In recent years, user-generated content (UGC) has emerged as a powerful tool for both reaching the target audience and driving higher conversion rates.
How powerful? One study finds that consumer-created content highly impacts purchase decisions for 79% of consumers. Professional brand images pulled in only 13%.
UGC is a digital marketing approach that makes a big impact on nearly four out of five consumers — and it’s far cheaper to execute, too. No wonder brands of all sizes are turning to UGC ads as a part of their marketing campaigns.
Here’s everything you need to know about UGC ads: what they are, how to use them to reach potential customers and increase conversion rate, and plenty of examples of real companies using UGC to generate powerful returns.
What Are UGC Ads?
User-generated content is any content related to a brand produced by its customers and users, not the brand itself. UGC ads are any form of advertising that incorporates or repurposes UGC for advertising purposes.
For example, a company using Instagram might choose to reshare a customer’s post that features their product instead of posting a professionally produced ad for that same product. Or a brand might incorporate some UGC into a professional ad, such as pulling customer video into a bigger ad or including customer photos in an ad with other design elements.
UGC ads have firmly established a place in the modern marketing strategies of many brands, with corporations like Starbucks (branded hashtag #RedCupContest) and Apple (#ShotOniPhone) encouraging users to post UGC.
The Benefits of UG Ads
So why are brands using UGC ads — and why should you consider doing the same?
Because they deliver benefits like:
Social proof is a concept from psychology that shows us how people tend to trust what others say and do, and that there’s an almost irresistible pull to conform or meet the expectations of the group.
In other words, it’s “keeping up with the Joneses” meets “I’ll have what she’s having.”
So brands can invest as much as they want in flashy professional ads. But those ads don’t always deliver social proof — but UGC ads do.
Authenticity and Personalization
UGC ads also add authenticity to brand messaging, showing that real people use and love the product in question. These ads can also personalize the customer experience. Not every piece of UGC will resonate with every prospective customer, but customers will latch onto the UGC that does resonate and feel that personal connection.
UGC ads naturally foster higher engagement from consumers as well. We’ve all grown at least a little numb to professional advertising. But when we see people like us enjoying a product in an authentic, real-life setting? That’s pretty hard to resist!
Educating Consumers on Your Product
UGC ads are also an ideal way to educate consumers about a product's features, benefits, or uses. This is especially effective in eCommerce, where viewers may not have the opportunity to touch or try a product in real life before purchasing, and in health and beauty, where hearing or seeing real-world results speaks volumes.
Using UGC to inform and educate your target audience is remarkably simple. With the right incentives, you can nudge users to create content that shows your products in action. And with the right video platform, you can embed that content just about anywhere you want to use it.
UGC ads can also contribute to community building and brand loyalty.
Take Starbucks’ Red Cup Challenge, for example. Tens of millions of people buy Starbucks coffee just because it’s convenient and reliable. Many of them don’t necessarily care about the brand or feel connected to the community.
But nudging those customers to participate as a group has a community-building effect. Some percentage of customers who participate in the challenge will begin to feel a connectedness and maybe even a sense of community — all of which leads to increased brand loyalty.
Increased ROI and Conversions
Combine all the previous factors, and you get pretty powerful results: UGC ads can add social proof, authenticity, personality, engagement, education, and community to brands and products. Those, in turn, lead to a higher return on investment (ROI) and increased conversion rate.
Still not convinced? Check out the data — we’ve done the research to show how UGC ads improve ROI and conversions.
What Makes a High-Quality UGC Ad?
UGC is all about authentic content, being real, and building trust. But that doesn’t mean that every piece of UGC is worth turning into an ad.
So, what makes a high-quality UGC ad? We’ve identified seven attributes to strive for when leveraging UGC as ad content.
1. High-Quality Video and Audio
First, we can’t overstate the value of high-quality video and audio in UGC ads.
Audiences expect UGC to be the quality of content that general users can create. But there’s a difference between a well-framed video shot on a brand-new iPhone and shaky cam footage on a 15-year-old digital camera.
Look for UGC shot in reasonably controlled, quiet environments. If there’s audio of the person in the shot, make sure it’s both audible and intelligible. And if you’re actively recruiting users to submit UGC through a portal you control, feel free to include reasonable minimum resolution requirements.
2. Start With a Hook
UGC ads need to start with a compelling hook or attention-grabbing element — otherwise people will just keep scrolling.
This could be a question, an unexpected fact, a bold claim, or a snippet of video that strongly implies interesting action (something that screams “something interesting is coming next!”).
Some content creators and brands have practically mastered this. They make the first couple of seconds so attention-grabbing that users almost can’t help but click or tap to watch the full video.
Facebook’s mobile app incentivizes this practice: reels auto-play, but only for about 1.5 seconds. If you want to see what comes next, you have to tap… and then you’re sucked into the Reels ecosystem.
And, of course, TikTok is built around the hook: videos may autoplay, but users don’t stop unless the hook pulls them in.
3. Natural or Good Lighting
Lighting also plays a part in UGC content, affecting the perception of overall quality. It can be hard to get right without equipment, but there are a few steps any user can take to help. Filming outdoors, especially around sunset (“golden hour”), is a good strategy. If you’re filming indoors, shoot for locations with lots of natural light.
