UGC Could Be Your Key to Building a More Authentic and Trusted Brand


Joy Knowles, Marketing Content Strategist at Agility PR Solutions

It’s no secret that when your customers trust your brand, good things follow. From being more willing to pay higher prices to sharing on social, trust breeds positive action. Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer Special Report found that 78 percent of respondents who have high trust in a brand are likely to share and repost content about that brand or share about their own experiences.

While paid and owned media are important for brand awareness, content amplification and marketing leads, they don’t have the same power to build trust and authenticity as shared and earned media. It may take a bit of work to get up and running, but making provisions in your comms strategy for user generated content (UGC) will help you build both.

The first step in your UGC strategy is to have a brand worth talking about. However, it goes both ways. Companies that make poor choices (think of Burger King UK and its International Women’s Day tweet) will incite a flurry of critical UGC. Luckily, (despite what it seems like on Twitter sometimes) people are more likely to share positive experiences—which is a good thing since trust is easily influenced by social media. Consider that 33 percent of people believe information they see on social and that peer conversations on social media accounted for trust gained and trust lost in almost proportionate amounts among respondents to Edelman’s 2020 survey. 

UGC is seen as more authentic content by many people, partially because it’s not paid for (there’s no #ad or #sponsored attached to it) and partially because it comes from credible spokespeople: Consumers, not brand marketers. In answer to the question, “If a brand were to use each as their spokesperson to try and convince you they are a brand worthy of your trust, how credible would they be?” most respondents said a person like themselves in the aforementioned Edelman survey.

It’s probably a good thing that there are better ways of building trust and authenticity than ads. Not only because a mere 14 percent of people trust advertising to learn information about a business, but also considering that consumers have more power now to change how, when, and why they see ads. Most people use one or more advertising avoidance strategies, such as changing media habits to see less advertising or using ad blocking technology. Apple users who recently updated their software to the new iOS 14.5 can now say no to apps that want to track their activity across companies’ apps and websites.

Where to begin

UGC may sound like a passive strategy, but there are ways a savvy comms pro can encourage it. Contests, coupon codes, hashtags, challenges, and opportunities to be featured are all ways of stimulating UGC. TINT’s 2021 State of User Generated Content Report says, “By creating experiences that customers want to participate in and share, brands can inspire and benefit from true influencer marketing.” 

To get started with UGC, do an audit of your platforms and your brand. A media monitoring tool will help you track where your brand has been mentioned and by whom. You’ll want to take careful note of the mediums and outlets where you appear and the sentiment of the mentions. Are you visible on review sites? Is social your main source of mentions/coverage? Are people producing more positive or more negative content about your brand? Is there a branded hashtag people are using? 

Once you have an idea of what people are already producing about you and which type of media you’re getting the most coverage in, you can think about tactics. 

Start with your most popular platform where you receive the most engagement. If that’s Twitter, ask a question! UGC on Twitter is anything from a tweet with a branded hashtag to a retweet. 

Not every attempt will be successful so don’t be scared if you don’t see the results you want right away. Do your research—see what other brands have done and done well and, like TINT says, provide experiences that people want to be part of. 

About the Author: Joy Knowles is the Marketing Content Strategist at Agility PR Solutions. Joy has been part of several internal communications teams during her career, helping to grow the companies’ client and customer bases through strategic communications, content planning and creation, social media management, and project and client management. Her education is in public relations.