The pros and cons of user-generated content

31 Aug 2022  |  by Joe Meade

When you include user-generated content (UGC) in your marketing campaigns, you can encourage your customers to engage with you, build authenticity, and ease the strain on internal teams.  

Although marketers are becoming increasingly enamoured with UGC and the benefits it provides, there are drawbacks associated with this marketing tactic. In this guide, we’ll take an in-depth look at the pros and cons of UGC, so you can decide whether this form of marketing is right for your brand.  

What is user-generated content?

User-generated content is any form of content that is created by people rather than brands. UGC takes many different forms, including:

  • Blog posts
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Reviews
  • Testimonials
  • Podcasts
  • Social media posts

For example, when a customer buys a new pair of trainers from an e-commerce store, they may snap a photo and post it on their Instagram account, tagging the store in the process.

Alternatively, a customer may love their new product so much that they leave a review on your site and testimonials on independent sites to tell people about how great you are.

The pros of user-generated content

User-generated content provides benefits at all stages of the buyer journey. This is because UGC can be used on social media channels, in email marketing campaigns, for landing pages, and on checkout pages.

Plus, when UGC marketing campaigns are employed effectively by brands, they can influence engagement and increase conversions. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the pros of user-generated content in greater detail:

Increases authenticity

Brands are finding it tougher than ever to capture and keep the attention of their audience. This is because buyers are becoming more selective about the brands they interact with and purchase from. This is particularly true of Millennials and those from Gen Z.

Today, customers favour brands who are providing them with authentic and quality content. UGC is perfect for this purpose, as it comes directly from other customers rather than a marketing team.

Ultimately, customers trust other customers more than they trust a brand’s employees. This is why featuring a lot of UGC can help you build brand trust and credibility. Plus, showcasing your consumers or their work in your marketing makes your brand appear more approachable and helps you seem less corporate and distant.

Establish brand loyalty and grow a community

Customers who feel loyal to a brand enjoy producing UGC because it provides them with an opportunity to participate in the brand’s growth and success. Due to this, UGC influences brand loyalty by allowing customers to become an active part of a brand’s community.

On top of this, UGC also opens up conversations between a brand and a customer. This level of interaction helps a business build and grow an engaged community that can help the business thrive.

Similarly, sharing content that has been generated by customers also helps develop and deepen audience/business relationships, which in turn drives further brand loyalty. This is because the process actively highlights the work of your customers and shows your appreciation towards them, which in turn makes them more likely to return in the future.

Increase conversions and influence purchasing decisions

In the final stage of the buyer’s journey, user-generated content is incredibly influential in converting an audience member to a customer. This is because UGC acts as authentic proof that your product is worthy of buying.

For example, rather than seeing models wearing your clothing or seeing highly-posed and glossy adverts for your products, your prospects will see people like them using your product and raving about it.

Reduces your content needs

One of the most prominent advantages that user-generated content provides is that it lowers your own content burden. When you harness the power of your audience’s creativity, you can put minimal effort into establishing and maintaining a regular online presence and driving traffic to your site. Thousands of heads are much better than one, so if you’re struggling to think of ideas for new content, you can turn to your audience for ideas.

On top of this, by relying on your audience for content output rather than your internal team, you can save lots of time and money. 

The approach is adaptable and flexible

Although the majority of UGC campaigns take place on social media, UGC content can be used in almost all forms of marketing campaigns. This means that UGC can be an integral part of any omnichannel approach.

For example, you can include UGC images in abandoned cart emails to help nudge buyers towards returning to make a purchase, or you could add user-generated content to key landing pages to help increase conversion rates.

The approach is cost-effective

Influencer marketing is one of the biggest marketing trends of the 21st century. However, depending on the influencers you hire to promote your products and services, the costs can quickly add up. After all, US Weekly has previously reported that Kim Kardashian can make “upwards of $1 million” from a single Instagram post. On the other hand, the average cost of asking your customers to share posts of them enjoying your product is next to nothing.

