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Visual Content Myth 2: In-house Content is Better Quality than User-generated Content

Truth: User-generated content today can be high quality and tends to perform better
Parker Dietz
February 3, 2021
April 11, 2024

Truth: User-generated content today can be high quality and tends to perform better

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Most marketers agree that user-generated content (UGC) is an important component of their marketing strategy. However, many argue that the UGC they’re able to obtain is not high-quality. For many, UGC is a “nice to have” component and not a major pillar of the overall content strategy. The reason is most likely because the UGC they’re familiar with is extremely sporadic in quality, frequency, and discoverability.

For a long time, UGC carried a bad reputation for being low-quality and less refined than in-house content. One reason for this is that UGC has traditionally been a reactive process. For most, it’s something that emerges organically on social channels and message boards, posted by customers who have already purchased the product. This leaves marketers at the mercy of whatever UGC their customers decide to share with them. This approach results in content that is largely unusable for a variety of different reasons - too dark, too blurry, the product is indistinguishable, other brands are featured within the content, etc. Second, the photography equipment available to content creators has made leaps and bounds over the past decade. The camera quality of today’s phones is astounding (if you can you still even call them “phones”). The iPhone 2G, released in 2007, was able to capture 2 million pixels. Fast forward to now and the iPhone 12 is able to capture an impressive 12 million pixels.

Each year the big smartphone manufacturers compete for who can produce the best camera, meaning each year the UGC becomes more refined and more accessible. In doing so, Apple, Samsung and other smartphone manufacturers have successfully democratized the creation of beautiful photography, creating an army of content creators all around the world. Ad campaigns such as Apple’s “Shot on iPhone” challenge, where Apple challenged iPhone photographers to submit their best shots for a chance to be featured on billboards in cities around the world, prove what’s actually achievable with handheld devices today.



There’s more than enough people out there who are willing to create content for your brand. The key is to be proactive. Rather than hoping you receive UGC from a handful of happy customers, you should make the first move and engage with prospective or current customers to create content in exchange for free product or payment. This will allow you to maintain some creative control, content specifications (like size, product placement, and clarity) and predictability in frequency.

Tips for Proactive UGC Generation

1. Don’t ask for too much content

Don’t ask one creator for dozens of content pieces. Instead, ask multiple creators for a few pieces of content each. While this will be more difficult to manage, the diversity of content and quality of the entire collection will be much higher.

2. Don’t necessarily ask them to post the content to their channels

Most creators don’t want to populate their channels with heavily branded content, and if they do they’ll be much less willing to deviate from their own personal brand. If you ask for solely content to repurpose on brand-owned channels, the creator will be more inclined to follow brand guidelines.

3. Use technology to your advantage

Manually managing discovery and communication with multiple content creators can be a doozy. Adopt a UGC platform to streamline the process. UGC platforms will already have a pool of content creators to choose from, so you don’t have to spend time scouring social media to find the right ones.

As for the brand guidelines, simplified creative briefs are helpful. Limited direction is useful to the creator so they don’t go against any brand guidelines or basic restrictions (ex. Including children in the content for some health products is forbidden because it insinuates that the product is safe for children when it’s not). With that being said, keep the briefs as simple as possible. Too much direction can cause confusion and frustration, which leads to lower quality content. In other words, creative freedom fuels higher quality in the hands of talented UGC partners. Remember that it’s not a product shoot. In any case, proactive UGC development will allow a brand to plan campaigns strategically and lead to more success.

No matter how you perceive “quality,” it can’t be ignored that UGC performs better on average than in-house content. Although it’s important to test different types of content frequently to uncover what performs best, the data says that UGC performs higher than in-house or professional content. UGC is considered any piece of content generated by external, 3rd-party sources. Hundreds of reports cite that UGC performs better on average. In our own experiment, we found that UGC resulted in a 37% increase in email click-through rates when compared to the original email creative.

UGC is proven to increase the success of paid ads, converting website pages, and marketing emails significantly. But why? The content adds a critical layer of authenticity in the eyes of the consumer. Recent figures have shown that 90% of users trust UGC to influence their purchase decisions and consider it a key brand quality indicator. Imagine shopping for a new desk chair. You’ve narrowed it down to two brands nearly identical in product features and price. One has no UGC on its website. The other has video testimonials and lifestyle images featuring a variety of people. Which one are you more likely to purchase? It’s safe to assume that a vast majority of customers would purchase from the UGC-intensive brand. This is because the UGC conveys social proof and authenticity. It proves that people enjoy the product and better allows prospective customers to imagine using the product in their own life.

UGC’s Impact on Digital Performance

  • 69% Increase in Website Conversions
  • 73% Increase in Email Click-through Rates.
  • 25% Increase and 5x more clicks in Ad Performance

Read more about generating UGC here!

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Parker Dietz
Head of Content
With a wealth of knowledge about competitors and pricing, Parker is all about exploring the best way to communicate Cohley's benefits. Outside of work, Parker enjoys poorly playing guitar at parties, watching every Adam Sandler movie ever made, and eating Arabic food.