A new bombshell has entered the villa! If you’re a social media scholar (that’s all of us, by the way), you’ve probably noticed a growing trend of UGC sponsorships. Let’s go over what it is, what it means for us, and if the new wave is right for you!
UGC is a new category of brand sponsorships - it stands for user generated content. There are several differences between UGC and traditional paid sponsorships, including type of content produced, who makes it, and the benefits for brands and creators.
What is UGC content?
Similar to paid sponsorships, UGC content can take the form of images, videos, reviews, a testimonial, or even a podcast. The difference is that it’s original, brand-specific content created by customers, brand loyalists, or employees. Paid sponsorships, on the other hand, is content influencers / creators are paid to make, without any necessary tie to the brands. This detail is important because UGC is kind of like the modern-day word of mouth.
According to Hootsuite, UGC is usually delivered to the business without any obligation for creators to post on their own channels, whereas for traditional paid sponsorships, creators must post on their own channels - part of what the brand is paying for is access to the creator’s audience.
Nowadays, social media is overly saturated with paid sponsorships - think the Kardashian/Jenner’s and their sponsored #ads for crypto, diet shakes, weight-loss gummies, you name it. These are one-time deals where big creators get thousands of dollars to post one time about something they may or may not even use. But consumers are paying attention and getting fatigued from the constant barrage of Sponcon. In this macroeconomic environment, buyers are tightening their purse strings and more selective about the brands they interact with and purchase from - instead opting for creator content that feels truly passionate about the products they’re promoting.
What are good examples of UGC content?
Below are examples of strong UGC content across TikTok and YouTube.
In this video, YouTube UGC creator Michel Janse shares her honest, non-sponsored review of the Oura ring. She clearly notes that the video is not sponsored which automatically gets her fans to trust her review more. She talks about both pros and cons of the ring. She dives into details on concretely (including some engaging stories) how the ring has shaped her life.
In this video, YouTube UGC creator Chase the Summit shares his honest review of Athletic Greens. In this video, he openly discusses how he came across Athletic Greens and became a subscriber and daily Athletic Greens drinker without any sponsorship. The brand is also quite in line with his content style and his audience who are mainly interested in fitness and health. His review is especially compelling because he discusses the long term impacts.
In this video, Hannah shares her honest review of All Birds.
In this video, Nicki shares her honest review of The Ordinary.
In this video, Victoria shares an honest review of Stanley Cup.
Why is UGC content good?
UGC content is more authentic. Unlike paid sponsorships, UGC content is not explicitly paid for by the brand - it is user generated by definition. As a result, viewers put a lot more stock in UGC content, and thus UGC content often sees better engagement than paid sponsorships, especially as new regulations have forced creators to explicitly disclose when something is a #paid promotion.
UGC content spans social media platforms. UGC content can be created, shared, and seen on any social media platform - it is truly platform agnostic. UGC content can reach fans no matter what type of social media they prefer. As mentioned at the start of this article, UGC can be written content, video content, image content, or audio content.
UGC content is the frontier of content marketing. UGC content is a novel marketing strategy for brands that is not yet saturated by neither the brand nor the creator side. UGC content is authentic, and UGC creators have a genuine way of creating content that brands can tap into. UGC creators have a real ability to drive consumer purchasing decisions through trust.
UGC content is engaging. At the end of the day, UGC content is just good! UGC creators know what people like to see and can share brands in a way that actually captivate rather than turn people off. UGC content is content that people actually want to see and learn from. The target audience is open minded and interested in learning and altering their buying behavior accordingly.
UGC content improves brand awareness. Brands love UGC content because it generates visibility for their brand amongst a wide variety of target audience members. UGC creators can improve a brand’s trust, presence, positioning, and narrative online across social media platforms.
In short, UGC content
- Establishes brand loyalty and grows community
- Acts as a trust signal
- Is adaptable and repurposable on many platforms
- Increases conversions and influences purchasing decisions
- Is more cost effective than influencer marketing
In our research, we discovered what is called “The Influencer Trifecta” - this framework is, from our findings, the most effective way for brands to approach influencer marketing today:
- Start by identifying creators who will truly advocate for your products or services to their organic audience
- Give the creators the freedom to create UGC that feels authentic to their audience rather than a set of rigid talking points that the audience will tune out
- Identify the content and campaigns that produce the best organic results and fuel them with influencer paid social
How do you become a UGC creator?
