Weighing the Pros and Cons of User-Generated Content for Marketing


  • With the rise of ad blockers and influencer marketing, user-generated content (UGC) is turning heads.
  • 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends and acquaintances.
  • 71% of millennials engage with user-generated media every day.
  • While UGC limits your company’s control of content, it can also build trust and transparency with consumers.

When’s the last time you listened to a YouTube ad all the way through, rather than scrambling to click “Skip” as soon as five seconds are up? Or groaned as you whitelist a new website on your ad blocker so you could find out if you’re more House Targarfyen or House Lannister? Consumers are savvy when it comes to tuning out ads online, much to the chagrin of marketers everywhere just trying to do their jobs.

In reality, this advert-aversion has a pretty rational basis. Consumers don’t always trust traditional advertisements – they can seem impersonal and biased at best, disingenuous and manipulative at worst.

User-generated content, on the other hand, can offer consumers more genuine reflections of the value of a product or service, leading to better engagement and higher click-through rates. In fact, UGC-based ads have been found to hit quadruple the click-through rates of other types of advertising, at half the average cost-per-click.

Of course, putting control over content into the hands of consumers can increase risk to your company’s image, not to mention logistical headaches over authenticity and ownership. At the same time, data about consumers’ habits certainly supports many advantages of user-generated content. We’ve examined both sides of the debate to bring you an ultimate guide to the pros and cons of UGC.

What is User-Generated Content?

Also called consumer-generated media (CGM) or consumer-generated content (CGC), user-generated content (UGC) is any content created by and for customers or end-users. UGC can be user reviews, Instagram photos or other social media images, video, blogs, audio, or other forms of media, made publicly available to inform other buyers about your product or service.

Proponents argue that consumers perceive UGC as more trustworthy than traditional advertising because it’s seen as unbiased. Still, successful UGC campaigns must include careful considerations for legal ownership of content, as well as content moderation to ensure that your brand’s integrity and image are well reflected. So, what are the advantages of user-generated content? Here are a few.

What are the Advantages of User-Generated Content:

  • UGC can help build trust.
  • UGC boosts efficiency while centering customers.
  • UGC can expand your audience.

Build Trust – and Engagement

As we’ve mentioned, consumers just don’t trust ads as much as they trust other consumers. Stats reflect this: Some sources report that word-of-mouth marketing actually doubles sales compared to paid advertising. Of course, these days “word-of-mouth” happens as often online as anywhere else (if not more). Indeed, some 88% of consumers trust online reviews at least as much as they trust the recommendations of their friends.

Amazon and eBay broke the mold by incorporating customer reviews into a more transparent buyer’s journey, and the trend has since expanded to virtually every kind of product or service.

When consumers see that other users are genuinely satisfied with your product or service, they’re more likely to engage – especially if they can see exactly why customers are so satisfied with high-quality, detailed written or visual content. Even a simple photo and hashtag on Instagram can make a genuine, lasting memory for potential users.

Boost Efficiency while Centering Customers

With UGC, you kill two birds with one stone. You’re marketing your product while also providing trusted information to customers.

Let’s say your company sells a top-of-the-line gadget that comes packaged with accessories, such as a case or a charger. A well-written review or high-quality unboxing video can do more than just generate hype. It can give customers a heads-up on what to expect when their product arrives, and perhaps even preempt customer questions that your company may otherwise need to field through a customer service channel. This kind of first-hand, user-oriented information creates a better experience for the consumer without over-burdening whatever customer service systems you already have in place.

On top of that, you’re outsourcing your marketing to impartial third parties, allowing you to get ahead of the content crunch with high-value content created by people your customers already view as more trustworthy.

With well-utilized UGC, proponents say you can better inform customers about your product or service both before and after purchase, all the while saving time and money.

Expand Your Audience

With 71% of millennials engaging UGC every day as of 2014, it’s clear that letting users and influencers handle at least some of your content marketing can help cast a wide marketing net. With the built-in ethos that comes with firsthand users, UGC can help not just expand your audience, but better target your marketing to the right audiences.

By making sure your UGC and influencer marketing campaigns work together with strong SEO practices, you’re more likely to meet the customers you want exactly where they are, with information they can actually use.

We couldn’t write a blog on the disadvantages and advantages of user-generated content without focusing on the negatives. Here are a few.

What are the Cons of User-Generated Media?

  • Content is in the hands of users (not your company).
  • Authenticity is tricky online.

Less Control Over Content

Even if UGC represents only a small portion of your marketing efforts, an oversight can lead to major consequences. The most obvious risk is a PR disaster caused by an image, tweet, or other post that negatively reflects on your brand.

Another consideration is the legal framework of content not created by your company. Content creators – in this case, the users themselves – are the content owners. To utilize UGC well, you may need to study up to create clear policies around how your UGC is created, moderated, and published.

Maintaining Authenticity

The last thing you want is to spam up potential customers’ feeds with UGC created by bots – or more sinister sources. As with any online endeavor, verifying the identity of customers posting on your behalf can be tricky, but can also mean the difference between a fruitful marketing campaign and an unprofessional mess.

Getting the Most Out of UGC

If you’ve weighed the pros and cons of UGC and it seems like the right move for your brand, make sure you’re up for the legwork it takes to launch a successful campaign. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to avoiding miscommunication or PR fails.

Set up a platform for collecting and organizing – as well as moderating – UGC. Create systems for fielding off-brand or negative content before it goes live, but also consider ways to utilize negative reviews to improve your product, image, or customers’ experience.

Create detailed UGC permissions and communicate policies clearly with potential content creators.

Get Informed!

Whether you’re ready to get started with UGC today or don’t quite have the bandwidth for it yet, the digital marketing experts at Redefine Marketing Group are here to answer your marketing questions regarding SEO and beyond. Reach out any time to talk more about the pros and cons of UGC and whether it’s right for you. We can help!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephanie was an SEO content writer before transitioning to a management role. As the co-founder and Head of Content at RMG, she oversees everything from the development of content strategies and content creation to day-to-day office operations. She graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in Journalism, and enjoys showing clients the power and versatility of content.
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