What is a UGC Platform and how to select one - A buyer's guide

UGC marketing is trending amongst consumer brands. Why? Because the influential power of user-generated images, videos and reviews is unmatched. Want to set yourself apart from the competition with your own UGC marketing strategy? You are going to need a UGC platform!

In an age where trust in traditional advertising is on the decline, authenticity reigns supreme and UGC is the most authentic form of content you can get. But the world of UGC is vast and not all of it is going to be useful to you, that’s where a UGC platform comes in handy. Here we will teach you what a UGC platform is, and demonstrate the benefits you get from using one. Let’s get started!

Social media posts
UGC Dashboard

What is a UGC platform?

A UGC platform is software-as-a-service (SaaS) that helps marketers to collect images, videos and reviews. The resulting content can then be used to make brand marketing more authentic.

UGC platforms help brands to harness the influential power of word-of-mouth marketing, by enabling them to inject content from happy customers into their marketing channels. A growing number of forward thinking businesses are deciding to add a user-generated content platform to their content marketing toolkit.

What is user-generated content?

User-generated content, or just ‘UGC’ refers to images, videos and text based content like reviews, created by regular people (as opposed to paid influencers for example). UGC is also known as social proof, earned media, customer-generated content or consumer-generated content (GGC).

Because UGC is authentic it fosters consumer trust and therefore many brands now recognise it as an effective component of their marketing repertoire. Because people love to be creative when they truly love a product or service it should come as no surprise that UGC comes in all shapes and sizes.

Examples of UGC include:

  • Unboxing videos
  • Lifestyle photos shared to Instagram
  • Outfit inspo
  • Before and after application journeys

Many user-generated moments are considered very valuable to brands, afterall, UGC is really just word-of-mouth marketing in digital form – and we all know how persuasive personal recommendations are when it comes to persuading us to buy something – a brand TV commercial or your friend saying they love this product, this experience.

I know who I’d trust more. In summary then, what’s not to love about customers advocating for your brand by creating and sharing engaging content?!

User-generated content examples

How does Influencer content compare to UGC?

Some people consider content created by paid influencers to be UGC. Not so. The truth is, paid content and spontaneous UGC are very different. Regular people create UGC for the love of the product or the service they’ve experienced. By contrast, influencers are typically paid by a brand to say positive things about the product and service they’re promoting on different platforms.

The resulting content from influencer marketing is manufactured to appear like UGC. Why? Because brands want to have access to the pulling power of big names, whilst still appearing to be authentic and believable. This is a perfectly good strategy for most, if you can get the balance right and recruit influencers whose love for your brand is genuine. But the key difference here is that UGC arises organically and there’s no financial exchange between brand and creator.

How do User generated content platforms compare with Influencer platforms?

UGC and influencer marketing has been big business for a while now, and naturally, an overlap does exist. Both activities involve sourcing content for marketing, typically via social media. Influencer platforms and UGC platforms do operate in similar ways, but ultimately the goals of using each platform are different. Let’s take a look.

UGC platform goals:

  • to increase volume of content from regular customers on marketing channels
  • To increase authenticity of marketing

The beauty of UGC is that quite often, there is lots of it out there already. This is gold dust that marketers can use to increase confidence in their products and services. UGC platforms help brands collect as much ‘social proof’ as possible, so that they can instil trust everywhere along the path to purchase. There’s no such thing as too much UGC. Consumers are looking for the wisdom of the crowd Seeing other customer photos can help build trust and inspire new purchases.

Influencer platform goals:

  • to increase awareness
  • to maximise reach

Brands turn to influencers to help them increase awareness of their brand via sponsored posts or longer-term collaborations. Such collaborations help brands to tap into a new audience that would have been harder to reach using other means.

A UGC platform is used to discover the regular customer, or the vocal superfan, who just happens to already be saying great things about your brand. UGC platforms typically come with a suite of tools to help you to engage with regular customers and social media users, in order to get the required permissions to use their content. Here, volume matters. UGC platforms are designed to help digital marketers find as much authentic content as their heart desires, in a smooth and painless way that won’t burn a hole in their pocket.

Though Influencer platforms do also help content marketers source content from social media users, the goals and the creative relationships behind them are very different.

What are the benefits of using UGC platform as a part of marketing strategy?

