The importance of user generated content – and what brands need to do next

The importance of user generated content – and what brands need to do next
Andy Mallinson is the managing director EMEA at Stackla.


A recent Ofcom survey found that in the UK nearly a third of our time online is spent on social media. Marketers therefore know where their messages will reliably be seen by a considerable number of people and are increasing their social media budgets accordingly.

The downside of this increased spend is that as a broader range of brands start to advertise and market through social channels, their share of voice diminishes. Marketers need to keep ahead of the curve on social media to engage their consumers, and they can do this by letting their customers do some of the talking for them.

User generated engagement

User generated content (UGC) is proving to be a powerful ally for social media marketers. A brand’s customers are increasingly their most vocal advocates, sharing photos of their latest purchases, promoting a hashtag or even tweeting about a sale. Today’s consumers are used to direct marketing and they are adept at tuning it out as they surf the web. Utilising user generated content is a great alternative; consumers trust other consumers’ experiences more than direct marketing from brands.

This trust between consumers has been covered before. Shoppers are now used to having a group of dedicated buyer/reviewers at their disposal wherever they are, and knowing that someone else has had a good experience with a product is a powerful motive to buy.   

Prominence of smartphones means user generated content is more readily available

What Ofcom’s study also found was that smartphones are now the most popular devices for getting online, due to a rise in photo and video viewing enabled by cheaper and more reliable 4G network connections. This shows that consumers are moving away from using their phones for text based web surfing towards more rich media. This change is particularly visible on social media, with consumers posting ever more photos and videos to the likes of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

For marketers, this trend supplies candid user-generated images which in turn can be used to inspire and tempt other social users. The abundance of images is utilised differently depending on the sector in question. The fashion and travel sectors provide great examples of why user-generated images are being used by big brands to showcase their offerings more effectively.  


Clothing retailers have traditionally relied on models in their advertising to make their clothes look great and create an aspirational brand image. However as consumers’ shopping habits move steadily online, they are less likely to have tried clothing on before ordering them this means seeing the product worn by a ‘real’ person is important.

User generated content gives consumers an additional source of inspiration, allowing them to see the product outside the confines of direct marketing. Australian online shoe brand ‘Wanted Shoes’ enlisted Stackla to develop a social catalogue for its website. The catalogue has been developed using real-life images of customers wearing their recent Wanted Shoes purchases; when online customers hover over a particular image in that calendar, they are directed to a link to buy that particular item, or invited to browse other similar styles.

The catalogue is proving an effective source of inspiration, with the e-commerce conversion for the social catalogue page 20% better than the site average.


Consumers know how easy it is for brands, from cruise lines to hotels, to take fantastic-looking pictures. These photos are alluring, but consumers also know the power of Photoshop and the correct angle to a photo. For travel brands, user generated images are a way to inspire consumers by showing them what their next holiday could look like, through the eyes of someone who has already done it. Youth tour operator Contiki uses Stackla to aggregate and curate travellers’ social images from their recent Contiki trip. These are showcased on the brand’s website, as well as on the sides of branded Contiki coaches. 

Once brands decide to bring user generated content into their marketing initiatives, they need to be able to aggregate the content from a range of social platforms, and present it through a single customisable channel. The content displayed may be user-generated, but the brand retains oversight when it comes to sharing certain pieces over others.

With the right rules in place, brands can use UGC to tell a story about their brand through the experiences of their consumers. This kind of engagement and advocacy is incredibly powerful for brands and consumers alike, and brings a refreshingly candid approach to marketing efforts.


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