The cons of user-generated content

So, we now know that user-generated content is highly valuable to a business. However, although UGC can provide you with a great number of benefits, it can also cause problems if you don’t actively monitor the process. The cons associated with user-generated content include:

Negative content is inevitable

Negative UGC can be damaging. Inappropriate comments, poor product reviews, and negative tweets can all affect your brand.

However, you should be careful when it comes to removing negative UGC. This is because poor reviews (as long as you’ve responded and remedied the issue) can help make your brand look authentic. Similarly, these negative reviews and testimonials also provide your business with a learning opportunity. After all, they can provide you with a great deal of customer insight and teach you about the exact wants, needs, and desires of your customers.

For this reason, you should never reply to negative feedback with a dismissive tone. Instead, you should acknowledge your failings and attempt to rectify the issue. This way, you’ll actually improve your brand’s image and appear as a company that listens, responds, and learns.

UGC requires close supervision

Due to the above, you must make sure that any UGC campaigns are monitored closely by your team. This way, you can take down any posts that may be damaging and address the concerns of customers who believe that your product has underperformed or that your service has been poor.

Of course, it takes time and money to find someone to monitor existing UGC and post new pieces of work. And of course, as we’ve highlighted above, you can’t simply cut corners and not moderate user-generated content. If you do, you may only spot a problem when it is already too late. This is particularly true in the case of people who post spam, as this will negate any potential value you’ve generated. Thankfully, to help with this process, you can use automatic filtering tools.

Content is coming from unknown and potentially unreliable sources

Some of your customers may not trust your UGC. This is because the content comes from people who have an unknown background and no authority.

Added to this, with so many different contributors to police, your team may find that your system is abused by people using aliases and fake reviews. Due to this, you must find some way of policing your UGC content submissions and ensuring that any you’re using come from people who have genuinely purchased your product. If you verify all users before you allow them to post reviews, you can add ‘verified reviewer’ badges to their profiles, which will increase authenticity and trust.

Ensuring you know the legalities surrounding UGC

If you run a UGC content campaign, then you need to make sure that you’re up-to-date with all the legalities that surround these campaigns.

For example, if you run a social media campaign and ask your customers to take a photo of them using your product, you still need the explicit permission of the user in question before you can use the image. This is because the author of the photograph owns the rights to that image.

Now, considering the customer shared that image with you in the first place, it’s highly likely that they will let you use it for marketing purposes. However, you must get their permission before you post the image. Otherwise, you may end up on the wrong side of the law.

Should you make use of user-generated content?

Although there are drawbacks to using UGC, the benefits user-generated content provides far outweigh the negatives associated with the tactic. This is because UGC can not only help you save time and money when it comes to content creation, but it can also help you build trust and move prospects down the sales funnel.

That said, UGC strategies must be carried out with caution. You must never cut corners, and you should make every effort to ensure that the content you use has been created by real people. This way, you can create a level of authenticity and trust that you could not create with branded content.

Overall, people are more likely to trust and rely on the views of other customers than they are to rely on the views of your marketing team. So, by running specific campaigns that encourage users to upload content, you can drastically improve your reach, your engagement with potential customers, and your conversion rates.

However, familiarity with the downsides associated with user-generated content is important. After all, if you know the negatives associated with this type of marketing campaign, you can avoid falling into any avoidable pitfalls.

Let Apteco help guide your marketing efforts

Not only can we connect your company’s data, but we can also help you truly understand your audience, build ideal audiences for campaigns, create audience segments, and monitor your results. To take pressure off your team, we can even help you automate campaigns. With our help, you can ensure that every piece of marketing is relevant, targeted, and personal.

Talk to the team today to learn more


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Joe Meade

Group Marketing and Communications Specialist

Joe joined the Apteco marketing team in 2021. A large part of Joe's role involves coordinating regular partner and customer communications, events and exhibitions, monthly marketing reports and website development. Outside of work, Joe spends his weekends either watching or playing rugby.

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