UGC platforms are fast becoming a favourite amongst consumer brands because of the many benefits that they bring. Having a UGC platform at your disposal opens up endless content marketing campaign opportunities. UGC platforms help marketing teams identify and connect with their most vocal customers, leading to more authentic content to fill their content pipeline. Let’s explore some of the main reasons why marketers love UGC platforms.

1. Save on media costs with a user-generated content platform

Creating a steady flow of great content to keep your audience engaged is expensive. Content creation can consume huge amounts of your overall marketing budget. A UGC platform can help you avoid all the typical costs associated with brand produced content such as:

  • model hire
  • equipment hire
  • Photographers and videographers
  • Editors
  • Licensing costs

UGC platforms help you establish an always-on source of authentic imagery that is free-to-use and readily available. High production-value brand created content will always have its place in the funnel, but the most trusted brands use a balance of both this and UGC.

2. Save hours of manual curation

Are you already trawling through hundreds and thousands of Instagram posts manually to find your UGC? Ouch. UGC curation is necessary work, but doing it like this can lead to hours and hours being wasted, that could have been spent on adding value to your marketing elsewhere. A UGC platform lets you automate this process, curating a feed of aggregated content in a dashboard experience that is easy to navigate. By adding AI and text rules into the mix, brands are able to cut out even more of the grunt work by filtering out unrelated content, leaving you with best of the bunch.

3. Influence purchase decisions

When added to marketing channels, UGC has the power to increase consumer confidence, generate FOMO and inspire new purchases.

Consumers are looking for the opinions of others, to help validate purchase decisions. According to a report by Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust earned media such as recommendations from friends and family more than any form of traditional advertising. The resulting UGC that is found when using a UGC platform is proven to influence purchase decisions and boost sales.

81% of brand-engaged user respondents agree that they mostly use social media  Gartner

Brands that feature UGC on their website convert 29% more than those without – Adweek

UGC posted to brands owned social channels achieves 7x the engagement rate of brand created posts – Miappi

If you are sold on the value of UGC already but need some campaign inspiration, then look no further than this collection of the 10 best user-generated content marketing examples.

The complete set of features a UGC Platform should have

The main features of a UGC platform are:

– Curation
– Digital-rights management
– Publishing

These are the fundamental jobs to be done for a UGC platform. All 3 features are required for an end-to-end UGC marketing function.

Some UGC platforms are more advanced than others when it comes to each of these main features. For example, one UCG platform’s curation capabilities might be far superior to that of another platform. This might be because of the following sub-set of features being made available:

  • the number of social networks available to choose from
  • ability to curate reviews from platforms such as Trustpilot
  • the update rate of content (how quickly is new content being refreshed in the dashboard)
  • number hashtags, @mentions and tags are available in your plan
    AI and text rules available
    both social media curation and direct-upload possible

If you are looking for the most complete UGC platform for a consumer brand campaign or always-on use case, you have come to the right place. Now, we will elaborate on all the features required for an enterprise level UGC marketing strategy.

 

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How to curate user-generated content from social media

User-generated content from social media is the bedrock of an effective UGC marketing strategy. UGC platforms curate user-generated content from social media by leveraging social media APIs to aggregate images, videos and text that have been created ‘in the wild’ by social media users.

Curating user-generated content from social media with a UGC platform is a breeze. You can curate UGC from Instagram, Twitter and other sources by plugging in your relevant keywords, hashtags, tags and your handles. This will result in a stream of UGC flooding your curate page, ready for selection.

 

Benefits of social media UGC

1. Highly authentic:
Social media UGC is the most authentic type of UGC as it has been created without instruction.

 

2. Always-on:
For most brands, social UGC is self-generating and is always-on, meaning that it is always available for a brand to tap into.

 

3. Provides insights:
Tapping into the existing conversation on social media is a great way for brands to gain customer insights. Such insights could spark new campaign ideas, new products and features.

 

First-party UGC

Collect first-party user-generated content

First-party user-generated content is UGC that’s sent directly to the brand, typically through a campaign microsite, a data capture form or some other, similar mechanism. This cuts out the middleman, and it can also help brands to forge closer relationships with their customers. It also gives both parties a little more control over the content that they share with each other.

Benefits of first-party UGC

1. Greater control:
First-party UGC is useful because people can directly provide you with their user-generated content, agreeing to give your company the rights to use their content as part of the content upload. Securing those digital-content-rights means all of your UGC comes with permission to share use it (assuming you’ve asked for it in your terms and conditions!)

