The acronym ‘UGC’ stands for user generated content. Perhaps the most common and simple UGC definition is that the term can be used to describe any type of content created and then shared by end-users autonomously.

UGC can be tied to different types of formats—from pictures and videos to tweets, blog posts, comments—and it mostly is shared online. However, offline activities such as flash-mobs as well as the creation of print materials (posters, flyers, cards, t-shirts, fan zines) can also qualify as UGC. User-generated content is also known as consumer-generated media (CGM) or conversational media.

As we have moved to a highly cluttered digi-physical landscape, in which brands need to find their own voice and build their status as lovemarks, user generated content marketing has quickly grown into an important content and strategy tool, that allows for a more genuine, direct and peer-to-peer communication angle. At netamorphosis we have often relied on UGC-types of content bites to strengthen and enhance our clients’ digital footprint above and beyond their owned media space. One recent example is the tie-in we have built for our athletic apparel client RYU and its fitness ambassadors (the ‘Connectors’), through our omnichannel-lead strategic approach.

One of the most famous user generated content platforms is Wikipedia, the online and open source encyclopedia whose pages (branded or not) are all written (and cross-checked) by users. By breaking the traditional top-down rules of content creation, Wikipedia and others brought a disruption and allowed the digital landscape to benefit from the variety of voices and stories that end-users can bring into the mix.

This trailblazing approach was quickly adopted by marketers and digital marketing agencies who have successfully embedded UGC as part of their broader communications efforts. Among the pioneers of this new take on content creation and user engagement are top brands such as Marc Jacobs with his #CastMeMarc campaign and Starbucks with their white cup contest–both date back to 2014 but are still quite relevant now.

User Generated Content is Where Fans and Brands Meet.

From a sociological standpoint, creating and then sharing user generated content is the way users—especially Millennials and Generation Z—react to something they like (or dislike), by reworking it and making it their own, and then reporting on it. It’s a tool to create a counter-storytelling, that balances the official ones, providing new (often alternative) angles and perspectives. Just-for-fun internet accounts like those mocking politicians or celebrities, funny cat memes and citizen journalism content bits such the videos and tweets that reported the Arab Spring to the world, are all examples of UGC.

In the context of marketing and advertising, anything promoting a brand, service or cultural artifact that has been made by fans, and not by marketers, qualifies as user generated content: from Harry Potter inspired fan fiction to #mycalvin and #aeriereal photos flooding Instagram, to WWF’s related #connect2earth Earth Hour stories and pledges.

Clearly, these contents are mostly shared online: typical user generated content platforms are social networks (such as Facebook or Snapchat), blog platforms (such as Medium), video sharing platforms (such as Vimeo or YouTube), messaging apps (such as Line or WhatsApp). eCommerce sites also provide a UGC opportunity, through consumer reviews.

Often times UGC overlaps with digital PR, which is where strategic tie-ins and collaborations—especially on Instagram—between specific types of users (influencers like @mamacaxx or content creators like @brahmino) and brands would happen. User generated content stats show how this approach is particularly effective: on one hand 92% of consumers turn to people they know for referrals regarding future purchase choices, and on the other 93% of marketers are seeing tangible results when brand exposure is increased through ad hoc influencer engagement.

Because of its strategic role not only from a content perspective, but also from a broader user engagement one, as well as, for positioning and ultimately conversions we often advise our clients to rely on user generated content marketing when available.

This means not just when it comes to enhancing and fostering reviews on their website or eCommerce, but even more so when we are building together content plans or content suggestions as part of both our Content Creation and our Strategy service offerings.