What is user-generated content? How does it help your small business marketing?

What is user-generated content? How does it help your small business marketing?

Posted: Fri 8th Sep 2023

With the rise of social media platforms and online communities, users no longer just consume content – they create it as well. User-generated content refers to any form of content – text, images, videos or reviews, for example – that's created by users rather than by a brand or company itself.

User-generated content has transformed the way businesses and people interact online, giving power to the users and fostering a sense of community and authenticity.

In this blog, we explore what user-generated content is, its benefits, and how it's revolutionised the way small businesses interact with their customers in the digital landscape.

What is user-generated content?

User-generated content means any form of content that's created and shared by users on various platforms such as social media, blogs or online communities. Typically, it includes brand-related content such as product reviews, blogs, social media posts and videos.

User-generated content can be powerful in helping to promote your business, as it allows real people to organically share their experiences, opinions and creative content about your brand or product. Because it's not you creating the content but your customers (or prospective customers), it provides a sense of authenticity and trust.

Lots of businesses have successfully built user-generated content (UGC) into their marketing campaigns to engage with potential customers, increase conversion rates, and improve the overall customer experience.

Where does user-generated content come from?

UGC content comes from a variety of sources, including social media platforms, online communities and customer reviews.

Social media

Social channels such as Facebook (Meta), Instagram, Twitter (X) and TikTok are popular places for users to create and share content. By posting updates, photos and videos on these platforms, they can showcase their personal experiences, interests and opinions.

Online communities

Online communities such as forums and discussion boards also serve as sources of UGC. These platforms provide a space for like-minded individuals to connect and contribute to ongoing conversations. Users can post questions, share insights and information, and provide valuable feedback on a wide range of topics.

Customer reviews

Customer reviews play a significant role in UGC. Consumers often leave reviews on websites like Yelp, Amazon and TripAdvisor to tell other people what they think about particular products, services or places.

These online reviews are crucial for potential customers as they provide a genuine and unbiased perspective on what your business is selling or offering.

What types of user-generated content are there?

There are many types of content, but here are some of the most common ones you'll come across:

  • Images: Customers can share photos of themselves using a product or service, promoting their positive experiences and showing themselves giving their endorsement.

  • Videos: User-created videos, such as unboxing videos or tutorials, can provide authentic and engaging visual content that shows a product or service in action or being used.

  • Social media content: Users can share their experiences and opinions on social channels, generating buzz and creating organic word-of-mouth marketing.

  • Product reviews: Customers can leave reviews and ratings on websites. By doing so, they help give other people an idea of what a product, service or business is like, influencing people's buying decisions in the process.

  • Blog posts: Users can contribute guest posts or write reviews on their own blogs, further expanding the reach and credibility of a brand's marketing efforts.

  • Surveys: Users answer questions via surveys designed to gather insights, preferences or data from a specific target audience or user group. In doing so, they provide their opinions, feedback or responses to specific questions or topics.


A female business owner in her kitchen at home filming herself with a smartphone camera mounted on a small tripod 

What are the benefits of user-generated content?

UGC provides numerous benefits for small businesses and brands.

Helps with market research

UGC helps you better understand your target audience, as you're able to interact and engage with customers directly. Through UGC, you can gain insights into what your customers prefer, need and want. As a result, you can tailor your products and services to better meet your audience's expectations.

Improves the customer experience

When you give customers the opportunity to make and share their own content, they feel a sense of ownership and belonging. This leads to increased engagement and generates a sense of community around your brand. When people feel free to express their opinions and experiences, it creates a platform for genuine interactions and building trust.

Boosts your brand's visibility

One of the big benefits of UGC lies in how it makes your brand much more visible online. When customers share their experiences and views on social platforms, or leave reviews and ratings on websites, it generates organic (and low-cost!) word-of-mouth marketing.

This helps build brand awareness and informs a wider audience about what your business is offering. But because search engines like Google often favour and prioritise UGC – because it's fresh and relevant – it can also boost your standing in search rankings, resulting in higher organic traffic and click-through rates.

That means people stand a better chance of finding you online among all the competition.

Saves you money on marketing

Instead of spending precious marketing budget on producing customer content, with UGC you can rely on your customers to create engaging and persuasive content for you.

This not only brings costs down, but also allows for a more efficient content strategy. With UGC, you can tap into your customers' creativity and use their experiences to create compelling marketing and advertising campaigns.

