There is a huge discrepancy between marketers and consumers about what is considered authentic content marketing.

92% of marketers think their content is authentic (meaning being genuine with their audience and not commercialized) and resonates with their audience. Meanwhile, 51% of consumers believe less than half of brands have authentic content.

How do we solve this problem of creating content that is actually appreciated by an audience? The answer may be found with user-generated content.


What is user-generated content?

User-generated content (UGC) is content that is created by fans/followers, not the brand itself. This includes text, reviews, videos, and images. Sometimes people will post about your brand with no prompt, but other times UGC is encouraged by your company. For example, a food blogger could ask their followers to tag them in social media posts of when they cook their recipes.

People will post about your products or services online, and you’ll often find UGC on social media.

This gives your brand more exposure to a new audience. Your customers promoting you on social media could lead to their followers getting to know you as well.


Why does user-generated content work?

Since UGC means that you’re not creating the content, why is this strategy so effective?

There are four reasons how UGC can help your content marketing strategy:


Builds authenticity

UGC makes your brand seem more personable. In a world filled with chatbots and automated messages, people want human to human interactions. UGC gives them that interaction.

Things like reviews, images, and videos from actual people can boost authenticity with your brand. In fact, consumers are 2.4 times more likely to say that UGC is more authentic than brand-created content.


Creates trust

People don’t trust advertisements the way they used to in the past. User-generated content, like reviews, is instrumental in earning trust from your audience.

Many consumers don’t even need to know the person to trust their review. 76% of consumers trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation. But why do online reviews matter? Well, it turns out that 95% of consumers read reviews before making a purchase. The more good reviews you have, the more trust you can earn from consumers.

The same way if a friend recommends that you read a certain article from a specific website, you’re more likely to go to that site than another one covering the same topic.


Higher engagement

Since people trust UGC more, they are also more likely to interact or share those posts. 45% of marketing professionals say that UGC increases their social media engagement.

If you truly want to know UGC's effectiveness, make sure you have a proper analytics process to track success.

Here are some metrics you might want to track:

  • Number of times a branded hashtag is used
  • Number of mentions on social media
  • Number of comments received
  • How many users created UGC

You’ll also want to include social listening in your analytics report since people don’t always tag your brand when talking about you. Social listening can help you monitor keywords related to your brand and find more UGC.


Drives purchasing decisions

User-generated content all ultimately lead to one goal - they help an audience make purchasing decisions. 79% of people say that UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions.

For digital publishers, this can be a strategy for affiliate marketing. If people are sharing and talking about your website, others may go to your website, and make purchases based on your recommendations.

UGC builds all the important factors that people need to determine if they want to become loyal fans. They get to know, like, and trust you because other people said that your brand is trustworthy.


How to earn user-generated content


If you find that your website is generating some really engaging or informative comments, it’s never a bad idea to turn your comments into content! Comments don’t have to be a way for visitors to leave passing remarks. If you engage with them - ideally by a dialogue responding or fueling the conversation - comments can become part of your authentic story itself.

Disqus makes it easy to embed comments into your articles, that way you can show off or highlight certain content from your site visitors. We’ve actually created entire articles around this method, such as What Disqus Commenters Are Saying About Game of Thrones.



Contests or even giveaways are a popular way to grow your social media following. If your goal is to get user-generated content, you could run a photo contest. Ask your followers to post a photo and tag your social handles.


Social media takeovers

You can have an influencer takeover your account for the day. They may post photos, do a live stream, or even have a Q&A session on your Instagram Stories.

This spares you from creating content that day, but you also can get exposure to a new audience (Plus you can take pieces of content from that takeover and repurpose them into social posts). An influencer often shares that they are doing a social media takeover on their accounts, and this can lead to more traffic to your social media accounts.


Branded hashtags

Encourage your audience to use a hashtag that your brand uses. This makes it easy for you to discover UGC on social media.

Take a look at Disqus publisher The Every Girl. They encourage their Instagram followers to use #sharetheeverygirl to be featured.


the everygirl instagram


Be careful to only interact with content that matches your message. Sometimes people use hashtags without being aware that it’s associated with your brand.


Encourage sharing in your packaging

If you run an ecommerce site and are often shipping out products, then you know that sometimes luxurious packaging makes your product Instagram worthy. People often share on Instagram stories what it’s like to unwrap products they receive. It’s a fun reveal and an interactive experience for the audience.

There are a couple of ways to encourage sharing on social media. You can put a branded hashtag on the outside of the packaging, or add a “thank you” note with your social handles and ask your customers to snap a photo, post it on social media, and tag your social media handle. Don’t forget to comment on their post to build a community around your brand.


Ask permission

One of the most significant issues that a content marketer will have with UGC is copyright. You may not technically own any user-generated content, especially if it’s a video or image.

Sometimes there is a gray area with sharing UGC on your profile. For example, people might not have a problem with you sharing their Instagram Story content if you were tagged in it. Other times you face consequences for sharing content on your Instagram profile without permission and/or tagging the original creator.

This is why it’s important to get permission from the content creators to share their work on your profile. You can comment on their post or slide into their DMs to ask if it’s okay to reshare their post. Many people will say “yes,” but don’t be surprised if bigger influencers ask for payment.


Now that you know all about user-generated content, are you excited to use it on your social media accounts?