Here’s a general rule: If it looks dim in real life, it’s going to look even dimmer in UGC video and photo content.
4. Product Placement
Effective product placement enhances the power of a UGC ad. The ad might be appealing on its own, and the user could say all the right things. But visually associating those things with a specific product is a powerful value-add.
If users are generating content about a specific product, encourage them to wear or hold the product or keep its packaging in the scene. If it’s edible or drinkable, show off both the packaging and the user enjoying the product.
There’s practically no wrong way to do product placement. Place them prominently yet naturally in the content so that viewers immediately understand what products are under discussion.
5. Relatable Storytelling
Effective UGC is authentic, real, and relatable. Storytelling is a powerful way to contextualize products and show how they fit into everyday life.
But those stories need to relate well to your target customer to make the greatest impact. When viewers relate well to the user in the content, it generates that social proof thought pattern, making the product even more attractive and enticing.
We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: Authenticity is absolutely essential for UGC to be effective in advertising contexts. Consumers trust what they see as real and authentic — which you can use to great advantage if you’re careful.
So, how can brands maintain authenticity throughout ads that use UGC? By featuring UGC that looks and feels real.
Some users don’t look natural on camera. Others might produce content that comes off as fake or exaggerated. Don’t include this kind of content, but focus instead on the stuff that resonates and makes an impact.
7. Call to Action (CTA)
When creating a UGC ad, make sure you push viewers to take a specific action by including a strong CTA. This is always important, but it’s especially vital when working with UGC since that content may not naturally include any calls to action.
An effective CTA could be as simple as a “buy now” or “shop now” tagline added to a piece of content, or it could be more involved or produced. The point here is not to leave viewers with a general feeling or a vague sense that someone liked your product. Instead, leave them with a clear action they should take as a result.
How To Best Use UGC Ads
UGC can pack a punch in advertising — especially when brands are smart about how, when, and where they employ those UGC ads.
Consider these three scenarios where UGC ads consistently perform strongly.
Shoppable Video Content
Shoppable video content is any video with links embedded or overlaid that allow viewers to purchase items featured in the video. Gander’s shoppable video content is a powerful way to elevate your eCommerce store and reduce friction in the buyer’s journey.
With UGC right on the product page, your customers don’t have to dig through written reviews or search FAQ sections. Many of their potential questions or concerns are answered right there in the video.
Let’s say your eCommerce store sells pillowcases in a variety of materials and colors. Your professional brand photos might not give the customer a good idea of what shade of red your product is, or whether its texture is stiff linen or soft.
While product descriptions are great, UGC videos let the customer see the item in a setting that could be their own home. Similarly, they can hear how it looks and feels from a real person — which can be worth a thousand words!
Embedding Videos on Your Website
You’ve done the hard work of getting visitors to your website. But now how do you get them to buy?
Increasing the rate at which customers purchase is called conversion rate optimization (CRO). And embedding videos on your website is a powerful CRO tool.
All the benefits we’ve been discussing get embedded directly onto your website and into individual product pages. And Gander makes it easy to embed videos without slowing down your site.
Social media channels are an ideal place for UGC ads because social media is already the natural home for all kinds of user-generated content. A user’s post that includes your products coexists alongside other posts that don’t, so ads built from UGC look perfectly natural in users’ news feeds.
Done exceptionally well, Facebook ads using UGC won’t even look like ads (the same goes for TikTok ads, Instagram ads, and other social media platforms). They’ll just look like any other type of content for that social network — but with your branding or products displayed inside.
Inspiring UGC Ad Examples
UGC ads can take a number of forms, from unboxing videos to product demos to before-and-afters. But knowing what kind of ad to make is only the first step.
Sometimes, the best inspiration comes from seeing high-performing real-world examples.
Check out three powerful UGC ad examples — all powered by Gander:
- Child-friendly dishware brand EZPZ implemented UGC ads and saw 215x ROI + a large increase in repeat purchases.
- Fidget toy maker Antsy Labs used Gander’s creator network to produce UGC and saw their conversion rate jump 37%.
- CBD brand Beam Organics embedded user-generated testimonials and video customer reviews to showcase their quality difference, boosting their conversion rate by 20%.
Want to see more UGC ad results powered by Gander? Check out our full list of case studies.
Harness the Power of UGC Ads With Gander
UGC ads make an outsized impact on purchasing decisions by boosting social proof, consumer trust, authenticity, and relatability. And they cost only a tiny fraction of what brands pay on traditional advertising (conventional and digital).
Gander is the perfect video platform for effectively harnessing the potential of UGC and UGC ads. Gander handles the hosting and the technical behind-the-scenes work, making UGC content creation as simple as possible.
Gander empowers online businesses to add product videos and UGC videos just about anywhere they want.
Not only that, but Gander also maintains its own network of vetted UGC creators. If your brand wants to jumpstart its UGC ad campaign, our talent can make it happen.
Explore how Gander can help you launch a successful UGC campaign: Request your demo now!