You’re scrolling through Instagram, and suddenly you see it—a photo of a friend sporting the latest sneakers, captioned with pure excitement. That, right there, is user-generated content (UGC), the authentic snapshot of everyday brand love that’s become the heartbeat of social media marketing. Because let’s face it, we all trust a friend’s recommendation over a polished ad.
In this guide, we’ll dive into the what, why and how of UGC, so you can use all types of media content like candid snapshots, rave reviews and spontaneous videos to boost your brand’s relatability.
What is user-generated content?
User-generated content is unpaid or unsponsored content your customers create related to your brand—think reviews, photos, videos and even social posts. It’s real, it’s authentic and it’s priceless for your credibility.
Encouraging and featuring UGC on your social accounts shows that people are loyal to your brand. Sharing and resharing UGC multiplies a content asset’s reach and attracts more eyeballs toward your brand.
For example, Growth Marketing Manager at Biteable, Haily Moulton (@hailymoulton), created a reel on how to use AI as a social media manager.
She discusses people’s burning questions regarding AI. Haily is also a Sprout Ambassador who swears by our all-in-one social media tool. By reposting her reel, Haily gets new eyes on her video and we get valuable content.
Types of UGC
UGC comes in all shapes and sizes. Customers can feature your brand in multiple ways, including:
Customer reviews and testimonials
Users showcase their love for your brand through posts and stories.
Project management tool Trello, for example, reposted this Tweet from Tony Lango, the world’s first Engagement Relationship Manager (ERM):
Posts like Tony’s are personal endorsements on platforms like Instagram and X (previously known as Twitter). This content generates positive buzz and attracts lots of attention to your brand.
Photos of your brand or products by customers add credibility and social proof. They also have the potential to attract new customers who want to see your product in action.
Gymshark’s Insta feed, for example, is full of fitness influencers posting high-quality photos of themselves wearing the brand’s activewear.
Regular UGC showcases the products in use and highlights the influencer’s loyalty and trust in the brand.
Your audience posts videos using your product. It’s like digital word-of-mouth. Benefit, for example, reposted this TikTok from makeup artist Colleen (@colleen.makeupp).
This timely Halloween makeup post using Benefit’s products is a great example of UGC that showcases the brand’s products in action. It also highlights the creativity and talent of their customers, making it relatable and aspirational for other potential customers.
Sometimes, your customers write detailed experiences or stories about your products on their blogs.
Hostinger, for example, featured Grammarly as the best grammar assistant in its roundup article.
Grammarly can then reshare this blog, feature a snippet from the review or collaborate with the blogger for future content. Collaborations build a positive relationship and expose Grammarly to new audiences through the blogger’s followers.
Comments are a treasure trove of opinions and insights. Glassdoor created this Facebook post from existing responses in its Interview Tips Bowl, a social media series featuring interview tips from its audience.
These comments have a twofold effect: they show other users actively engage with your brand and also give valuable audience insights.
Why user-generated content is good for your brand
UGC turns your customers into your biggest fans and your most authentic spokespeople. Here’s how it impacts your brand:
Provides a consistent source of inspiration
Struggling with content ideas? You’re not alone—29% of marketers, per the Content Benchmarks Report, feel that pinch. Luckily, UGC is a goldmine for inspiration. It hands you a content bank brimming with customer posts, reviews and stories.
Here’s why a rich content bank is important: The Sprout Social Index ™ 2023 shows that 68% of consumers follow a brand on social to stay informed about new products or services.
Staying visible means staying on top-of-mind. Plus, UGC is original. The same research highlights that 38% of customers believe the most memorable brands prioritize original content over following trending topics.
A consistent and regular social presence keeps your brand top-of-mind. Each customer interaction is a potential post that keeps your feed active and your audience engaged.
Builds social proof and drives purchase intent
User-generated content turns customers into your most credible salespeople—every photo, review or testimonial is an authentic endorsement. And here’s why that matters: people trust people.
When they see others—real users, not actors—enjoying your product, it’s like a recommendation from someone they know. Social proof uses the ‘follow the herd’ instinct people have. If everyone’s buying this, it must be good, right?
This kind of validation makes potential customers feel more comfortable and confident in their decision to choose you. It’s the reassurance they need to take the leap from interested to invested.
Now, consider this—the Content Benchmark report also shows 26% of consumers find UGC the most engaging type of content in their social feeds. That’s a quarter of your audience that doesn’t just scroll past UGC—they stop, they look, they engage. Why? Because it speaks to them on a personal level. It’s relatable and, therefore, more believable.
Generates brand awareness
UGC puts your brand on the radars of new audiences. Every share, tag and mention extends your reach and spreads your brand’s message.
Brand awareness is the first step in the marketing funnel. Familiarity breeds trust—when people recognize your brand, they’re more likely to consider you when they’re ready to buy.
