Here’s Why Many Studies on User Generated Content are Misinterpreted

Studies show User-Generated Content (UGC) is more effective than influencer or branded content. However, there's a distinction between voluntary UGC and paid UGC creators. Both forms of UGC, despite their differences, significantly enhance advertising impact.

User-Generated Content (UGC) has become a cornerstone of contemporary marketing, with studies consistently showing its greater effectiveness over influencer or branded content. One of the most compelling pieces of evidence comes from research indicating that UGC is 8.7 times more impactful than influencer content and 6.6 times more influential than branded content. These figures highlight a dramatic shift in consumer trust and engagement, favoring content generated by users over traditional advertising formats.

However, a closer examination reveals a critical distinction within the realm of UGC between content that is voluntarily produced by consumers and that which is created by paid UGC creators. Enthusiastic customers may spontaneously share their love for a product or brand, driving organic word of mouth, while UGC creators are remunerated for crafting promotional videos.

Voluntary UGC: 

  • Spontaneous expressions of love and satisfaction from genuine customers.
  • Drives organic word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Reflects authentic, unsolicited experiences with the product or brand.

Paid UGC Creators: 

  • Crafted content by individuals compensated for promotional efforts.
  • Involves a professional and strategic approach to content creation.
  • Reflects a motivated effort to showcase the product or brand in a curated manner.

This differentiation is crucial because it speaks to the nuances of authenticity and motivation in content creation.

The studies that praise the effectiveness of UGC typically refer to unpaid endorsements or reviews from users who genuinely enjoy a product or service. This type of UGC is inherently authentic, making such endorsements highly credible and persuasive. It is this authenticity that often leads to the perception of UGC as being the gold standard in advertising impact.

However, there is sometimes a misunderstanding in the interpretation of these results, particularly when applied to UGC Ads.

  1. Misunderstanding in Interpretation
  2. Misleading application to Paid UGC 
  3. Equating Impact without Consideration
  4. Influence of “Wishful Thinking”

Despite these nuances, it is vital to recognize that paid UGC creators still produce content with considerable advertising impact. Even when compensated, UGC creators are able to convey a sense of approachability and authenticity. They can create content that resonates with viewers due to its relatability and seeming spontaneity. The ability of these creators to generate trust through authentic storytelling is a powerful tool for brands.

UGC content, whether paid or unpaid, has the unique advantage of blending seamlessly into the content feeds of users. This natural integration means that users are less likely to scroll past it, viewing it as part of their regular social media experience rather than an intrusive advertisement. As such, UGC holds a unique position in the advertising landscape, as it can capture the attention of consumers in a way that feels organic and unforced.

Integrating UGC into a marketing strategy, therefore, offers excellent returns:

  • Excellent Returns with UGC Integration:
    • Integration of UGC into a marketing strategy is highlighted for its excellent returns.
  • Authenticity and Relatability:
    • UGC brings authenticity and relatability to the marketing strategy.
  • Alignment with Branding Goals:
    • It combines the strategic direction and branding goals of the company.
  • Utilizing Voluntary and Paid UGC:
    • Companies can benefit by employing both voluntary and paid UGC.
  • Broad Spectrum of Engagement:
    • UGC allows companies to cover a broad spectrum of engagement.
  • Genuine Customer Recommendations:
    • Voluntary UGC enables the inclusion of genuine customer recommendations.
  • Professionally Produced Content:
    • Paid UGC contributes to professionally produced content while maintaining a user-focused feel.


For brands looking to harness the power of UGC, it is essential to understand the different motivations and expectations of voluntary versus paid creators. Voluntary UGC often arises from pure customer satisfaction and loyalty, which can be unpredictable and harder to control. Paid UGC, while still needing to maintain a high level of authenticity, allows for more strategic planning and alignment with marketing objectives.

Challenges for marketers are

  • Face a challenge in balancing voluntary User-Generated Content (UGC) and content from paid creators.
  • Successful integration of both types of content can lead to increased consumer trust and brand affinity.

In conclusion, UGC, in all its forms, is a dynamic and potent tool for advertising. It leverages the voices of consumers to create impactful, engaging content that speaks directly to the target audience. Whether through an unprompted testimonial from a passionate customer or a well-crafted video by a paid UGC creator, this form of content has the ability to strengthen brand identity, foster community, and drive sales. The key lies in recognizing the unique value of each type of UGC and using them to complement each other, thereby crafting a comprehensive and authentic marketing narrative.

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