Below are some pro tips and best practices on how you can become a UGC creator.
Have a UGC strategy. Your strategy is the foundation of your content, so start by formulating your UGC strategy. Identify and articulate content pillars you want your content to center around. Figure out your posting frequency, which should take into account your fan’s appetite for content, your own bandwidth, and the need to stay relevant. Identify what else you want to do to complement your UGC content. For example, you may reach out to brands directly and link to your aforementioned UGC portfolio.
Join a creator community. Becoming a UGC creator and just being a creator in general can be a lonely and challenging journey. Through creator communities you can connect with other creators who are doing similar work. You can share learnings around best practices for creating UGC content. You can commiserate over shared frustrations. You can share feedback on each other’s work. And you can get ideas for future UGC videos and to refine your UGC strategy. Beacons has a great creator community that you can join where you can meet other UGC creators and more.
Prioritize quality over quantity. While you may want to get as many shots on goal as possible, it’s best to take the time to make effective shots on goal. That is, you should invest in making high quality UGC videos that will be more likely to attract brand attention. Many brands are inundated with UGC content from creators, so you want to do everything you can to stand out. But quality applies not only to your UGC content itself but also your overall strategy, including what else you do to engage with brands, such as doing separate outreach or engaging with them on their posts.
Review creative briefs. Through the aforementioned creator communities and through creator friends or even just online searches, you can find creative briefs from past brand deals. These creative briefs are written by brands indicating what type of video or other content they would like their paid influencers to create. Through these creative briefs, you can better understand what style of content these brands prefer and adjust your own UGC videos and UGC strategy accordingly.
Find your niche. Brands see tons of UGC creators and content daily. In the long term, to stand out, you need to create a brand for yourself. You need to be known as the UGC creator for some specific niche. If your selected niche is too broad, it will be challenging if not impossible to be the UGC creator for that niche. Select an appropriately focused niche that you’re excited about and that is aligned with your audience. The niche should be broad enough to chart a path but not overly broad. Incorporate your niche in the content pillars of your UGC strategy.
Make a list of brands you’d like to work with. Before creating UGC content, create a list of brands you’d like to create content on and eventually work with. As would follow from the above point around finding your niche, try to find a common theme for these brands so your UGC creator brand can be more focused as well. For example, if you’re passionate about ethical brands, focus your list on ethical brands and select ethical brands as your creator niche.
Start making product reviews. Create UGC content even before brands reach out to you! Your UGC content will put you on their radar. Make sure to tag the brands you’re posting about. A great first piece of UGC content to create is a product review. Try their product and share your honest (hopefully positive) opinion on your experience. Talk about everything from the purchase flow to the usability to the short and medium term impacts of their product. Be sure to note that your review is not sponsored as that will drive even more engagement from fans because they know your review is authentic.
Make UGC videos. While static image content is easier to create, multimedia content, such as video content is more compelling for brands. Video content also drives more engagement from users, which further puts your content on the radar of brands. Some examples of videos you could create are the aforementioned product reviews, videos of you using the product, videos of you buying the product, a vlog including mentions of how the product fits into your daily routine, and a video of you measuring the impacts of the product.
Create a UGC portfolio. Put together a list of examples of UGC content you have made for brands. Your UGC portfolio should showcase the type of engagement you get on the content (views, likes, and comments) you create. It should also convey your content style, voice, and unique ability to market brands to your audience.
Have a UGC shop. Create a page (such as a Beacons page!) that serves as a sort of UGC shop - a storefront where you link to the different products you have created UGC content about and would recommend to your followers. This is a great complement to your UGC portfolio. Your UGC shop is an easy way for your followers to find everything you have recommended and for you to get extra brownie points with any linked brands you’d like to work with.
How do you find UGC opportunities?
You’re probably convinced by now that UGC content is good, and you now know how to get started! But how do you go about positioning yourself for brand partnerships through UGC? Brands want to find the right creators to work with. Through taking the below steps, you can find and get noticed by the best brands for you.