 

2. Access the originals:
Another of the benefits of first-party UGC is that you’ll be provided with the files directly, ensuring that you don’t lose fidelity in images or videos. For example, if you download a photo from Instagram, it comes pre-squared and pre-filtered, usually at a lower resolution than the original photo.

 

3. Get the content you want:
First-party campaigns are often supported with a clear brief or call to action for customers or the general public to follow. This means the brand can be as prescriptive as they’d like in order to get content that meets a particular criteria.

 

How to collect first-party UGC with a UGC platform:

In order to collect first-party UGC, your UGC platform needs to provide:

– Direct upload form
– A feed of all submissions
– A means to sort or filter submissions

These are the fundamental tools required to make a first-party or direct upload campaign a success. Creating a form yourself and won’t be compatible with UGC platforms. Choose a platform that can provide all three, to reduce the risk of any content marketing headaches!

How to sort and organise your UGC

Looking to separate your UGC out into groups or categories? Some UGC platforms such as Miappi offer you the ability to sort your images, videos and reviews into folders within your profile. This means that you can keep different types of UGC separate from each other. This will come in handy if your brand has multiple product collections, or perhaps you want to separate campaign related content from the rest. You might even be a retailer, curating content from different brands.

Miappi’s folder system also gives you the ability to embed those collections of content onto separate product detail pages. This functionality is key for content syndication.

UGC Syndication
License UGC

How to License user-generated content

Finding user-generated content is the first step but if you hope to put that great content to use in your marketing, you may need to secure those digital-content-rights we mentioned earlier. Depending on your use-case it’s not always essential to ask for extra permissions as long as your chosen UGC platform has collected it via the official API of the social media networks and not scraped from the internet. However, if you want to use your content in a commercial setting it’s best to seek explicit consent from the content creator. If you just take the content and use it without permission you could find yourself subject to legal action. In short, it’s better to request the digital rights from the content creator, and from our experience most people are flattered by the brand’s attention and are happy to have you use their photo or video.

Licensing user-generated content is also just an industry best-practice and demonstrates simple courtesy and respect. And while it’s obviously a good idea to protect yourself from legal action, requesting permission and licensing user-generated content will also make you look more professional and trustworthy in the eyes of your followers and customers.

Asking for permission from content creators is also a great way to engage in a dialogue with vocal customers and a means to show your appreciation for their shout outs.

AI and text rules

Are your hashtags pulling in too much unrelated content? Or maybe your UGC is plentiful and you are looking for a helping hand to find the extra special pieces of content that fit your brief? Artificial Intelligence and text rules features might be the answer to your prayers. The most sophisticated UGC platforms combine such features with content curation, so that the technology will learn what you are looking for and help you reduce the noise. If you want to learn more about how AI and text rules can be used for content curation, you can read our article here.

UGC AI posts

Distribute, republish, repurpose and regram user-generated content

What you do with your UGC collected by your UGC platform of choice is really up to you. Here lies the perfect opportunity to maximise the ROI of your UGC marketing. The distribution of UGC and how you integrate your customer content into your marketing is where you can really put some distance between your brand and your competitors.

Naturally, you will want to inject your most impactful UGC where it can influence existing and prospective customers. Thanks to UGC platform features, there are endless possibilities when it comes to integrating UGC into your marketing channels. Your UGC platform should enable you to do the following:

Social media post examples

Republish UGC to owned social media feeds

Republishing rights-approved user-generated content via your social networking profiles is a good start. Referencing our own client case studies, we have seen this tactic achieve 7x the engagement of brand created content. Social media marketing is a content hungry beast!

In order to maintain a healthy presence and keep engagement levels high, social media teams require a constant flow of content to post to stories and the main feed. Luckily, reposting rights-approved UGC is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get results when starting out with a UGC strategy.

Create embeddable website galleries and lookbooks

UGC galleries, social walls or lookbooks as they are also known as, are one of the most effective and therefore popular methods of UGC distribution. A UGC platform will enable you to curate a collection of content within your dashboard, which can then be embedded to a web page, using a short line of code. The beauty of such a feature is that these galleries are highly customizable, dynamic and make a real impact to your website experience if placed prominently. UGC galleries are a fantastic way to show off your existing community and build trust amongst new visitors.

