Social Media Trend User-Generated Content: A Lot of Hype Over Nothing?

User-generated content is considered to be this year's no. 1 content trend. Check out our study to reveal whether UGC is really worth it for companies.

An increasing number of brands are currently making use of user-generated content (UGC). In fact, UGC is considered by many to be the content trend of 2024. But what exactly is user-generated content, who creates it, and why is it so compelling for companies? And most importantly, does user-generated content really live up to the hype? 

We analyzed close to 900 posts published by 10 major fashion brands on TikTok to find out whether it’s really worth it for companies to jump on the UGC trend.

User-Generated Content Has Changed

Originally, the term user-generated content referred to social media posts created by a brand’s followers and published on their individual channels. These posts were often tagged with certain community hashtags, allowing the brands to find and share them on their own channels. Nowadays, when people discuss user-generated content, they are mainly referring to posts that were created as part of paid partnerships between companies and so-called UGC content creators

UGC content creators professionally create social media content for brands and companies. Unlike influencers, however, they usually are not focused on generating a large following for their own channels. In most cases, they do not even share the content produced as part of these sponsorships on their own accounts. With this approach, content creators benefit from not having to worry about their own accounts’ engagement and growth. This allows them to fully dedicate themselves to creating content.

By now, there are a number of dedicated agencies that facilitate partnerships between UGC content creators and brands. Since 2021, TikTok has been operating its own Creator Marketplace, which is supposed to ensure a smooth exchange between content creators and brands.

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User-Generated Content Has Many Advantages for Companies

Companies often use UGC to generate so-called social proof – i.e. credibility within the target group. Generation Z, in particular, prefers posts from “real people” as compared to produced advertising posts which can be expensive. On social media, target groups generally prefer authentic posts to polished editorial content. If brands want to appeal to a younger target audience, then social proof is essential.

However, user-generated content is not only important when it comes to a brand’s credibility. There is an additional advantage for businesses as well. They no longer have to spend a significant amount of money to plan and produce content in-house. In this sense, the content produced for brands by the UGC creators is relatively cost-effective. 

Moreover, the content is directly provided by the target group it is intended to appeal to. This combination is particularly effective for consumer goods – such as in the fashion industry.

TikTok Study: User-Generated Content Used by Fashion Brands

So, how well does user-generated content really perform on social media when published by brands? Can businesses actually use it to appeal to their target group? To answer these questions, we studied ten different fashion brands’ TikTok channels (Amazon Fashion, Asos, Bershka, Cider, FashionNova, Forever21, H&M, Monki, Shein, Urban Outfitters). In total, we analyzed 881 videos and photos published on the video sharing platform between March and April 2024. 

User-generated content appears to be highly popular across all the fashion brands. Out of nearly 900 posts published on TikTok, more than a third were user-generated (36.9%). This means that slightly less than two thirds of the published content was produced by the fashion brands themselves (63.1%).

Overall though, the fashion brands in the study were able to reach a larger share of their target group with posts produced in-house. On average, 30% of TikTok followers viewed their original content, while only 25% of followers watched the user-generated content.

UGC or OC: Which Type of Content Performs Better?

Even though the fashion brands’ original content on TikTok is seen by more users, the content produced by UGC creators is able to generate a little more engagement. With an average engagement rate of 0.19%, it performs slightly better than the original content (0.17%). The posts also generated a marginally higher number of likes than the fashion brands’ posts (0.19% vs. 0.17%).

When it comes to comments, the difference is much more pronounced. User-generated content received almost 1.5 times as many comments as the brands’ original content. However, TikTok users tend to comment rather sparsely overall. Only 0.0041% of followers left a comment on UGC, while 0.0028% commented on the fashion brands’ own content.

User-Generated Content Can Be Worthwhile for Brands

All in all, the differences in views, engagement, likes, and comments were not as great as we had anticipated. Companies should not expect to immediately increase their reach and engagement rates by using user-generated content. 

At the same time, however, user-generated posts did not perform any worse than those created by the brands themselves, suggesting that companies can potentially achieve the same results with UGC as they would with their own content while using less of their own resources. Additionally, they can benefit from increased social proof and closeness to their target group in the long run. 

Keep in mind that businesses seem to benefit from adjusting their original content to match the aesthetic of UGC posts. Throughout our study, we found that, upon first sight, a large portion of the companies’ original posts looked just like UGC.

User-Generated Content

@bershka

Get ready with @Matin Obregon 💕hope you likee it 🤠#bershkastyle

♬ sonido original – BERSHKA

In many cases, the only difference between the types of content is the missing community hashtag in original content (e.g. such as #UOCommunity in the case of Urban Outfitters), or the fact that no creator has been tagged in the caption, which is usually the case with collaborations. With a lot of original content, the target group may not even notice that they are looking at a brand’s post, particularly when browsing their feed very quickly, as it is often the case on TikTok.

If you are interested in finding out how common user-generated content is in your particular industry, you can do so with Fanpage Karma. Try the all-in-one social media tool free of charge for 14 days. Fanpage Karma also offers a free weekly webinar, showing you how to use the advanced social media tool to improve the overall quality of your social media performance.

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