interactions with customers, brands need to serve the best UGC and BGC at the right time and in the right way.

Some brands have struggled to get this mix right, creating a scale of engagement capability. Brands can be roughly categorised by how sufficiently their marketing efforts engage customers and move them along the sales funnel.

Using UGC

The StoryStream Content Optimisation Framework

There isn’t a quick fix to make your brand appealing to your customers but there are several stages of advice and actions you can progress through to take you to the ultimate levels of brand capability.

Download our free practical guide to understand the 7 stages of content optimisation and learn how to make the best use of UGC and BGC.

Download The Ebook