User-generated content has been the backbone of many online companies for years now. Platforms like YouTube are even entirely built on it. Users upload over 500 hours of video every minute on the platform, which perfectly illustrates how big this video sharing service got. But is user-generated content a viable strategy to aim for as a smaller business? Are there any pitfalls to watch out for? What are the advantages and disadvantages of user-generated content? That’s what we’re here to find out!
But first, let’s clear up what user-generated content is.
User-generated content (UGC), also called consumer-generated media (CGM) is any type of content or media (music, images, video, etc.) created by the consumers. That content is shared and made available for anyone to use. But what makes this type of content stand out?
The most notable aspect of UGC (and why businesses even consider getting on board with it) is that research showed that 70% of consumers are more ready to believe user-generated content than branded content. This perceived trustworthiness is precisely why brands all around the world are investing in user-generated content.
OK, that sounds fantastic, but why would users create something for my brand without any compensation? That’s an excellent question, and here are two solid reasons:
Now that we’ve cleared up what UGC is, let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of user-generated content. Here’s what they are:
Now let’s jump right into it!
As we’ve mentioned before, consumers trust user-generated content more than content produced by marketers. That is particularly true for product reviews. That is why encouraging your visitors to review your products and services can boost your engagement. At the same time, you will gain an influx of user-generated reviews, which will inevitably drive more conversions. That isn’t just our speculation; there’s data to prove it:
One of the most prominent advantages of user-generated content is that you will need less content creation yourself. By using your audience’s creativity, you can put in minimal effort to establish a regular online presence and drive traffic to your site. Also, thousands of heads are much better than one! If you’re ever out of ideas for your content, it’s always wise to turn to your audience.
Relying on your audience for steady content output is exceptionally lucrative as you can save tons of time and cash. By lifting some workload off your content team, you can redirect your efforts into different aspects of your business, such as digital marketing campaigns or nurturing your brand’s image on social media.
Let’s not mention that UGC is sometimes sufficient to keep your revenue flow steady for years. In some industries, it can even single-handedly carry your business. Let’s take the gaming industry as an example. User-generated content for some games is even more famous than the original titles themselves; it can often extend the life of your product (game) much longer than it ever would have been otherwise. The most notable examples are games like Warcraft III and Skyrim, which are still played to this day, thanks to the near-endless variety of user-generated mods and content.
Regardless of your business industry, UGC can help you cut costs significantly and keep your product relevant for longer.
Have you heard before that user-generated content can also benefit your site’s SEO? Now you do! There are multiple ways UGC can help your website rank higher on Google.
Since user-generated content is more appealing to the general audience, they will spend more time on your site. Dwell time is one of the factors that Google takes into account when determining your site’s user experience.
When it comes to user-generated reviews, many of those will directly help your SEO ranking as the detailed ones will contain plenty of keywords. However, remember to moderate your reviews to avoid falling prey to a Black Hat attack against your brand.
Finally, Google gives precedent to search results with rich snippets, such as product ratings, short descriptions, or price. This information will immediately display on your SERP listing, so make sure to include these to make your page rank higher.
Consumers trust user-generated content much more than marketing. A survey showed that 92% of consumers expressed their trust for UGC compared to advertising content. That is why featuring a lot of consumer-generated media can help you build brand trust and credibility. Oh, and pay special attention to your product descriptions and reviews — those are the first places most customers will look!
Just like UGC can help you alleviate your content needs, it can also provide some damaging content. Regardless of whether we’re talking about poorly written blog posts, negative or inappropriate comments, or poor product reviews, the damage these can do to your brand can be significant. So you must tread carefully when relying on consumer-generated media to carry your online presence.
Be careful, though! Don’t be overzealous with removing negative content such as poor reviews. Having bad reviews alongside excellent ones is essential for making your brand look authentic. Also, negative reviews are a unique learning opportunity. You have nothing to lose from them but plenty to learn. So interact with negative feedback by acknowledging it, and you’ll improve your brand’s image successfully if you had just deleted the review in question!
This downside of user-generated content is connected to the previous one. As we’ve already mentioned that negative content is inevitable, you will need someone to supervise it. Having to find a person to monitor all UGC before publishing (or reviewing it afterward if we’re talking about user reviews) takes time and money. And no, you can’t cut costs by deciding not to moderate user-generated content. If you do, you might fall victim to a Black Hat SEO attack. By the time you notice it, the damage might have already been done.
Another prominent problem of UGC is that of unknown and unreliable sources. Namely, some people might be reluctant to trust a random person with no reliable background. However, that is not the only issue that arises. With such a vast difference of content contributors, it’s easy to abuse the system with aliases and fake accounts. The same applies to user reviews. That is why some users might not be inclined to trust UGC as much as others.
If you decide to opt for UGC campaigns, you will need to be well familiarized with all the legal aspects that come with them. But what do we mean by that? Let’s say you were to start a social media campaign, for example, and ask your users to take pictures of themselves with your products. If you did that, you wouldn’t be able to use those photos yourself without explicit permission from the users in questions (even if they were using your hashtag).
You see, the authors of the photographs have all the rights to them. That is why you’d have to write an outreach email or message them all to ask for permission to use their content. This issue is not a major one, but it’s tedious nevertheless.
So is user-generated content a worthy investment? If we had to answer that question, we’d have to say yes! Like everything else in life, UGC has its fair share of pros and cons, but we think the benefits outweigh the downsides. Do you agree, or would you beg to differ? Let us know by contacting us or letting us know on social media!
If you’re planning to include UGC in your next campaign, we wish you the best of luck!
Until next time!