Furthermore, UGC has a direct impact on people's purchasing decisions. Studies have shown that consumers are more likely to buy based on recommendations from their peers rather than traditional advertising.

How do you get user-generated content?

Getting UGC that you can use for your marketing means putting certain methods and strategies in place that encourage customers to share their content.

Engage with your audience

One powerful way to do it is to actively engage and interact with your audience. This means responding promptly to comments and messages, showing appreciation for their contributions, and creating a welcoming environment that lets people communicate openly.

Run competitions

Another effective approach is to run contests and giveaways. Offer incentives or rewards to customers who share experiences, photos or videos relating to your business. This not only encourages them to create content but also generates excitement and exposes more people to your brand.

Take advantage of social media

Using social media platforms to get UGC is absolutely vital. Leverage the power of social media by creating engaging and shareable social content that encourages users to interact with your brand.

Ask customers to tag your brand in their posts and use hashtags to share their experiences. Consequently, you'll amplify your reach and generate a stream of valuable UGC that you can repurpose for your marketing.

Build a community

Consider creating dedicated spaces – such as forums or online platforms – where customers can connect, share their experiences, and provide feedback. By fostering a sense of belonging, you can encourage customers to make and share content that highlights their positive experiences with your business.

SHOUT: A tool for marketing user-generated content

UniTaskr's SHOUT is an innovative user-generated content platform designed to make collecting and curating UGC, and integrating it into your marketing efforts, really simple. It helps you harness the enthusiasm of your customers and turn them into brand advocates, all while providing an engaging and user-friendly experience.

Offer for Enterprise Nation members

Get 33.5% off SHOUT (£199 a month; usually £299 a month) for six months, when you join using the code EN2023. Sign up now to take advantage!

Benefits of using SHOUT for your UGC

  • Collect content with ease: SHOUT simplifies the process of collecting UGC by integrating seamlessly with your social media platforms.

  • Keep everything in one place: Once UGC starts pouring in, SHOUT's intuitive dashboard lets you curate and organise it. Whether it's a captivating customer photo, an inspiring video testimonial, or a heart-warming review, you can easily select and categorise content for future use.

  • Create interactive visual content: With SHOUT, you can showcase the curated UGC on your website, social media profiles and other marketing channels.

    The platform provides customisable display options, allowing you to create visually appealing galleries, carousels or grids that blend seamlessly with your brand's identity and aesthetics.

  • Engage with customers: SHOUT lets you connect with your customers by responding to their user-generated content. Express gratitude for their support, answer questions, and build an engaged community.

    You can also highlight and feature selected user-generated posts and give customers an incentive to continue sharing their experiences with you.

  • Run contests and challenges: SHOUT has the functionality to run interactive contests and challenges that revolve around UGC. Encourage customers to submit creative content based on a theme or prompt, and help build engagement and excitement among your audience.

  • Gain valuable insights: SHOUT's analytics tools help you understand how your UGC is performing. Monitor engagement metrics, track your campaigns' reach, and refine your marketing strategy based on real-time data.

  • Manage permission: Making sure you have the proper permission to use UGC content is crucial. SHOUT includes features that streamline the process of seeking and managing consent from content creators, helping you to act ethically and avoid any legal issues.

Are there any rules for how you use user-generated content?

Using UGC in marketing campaigns can sometimes present challenges. Making sure the content is authentic and high-quality can be a hurdle, as not all UGC may match your standards. It can also be difficult when you have a large volume of user-generated content to curate and manage.

When dealing with UGC, there are some rules and best practice to follow.

Get permission

Before you use someone's work, make sure you have their permission. It's really important to respect the rights of the people who created the content and seek their consent. This includes getting permission to display UCG on your website, on your social media channels, or in marketing campaigns.

If it's right to pay people, do it

Compensation is another aspect to consider when using UGC. Depending on the circumstances, you might need to pay content creators for their work.

For example, if you plans to use UGC in a commercial campaign or on product packaging, you should negotiate fair compensation with the person who created the content initially.

What are some examples of user-generated content?

  • GoPro have encouraged their customers to share their adventurous and action-packed videos using their products.

  • Starbucks ran a campaign called #WhiteCupContest, where it asked customers to create and share their own designs on the iconic white Starbucks cup.

  • Airbnb's #LiveThere campaign encouraged users to share their travel stories and tips using the hashtag.

Relevant resources

Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.

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