UGC Plugin / App

Add UGC to Ecommerce pages

The influence UGC can have on purchase decisions is impressive. This is why most UGC platforms come equipped with ecommerce features that enable you to add customer-generated images and video to a variety of pages on your online store. These include:

  • Home pages
  • Product detail pages (pdp)
  • Category pages 
  • Cart pages

Pairing rights-managed images that feature happy customers with your product pages is a recipe for success. Enhance the ecommerce experience by providing social proof that gives your customers the confidence to buy your products.

Miappi comes equipped with social commerce features that allows marketers to make any piece of UGC shoppable by adding a ‘buy now’ or ‘shop it’ call-to-action. Shoppable UGC or Social Commerce as it is commonly known, helps create a frictionless experience for online customers and prospects. Shoppable UGC allows brands to shorten the path to purchase, so that consumers can be inspired by a piece of UGC, then click directly through that content to buy the featured product.

Shoppable social posts
Travel UGC posts

Newsletters and CRM emails

Your customer’s inbox is bursting at the seams. We as consumers are faced with hundreds of offers, newsletters, new releases, from every brand we have ever bought from. It is clear email marketers have got their work cut out, when trying to get cut through! Why not make your CRM emails stand out by featuring content from real customers? With a UGC platform you can embed a dynamic feed of curated images that can be refreshed by making live changes in the platform dashboard. Add excitement to your latest releases and offers by adding UGC into the equation.

Add to paid advertising

Brands can spend hundreds of thousands if not millions on a carefully planned out media distribution strategy. Whilst a robust paid advertising campaign is crucial to brand awareness, it can also squeeze your ROI margins, so it’s vital that your content resonates with your audience. After all, who can afford to waste budget promoting ineffective content to your target audience?

You guessed it, UGC is here to save the day yet again! As mentioned before, not only does UGC cost nothing, it also is high-performing. Incorporate your rights-managed UGC into paid advertising and get real ROI.

According to Shopify, ads that feature UGC receive 4x higher click-through rates compared to those that don’t — and benefit from a 50% reduction in cost-per-click. But this doesn’t mean you have to replace your brand-created content with UGC completely. A study by Comscore found that brand engagement increases by an average of 28% when online users are exposed to both UGC videos and branded content.

Sports influencers' posts
Digital out of home display screens

Display via out of home digital screens

Once you have the appropriate permissions from content creators, you can place your most impactful UGC anywhere! UGC republishing opportunities go beyond online channels. Influence consumers where they are on foot, in-store, attending your events or on the highway by combining a UGC platform with digital-out-of-home display screens.

Platforms such as Miappi come with their own recommended out-of-home solution partners, like Brightsign, that work like a dream when it comes to getting your best content up on the big screen.

UGC platform Analytics

As with any marketing activity, data matters. So it is important to choose a UGC platform that can report on the KPIs that matter to you and your use case. UGC platform analytics can help you collect vital information such as:

  • unique visitors
  • unique interactions
  • UGC gallery dwell time
  • cumulative total of posts collected
  • assisted conversions

These metrics will help you establish the level of impact that your UGC platform is having on your digital channels and, critically, the conversions (sales in most cases) you can then attribute to the use of UGC within your marketing channels.

UGC Platform statistics

Identify trending content

So, your UGC gallery is reducing bounce rate and getting amazing engagement? That’s a great result! But UGC marketing is not a switch-it-on-and-leave-it job. All websites need their content refreshed from time to time.

Utilising a UGC gallery makes this job a cinch. But how can you, as a marketer, make informed decisions about what content to show? Here’s where Miappi excels. The Miappi UGC platform harnesses Instagram’s ‘top posts’ API feature to collect the most engaging Instagram UGC for your Miappi profile. This means we can leverage popular Instagram content to help predict what content will perform well on your channels. The benefits of identifying trending content with Miappi don’t stop there. Miappi also lets clients see which posts are trending within a UGC gallery on a website. The result? Our clients get actionable data, enabling them to spot trends and find similar content that might yield similar results.

Social media posts grid

User-generated video marketing

Video marketing has long been popular with marketers, with billions of pounds spent on the creation and sponsorship of high quality video content year on year. UGC video marketing can be used to supplement a brand’s stock of video, by collecting videos directly from social media users and customers.

Platforms like Miappi, come equipped with purpose-built features for collecting UGC video via direct upload. At Miappi, we have experience supporting a number of international brands launch and manage their own UGC video campaigns. These typically involved the brand promoting a call-to-action that involved filming a challenge, before submitted it via a Miappi powered form on a landing page.

