Why “Ugly” User-Generated Content is What Your Audience Wants


User-generated content is here to stay.

According to Kissmetrics, 25% of search results for the world’s 20 largest brands are links to UGC. As the list of highly-influential brands embracing their audience as content creators continues to grow, the case for collaboration becomes stronger.

Further driving this trend is the success that many brands are having with this content format. On a broad scale, visitors to websites that include UGC galleries spend 90% more time on the site, and are 10% more likely to convert. In specific cases, companies report conversion increases as high as 121% for website pages that include UGC.

Regardless of its effectiveness, user-generated content continues to face criticism, primarily from those that specialize in creating branded content.

Their argument against it?

“UGC is ugly.”

As a company that specializes in helping brands to create UGC, we hear this objection often. Sure, content generated by your users will not always match the level of polish that professionals can achieve.

But is that really what your audience wants?

As marketing has shifted from advertising to content, substance has proven to be of greater value than aesthetics, and while UGC may not always be as pretty as branded content, it is far more credible and relatable.



Connecting Through Co-Creation

According to a study conducted by Reevo, 70% of consumers place peer recommendations and reviews above professionally-written content. That is a powerful testimony to your audience’s desire to consume content from one another, not from your brand.

Companies that bring their audience into the process of content creation prove that engaging with consumers is so important to them that they are willing to put their ego aside to build a lasting relationship.

By creating such a connection, even if the resulting UGC looks downright ugly (although it doesn’t have to—more on that later), your customers will still follow you anywhere.



Content Your Audience Can Relate To

In the past, marketers could control how their products were perceived, simply because the only visual content available to consumers were brand-published stock photos. With the rise of social media and widespread sharing of content, today’s consumers are not limited to viewing products through the eyes of your brand.

This is where relatability becomes key. User-generated content showcases your product in a way that increases consumers’ confidence — not just because the product is attractive, but because it is portrayed in a way that allows the viewer to imagine themselves using it.

A great example comes from an industry once dominated by branded content that places a heavy influence on aesthetics: cosmetics.

On YouTube, UGC video outperforms branded content for the biggest cosmetic brands. Of CoverGirl’s 251 million total views, 99% are from fan-created videos, while 99% of Revlon’s views also come from fan content.

[[{“fid”:”859″,”view_mode”:”default”,”fields”:{“format”:”default”,”field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]”:”Urban Decay review video stats”,”field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]”:””,”field_link[und][0][title]”:””,”field_link[und][0][url]”:””},”type”:”media”,”link_text”:null,”attributes”:{“alt”:”Urban Decay review video stats”,”class”:”media-element file-default”}}]]

Source: Zefr/Adweek



Have Your Cake and Eat it Too

User-generated content delivers big on credibility and relatability, but what if you could achieve these things without the possible detriment to visual appeal? Such quality is more attainable than you might think.

First, consider how UGC campaigns are currently operated. If you want to collect content from your audience, odds are you do so by creating and promoting a hashtag, and then curating the best content.

[[{“fid”:”856″,”view_mode”:”default”,”fields”:{“format”:”default”,”field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]”:”Starbucks hashtag examples”,”field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]”:””,”field_link[und][0][title]”:””,”field_link[und][0][url]”:””},”type”:”media”,”link_text”:null,”attributes”:{“alt”:”Starbucks hashtag examples”,”class”:”media-element file-default”}}]]

Where “ugliness” creeps in is in the content that you don’t curate. It’s still out there, an unflattering representation of you brand for all to see.

That’s why we recommend using an approach in which you engage your audience directly. This way, the user-generated content your audience submits can be moderated to give your brand more control over what content surfaces. What you get is content that is credible, relatable, and aesthetically pleasing.

[[{“fid”:”855″,”view_mode”:”default”,”fields”:{“format”:”default”,”field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]”:”Example – UGC doesn’t have to be ugly”,”field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]”:””,”field_link[und][0][title]”:””,”field_link[und][0][url]”:””},”type”:”media”,”link_text”:null,”attributes”:{“alt”:”Example – UGC doesn’t have to be ugly”,”class”:”media-element file-default”}}]]

Proof that UGC can be just as compelling as brand-created content – an example submission from a TireBuyer customer (full submission)




Regardless of the processes we create to improve UGC, marketers that are resistant to change will continue to argue that user-generated content cannot match their level of visual quality.

What cannot be argued is the ability of this “ugly” content to deliver results—and there’s nothing prettier than watching your profits go through the roof.