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User-generated content’s important role in marketing

Jacob Favaro
Jacob Favaro
10 min read
10 May 2022

Understanding what UGC is, why it works, and how to dse it

User-generated content (UGC) in the digital marketing realm refers to any type of creative that is created by real consumers – not a brand itself. It represents an unbiased voice and can include text, reviews, videos, and images. But when we typically think of UGC content, we’re usually thinking of self-filmed videos.

People often use the terms “UGC” and “influencer marketing” interchangeably. In the past, we’ve thought of these as separate initiatives because influencer marketing is more about leveraging an influencer’s audience to drive sales, whereas UGC can be filmed by virtually anyone. We can thank the popularity of TikTok for this evolution, as we are now approaching a point where the creator economy has grown so large that UGC and influencer content are extremely similar.

Semantics aside, user-generated content is something you should consider developing for your brand. It’s not just a fad and should be considered a key concept you test, especially if you are a DTC or eCommerce brand with a physical product. UGC content has been proven to help brands develop trust, promote credibility, and positively influence purchase decisions.

Let’s first explore why it works, and then get into a case study where we have proven this concept.

Why does social proof work?

The great news about UGC content is that it can be cheap and relatively simple to produce (compared to large video productions). Even better news – consumers relate better to UGC content than traditional ads because it feels like a friend or influencer is talking to you. UGC creative also demonstrates the ease of use for products and lowers the perceived complexity or assembly when you see someone like yourself using it with no problems. As evidenced in the case studies below, social proof is more effective than traditional advertising when it comes to purchasing decisions because of its effect on consumer confidence. It feels like a more natural way of describing a product compared to the exaggerated and forced messaging some brands use.

UGC works because consumers trust their peers, and engagement is more organic. It feels native to the platform, meaning that it doesn’t immediately jump out as an ad when you first come across it, so it can build more trust when compared to the blatant and obvious advertising we are used to.

How do you produce user-generated content?

User-generated content is an attractive option for marketers because it takes considerably less time to develop compared to traditionally-produced video assets and typically performs well. Although it’s considered a more straightforward approach, quite a bit of planning is still needed if you want your UGC creative to succeed.

Finally, you’ll want to scope out your talent and work with them in a collaborative and community-driven way. Let your UGC creator have their personality shine through! The best UGC creatives feel authentic and raw, so don’t micromanage your creator. It should be a collaborative effort!

We have dedicated creative resources to develop UGC creative assets. One route you can take when developing UGC creative is to scope, book, and script the talent, so you get the exact talking points you want to hit about your product. Another option is to utilize a third-party vendor to manage the UGC content development. However, the downside is that you have much less control over the final result, which can be problematic for brands with complex products and specific value propositions.

  • Your first step will be to choose which channels you think will be most effective for your UGC campaign. Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok are obvious options for UGC creative, but YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter could be other viable channels to test into. Consider where your ideal audience spends their time and tailor your creative to those channels.
  • Next, you’ll need a solid understanding of what a successful UGC campaign looks like for you. Will this be an awareness, consideration, or conversion campaign? What KPIs will you be looking for? Are you hoping for higher brand engagement, increased conversion rates or product education levels, or building brand trust and awareness?
  • Once you identify your primary channels and campaign KPIs, put together a brief with specific talking points you want your UGC creators to cover to ensure you’re driving performance to hit your primary goals. For example, if brand engagement is your goal, you’ll want creators to do something disruptive or ask a question to spark conversation. If conversions are your goal, it might be good to have your creator touch on key differentiators, price points, or special promos. If you are educating new audiences for more brand awareness, you’ll want your creator to give an overview of the product and brand. The talking points are limitless, but you need to be specific with what you’d like your UGC creator to focus on.

Case study #1: Strong engagement and click-through rates

To test UGC in a controlled environment, we created two videos for our client Guava Family. These videos focused on their Lotus Travel Crib product, and we tested them in both an acquisition and a retargeting campaign against the brand’s top performing video ads (one which was heavily produced and the other which was a simpler slideshow video of photoshoot content).