Follow brands. Follow all the brands that you have created content about and that you’d like to work with. Not only will these brands begin to notice you, but other related brands will find you as well, which leads to more opportunities. Try to follow brands even before you have created content about them or reached out to them - that way, you have more time to be noticed and the connection appears more authentic and less transactional.
Engage with brands. Don’t just follow brands but engage with their content as well. Like their posts, watch their stories, comment on their posts, and respond to their polls and Q and A. Through engaging with brands, you’re better positioning yourself to be noticed by these brands.
See which brands are working with creators. As you’re scrolling through social media, notice which brands you follow (or find on your feed or explore pages) are working with UGC creators. Different brands have different appetite levels for UGC content and working with UGC creators. It’s generally a positive sign when you see a UGC creator working with a brand because it indicates the brand has budget, time, and interest to work with other UGC creators like yourself.
Offer usage rights. Usage rights are a good way to monetize UGC without entering paid sponsorship territory. Brands can pay for the right to use the content you created about them for a certain period of time. There are different ways you can offer usage rights - you can charge more or less depending on the amount of time the brand would like to use the content. You can charge more or less for the number of platforms the brand can share the content on. You can charge different rates for different pieces of content depending on content quality and traction. When brands ask if they can use your content, you can discuss their purchasing usage rights.
Share your engagement rates. Follower counts don’t tell the whole story and more and more so now brands are becoming aware of the quality issues follower counts can hide. If you have great engagement rates, especially with your existing UGC content, share these with brands. You can often negotiate more effectively and stand out more through having strong engagement metrics.
Use influencer marketing platforms. Use platforms like Aspire to find brands to work with. Such influencer marketing platforms serve to connect brands with creators who can create marketing content for them. Brands browse a database of creators and add filters to identify the best fit creators. Make a profile through these platforms and connect with suitable brands.
Connect with a manager. Creator managers help creators find brands to work with. Different managers have different models but typically managers take a cut of creator income. Different managers also work with creators of different sizes, platforms, geographies, and industries. Consider finding a manager who is right for you.
**Get referrals from other creators.**Through the aforementioned creator communities and your existing creator relationships, connect with UGC creators who have worked with brands on UGC content. Ask them about their experiences, for their pro tips and best practices, and for a referral to brands they enjoyed working with that you also want to partner with. Often times a warm, trusted intro is most effective.
Is UGC right for you?
So, how do you know if UGC is for you? There are a few reasons why UGC might be a great option for you to monetize:
- If you have a small but super engaged audience - you don’t have to be limited by your follower count - no matter the size of your platform, brands will run the content through their own platform or ads
- The type of content you want to make - UGC content is often easier because it’s an unboxing, product tutorial, or product reviews - almost like the day-in-the-life content that is authentic to you - you can write your own script and don’t have to do infinite rounds of editing to meet the brand’s demands
- You are truly a fan of the product - you use it regularly, and it’s authentic to your lifestyle (see How to find brands to work with to better understand what works for you!)
On the other hand, paid sponsorships are similar in some ways but have important differences*:
- Paid sponsorships are a 1x, low commitment opportunity. This might be good for something you don’t use regularly but are okay with being associated with once.
- Traditional paid sponsorships can be really lucrative if you have a larger following or your own brand and that’s what you’re selling—your own promotion of a product to your audience.
- You’re okay with the brand dictating your content, therefore giving up creative control - you also have the tools, time, and specialty to create the exact type of content the brand is looking for
- This route involves more pitching yourself and cold outreach (see How to pitch yourself to brands to learn more about how to do this!)
- These sponsorships usually have higher earning potential (see our pricing calculator if you need help figuring out how much to charge!)
- You might notice that these preferences tend to benefit creators who are more established.
Depending on where you are in your creator journey, either one can work for you. UGC might make more sense with a true brand loyalist, or a creator who is just starting out. Paid sponsorships might make more sense later in your creator journey once you have already established your own brand and can loan it to other businesses to sell their products.
With that, you’re ready to start on your UGC creator journey! You can now understand
- What UGC entails
- Whether UGC is right for you
- How to make UGC content
- How to connect with brands on UGC creator opportunities