Each user’s content is a personal shout-out to your brand, and their followers are all ears. It’s a network effect—every post introduces your brand to a new circle. And because it’s coming from someone they trust, it makes a lasting impression.
UGC puts your brand on the map in a way that feels organic, not intrusive. It’s shared by real people in real-time, giving it an authenticity that paid ads just can’t match.
Our research highlights an obvious gap in brand content—consumers don’t see enough authentic, non-promotional content on social media. Even when they work with influencers, our research shows that 62% of marketers encourage influencers to share their real experiences, while 50% choose influencers who are genuine fans of their product.
When you showcase UGC, you’re not just adding content to your feed—you’re building a community around your brand. You’re telling your customers, “We see you, we hear you and we value what you have to say.” This recognition motivates them to engage more and even contribute their own content.
Builds brand loyalty
When you actively showcase user content, you acknowledge and celebrate your customers. It makes people feel connected to your brand and feel like they’re a part of something.
You notice your customers and they’ll stick around—1 in 5 consumers will happily spend 50% more on brands they trust.
Every piece of UGC is a chance to boost that trust and build brand loyalty. Your most loyal customers are your biggest cheerleaders. Actively building a relationship with them and acknowledging their efforts encourages them to invest more in your brand—with money and more user-generated content.
3 real user-generated content examples
These three UGC strategies show how brands can use real customer content to drive engagement and authenticity and build brand loyalty.
Health and technology company Nutrisense provides personalized nutrition advice based on continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) data. Users wear a CGM device that tracks their blood glucose levels in real-time, providing insights into how their body responds to different foods.
Nutrisense’s platform analyzes this data and pairs users with registered dietitians to optimize metabolic health, improve diet and support weight loss.
In July 2021, Nutrisense had about 25,000 followers across its social media profiles. The brand wanted to amplify its presence so it started creating UGC and paired it with Sprout’s insights.
Sprout’s reports highlighted the kind of content that resonated with its target audience. By the end of 2022, Nutrisense’s social media engagement grew by 45% and their community had expanded to more than 130,000—an increase of 469%.
2. Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift isn’t just a music superstar—she’s a master at making fans the heart of her brand. Instagram account, Taylor Nation, is a part of Taylor’s PR and marketing muscle and acts as her official fan club too. The account pumps life into user-generated content campaigns that fans absolutely adore.
For the “TS The Eras Tour,” Taylor Nation called on fans to post their tour outfits using #TSTheErasTour. Fans went all out—they showcased their Swift-inspired looks, complete with glitter and friendship bracelets.
But Taylor Nation didn’t stop there—they reposted their favorite picture. Fans got to be the stars, and it happened in every city on the tour.
UGC is one trick in a detailed customer marketing strategy in how Taylor and her team create a tight-knit community. Fans don’t just buy a ticket—they buy into a shared story and a collective experience.
3. Wahl Professional
Wahl Professional specializes in the production and sale of professional grooming equipment, including hair clippers and trimmers. Professional barbers and stylists trust Wahl for its durable, reliable and precise tools.
Wahl has been around for 97 years. It needed a fresh strategy to target and appeal to a new generation of customers.
Since June 2015, Wahl’s pivoted its approach to active engagement and used Sprout Social to manage and monitor conversations across multiple Instagram accounts, particularly @wahlpro. This shift led to a curated strategy of sharing UGC content.
Wahl’s target audience—a vibrant community of stylists and barbers—was already sharing their work with the hashtags #Wahl and #WahlPro.
Wahl monitored these Brand Keywords with Sprout and transformed its social feed into a showcase of professional talent and authentic user experiences.
In less than a year, @wahlpro increased its engagement on Instagram by 4,307% and grew its followers by 84,788 with Sprout.
5 tips to help you add UGC to your content strategy
Adding UGC isn’t just hitting the reshare button now and then. It’s about listening to what your customers are sharing, and weaving it into your brand’s narrative in a way that feels seamless and authentic.
Here are some tips to help you make UGC a cornerstone of your content strategy.
1. Find and repost UGC on relevant social platforms
You need to know where your audience lives on social media and where potential advocates have the most influence. For example: Instagram is naturally great for sharing visuals, but reference the data to double-check if that’s the network where your target audience lives.
Consider your audience and goals when choosing a social network. Select the right network and create a social environment to deliver content and engage with customers to nurture long-term relationships.
At the same time, identify what types of UGC perform best on each network and how to present them based on each app’s culture.
- Facebook: Use Facebook to share full video content and stories that boost engagement (and possibly go viral). Facebook’s algorithm is tough for organic reach, but don’t rule out posting user-generated content on ads.
- X: Despite the smaller character count, X is a great platform for image-sharing. If you host events, consider using this space to create a live X feed for real-time coverage and easily capture UGC to reshare. Using X this way is a great opportunity to capitalize on hashtags.