Brands will typically use a combination of organic and paid social to drive people to the landing page, where they can find out more about the campaign, submit their own entry, view past entries and even vote on their favourites.

What questions to ask when selecting a UGC platform?

When selecting a UGC platform to work with, make sure you go armed with these helpful questions that will enable you to narrow your options:

1. Can we see some of our relevant content? – The most proactive platforms will already have pages of UGC to share with you on a platform demo, providing that some customers are already talking about you. Seeing content on a demo can help demonstrate a platform’s curation capabilities and even inspire a use case.

2. What use cases does your platform support? – Some platforms have more features than others. Make sure your chosen platform supports your immediate needs but also consider if their platform will also help you grow your UGC campaign. Make sure to ask if they can support content publication to all your key marketing channels, now and in the future.

3. Do you have more experience in one industry than others? – Some UGC platforms have more traction with certain industries. Most mature UGC platforms will be able to cover your needs regardless of sector but in some cases you may benefit from going with a UGC platform that has certain sector expertise.

4. Where else can I add value with UGC? –
End-to-end UGC platforms will be able to demonstrate what a complete UGC strategy could look like for your brand. This often entails mapping where there are opportunities to collect more content and where you can add that content for maximum impact.

5. How quickly can I get UGC on my chosen marketing channels? –
Miappi is able to get your first UGC gallery implemented in as little as 30 minutes (assuming there’s content out there ready to use!). Implementation for other use cases can vary, depending on a variety of factors including?

– will you use a code snippet or an API to create your front-end galleries?
– do you need to have UGC on multiple product pages?
– do you need to run a campaign in order to generate new UGC?

6. Can you undertake bespoke development if required? – 
In our experience, one size does not fit all. Sure, after developing our own platform for 10 years it does a lot of things ‘out of the box’, and 95% of the time it will suit a client’s brief perfectly. However, it’s also not uncommon for us to develop bespoke features at the client’s request. Make sure your chosen UGC platform can also support development if you need it.

What do brands say about user-generated content and UGC platforms?

At Miappi, we have accumulated over 10 years of experience launching effective UGC strategies for a number of global consumer brands. Here’s what some of those have had to say about the value that the Miappi UGC platform brings to them.

Heineken

“Memories are a part of the Heineken Experience DNA, so it’s very important for us to show our guests that we care about theirs! The live wall also encourages our visitors to capture and share their time in the Heineken Experience.”

– The Heineken Experience Team

Cornetto

“Cornetto wants to be a shareable, approachable brand that’s close to the consumer and what’s on their mind. It’s important for Cornetto to be proximate to the consumer and UGC helps us to achieve this, because we’re using real moments that people can relate to.”

– The Global Cornetto Marketing Team

Camper

“The Miappi platform is user-friendly, easy to understand and easy to manage. Miappi’s folder functionality allows us to manage our content strategy for our product lines and to easily update it in time for seasonal changes. Miappi helps us to stay organised!”

– Irene Frosinini, Camper, Lead Social Media and Content Manager

ITV

“Typically, the production of TVC ads can cost anywhere from £20k-£1m and involve a number of parties to get to a finished product. By leveraging UGC for this campaign, we’ve been able to turn around a highly engaging TV ad in a short space of time whilst saving budget too. Miappi has given us full control over the collection, curation and licensing of authentic moments from the public.”

– Massimo Paradiso, ITV Producer

Ready to book your first UGC platform demo?

We hope this buyer’s guide will come in handy when it comes to establishing the features you require in-order to fulfil your UGC use case. With a bit of luck, you’ll now be thinking about shortlisting some platforms to demo. Why not make Miappi your first!

Get in touch with us today today book a bespoke platform demo. We treat our demos as an opportunity for our potential partners to get free expert advice, as they take their first steps on their UGC marketing journey.

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FAQ

What are the UGC platform integrations I can use?

The Miappi UGC platform integrates with a number of solutions within the modern marketer’s tech stack. This includes Hootsuite, Trustpilot, Fresh Relevance, Shopify, Mailchimp and more. Click here to learn more about our individual integrations and learn how you can get started today.

Can I use a UGC platform to find influencers?

You can indeed discover influencers using a UGC platform. But the key thing to remember is that UGC platforms do not have a roster of Influencers that they work with. So if you do consider using a UGC platform to find new influencers, you will need to provide a criteria of which you can use to identify social media users.