In both of the UGC campaigns, we saw the creative drive much stronger engagement compared to the traditional video ads. We saw a 98% higher click-through rate (CTR), over 80 comments, and more than 1,000 shares in Acquisition, which was the most engagement Guava Family had ever received for one of its ads. In Remarketing, we saw a 106% higher CTR, 39 comments, and 115 shares.

The UGC content – at least in this context – was the right choice when it came to upper-funnel campaign strategy.

UGC Creative

Key takeaways:

  • UGC featuring a single person showcasing a product is a great opportunity for upper- and middle-funnel awareness. Consider testing out UGC in your next campaign where awareness and clicks are the primary KPIs you are aiming for.
  • UGC creative drives strong engagement because it’s a relatable way to explain key features to audiences who may have never heard of the brand or product before, enticing them to learn more.
  • Don’t rule out user-generated content for conversion goals! Although we didn’t see strong conversions in upper-funnel campaigns, that may be due to the higher price point of this specific product, where people need a little more time to decide whether or not to purchase. As you’ll see in the next case study below, we actually did see UGC creatives help drive strong performance for conversion goals.

Case study #2: Efficient cost per acquisition and more purchases

We conducted a similar UGC test for Guava Family’s Roam Crossover Stroller to determine whether or not this type of content in paid social campaigns would perform better than traditional brand-generated creative. We developed two new UGC videos for the Roam Crossover Stroller, which we’ll differentiate by the name of the person who recorded each video – Cindy and Sunny.

Because we saw the Lotus Travel Crib drive a strong CTR and high engagement, we hypothesized that this new UGC test would drive increased conversion volume. Similar to the test in case study #1, these were leveraged in acquisition and retargeting campaigns and were tested against our top-performing video ads.

The results we saw here were even better this time around, driving high conversion rates in addition to above-average CTRs. In the acquisition campaign, we saw Cindy’s ad drive a 31% more efficient cost per acquisition (CPA) and 80% higher Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) than our top acquisition video ad, despite having 67% less impression volume. Sunny’s video also performed well, driving 27% more purchases. We saw UGC videos continue to provide strong engagement, with Sunny’s video being the most engaging in the ad set with 12 shares, 36 post comments, and 31% higher than average CTR.

In remarketing for the Roam Crossover Stroller test, we saw UGC videos drive a 70% higher ROAS and a 40% lower CPA than the slideshow video ad. UGC creative also drove a 54% higher CTR. Sunny’s ad was the top purchasing ad in the ad set, accounting for 29% of the total purchases. It also had the highest CTR, 29% higher than the ad set average. Cindy’s video had the highest ROAS of all the ads, with a CPA that was 29% lower than the ad set average.

UGC creative from Cindy and Sunny

Key takeaways:

  • In our second case study for the Roam Crossover Stroller, we saw that user-generated content was more effective for driving purchases than traditional ads in both acquisition and remarketing ad sets.
  • UGC creative was also more captivating than standard creative, garnering a higher CTR and exceptional engagement.
  • Overall, we see that the more UGC creative assets we are able to test, the better we can understand how to position them within a brand’s broader advertising ecosystem.

How to use UGC creative

Interested in testing UGC creative for your brand? We’ve put together a three-step plan to get started.

    Begin by picking one product and campaign to test user-generated content in and decide what you want the key talking points to be. We recommend that you test this content in acquisition and retargeting campaign types to understand where this style of content is most impactful. Write out your brief and engage your full team to decide how to fit this into your creative mix. At this stage of the project, you’ll also want to decide whether you’d like to use a third-party resource or cast talent by yourself.
    Send out your brief and direct your talent to record their UGC content. Provide them with a simple way to upload their creative assets as they finish recording so you can easily sort through and find the best talking points and visual elements.
    Once you’ve strategized and created your user-generated content, it’s time to put all of the pieces together. You’ll want to edit your creative assets in a way that has a strong hook, showcases the product, and feels authentic to the platform you’re creating for. Add your key messaging points, a strong call to action, and make sure you get plenty of eyes on the project for reviews and any edits before launching the creative in your ad set!

Interested in testing out UGC creatives for your brand? Our expert creative team can help you source, film, and edit UGC content assets and drive exceptional results like we did for Guava Family – reach out to get started!

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Jacob Favaro