- Instagram: As the mecca of visual sharing, Instagram is the go-to for UGC. It’s critical to know how to regram, use Instagram Explore and find content through hashtags. Seeing products in action makes Instagram the spot for brands to get creative and connect with those who support your business. Reposting Story mentions (maybe even making a Highlight for them) is a great low-lift way to show off your customer UGC. The user may even repost the repost, leading more of their following to your page.
- TikTok: There’s no shortage of UGC on TikTok, and it’s not hard to find. TikTok’s culture is all about authentic, scrappy videos, rather than refined reviews or stories. Engage with a customer in the comments of their video, ask permission to share and credit properly on your own page.
- LinkedIn: This is the world’s largest social network for professionals, so vet any UGC you share here and make sure it’s relevant to your brand’s goals. This isn’t the spot to repost just any user’s content. Instead, use LinkedIn to promote above and beyond user-generated content that aligns with your brand in a professional sense.
And then, bring it all together with Sprout. Centralize posting on one platform and create a single source of truth. With analytics, posting features, and content calendars under one roof, executing your UGC strategy requires only a fraction of your time.
2. Always ask permission and credit creators
When you spot a gem—a user post that just nails it—you’re halfway to great UGC. But before you hit ‘Share,’ ask for permission. It’s about respect and legality. You don’t want to be the brand that gets called out for taking someone’s creativity for free.
Send a quick message—it can be as simple as, “Hey, we love your post! Can we feature it on our page with credit to you?”
A simple “Photo by @username” or even a tag in the caption (like how skincare brand La Roche Posay does it) is enough.
It shows respect and keeps things transparent. Plus, it builds a sense of community. When creators see you treating others well, they might want you to feature them, too. Tagging the creator might even give you a boost. Their followers see it, and you potentially have new eyes on your brand.
Take the gratitude a step further. A DM saying “Thanks!” can turn a one-time poster into a brand ally. Relationship-building makes UGC a permanent part of your content strategy.
3. Use employee advocacy to amplify UGC
When employees share UGC, it does two things: it amplifies the reach and puts a human face to your brand. A post from a person rather than a brand page often gets more traction, feels more genuine and can spread like wildfire.
Start by creating a culture where sharing is celebrated. Offer guidelines, sure, but don’t micromanage. You want authenticity, not a copy-paste vibe.
Instead, offer templates. Templates give employees a headstart and make them more likely to post. Our report shows that 72% of engaged users would post about their company if content was written for them.
Pro tip: make it fun. Throw in a monthly contest or highlight the best employee-shared UGC. Make your team feel like they’re part of the brand’s story.
And lastly, track your progress. Use employee advocacy tools like Sprout Social to identify and distribute content that resonates most, increase employee participation with curated content and increase social ROI.
An employee advocacy strategy that covers all bases turns your workforce into a powerhouse of authentic brand promotion
4. Monitor the impact of UGC with a dedicated tool
To bring it all home, if you want your UGC strategy to work, you have to measure. No matter what your goals, benchmarking is a must.
According to The 2023 State of Social Media report, 91% of marketers agree data from social enables them to better their target audience. This finding emphasizes the crucial role good reporting plays in a UGC strategy.
With Sprout Social, you have social analytics tools to track your overall engagement with UGC.
Whether you’re posting to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram, access detailed audience reports that reveal which content is driving the most engagement and growth on your profiles.
Insights on what others are tagging you in are quite useful to your brand’s UGC strategy, too. Sprout’s tag report pinpoints how well your UGC is doing compared to your campaign imagery. Use this data to allocate budgets to different creative assets based on how engaging it is.
Whether it’s contextual analysis of keywords, hashtags or customer experiences, these powerful social tools let you measure your efforts and uncover new opportunities to source and share user-generated content.
5. Check music copyright
When adding UGC to your content mix, check the music copyright. It’s easy to get caught up in the visuals and forget that tunes need clearance too. If there’s music in any user-submitted videos, make sure it’s all above board.
And here’s why—it’s not just about following the law (which you should). It’s also about respecting creators’ rights. That song in the background? It’s someone’s art and they deserve credit (and maybe royalties).
Before you repost that catchy customer review or that dance-off video featuring your product, check if the music is licensed for commercial use.
Sometimes, it’s as easy as reaching out to the artist. Other times, you might need to swap the track with royalty-free options. Bottom line—clear those tunes. It’ll save you a headache and keep your brand on the right side of copyright law.
Add the power of UGC to your workflow
UGC is that secret sauce you need to add authentic flavor to your brand’s social presence. But it isn’t just a one-off strategy. It’s a steady conversation.
Make UGC a cornerstone of your social strategy. Keep asking for that content, keep crediting those creators and keep that content flowing. And manage it all with Sprout Social.
Sprout keeps a pulse on the UGC that resonates with your audience, helping you track, curate and showcase the content that tells your brand’s story through the eyes of your customers.
Want to see how it fits into your workflow? Try it out today and see how it streamlines your UGC strategy.
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