UGC Creators vs. Influencers: Either, Neither, or Both?

Taryn Williams

There has been a lot of conversation lately about how powerful UGC is (and I 100% agree), but it’s also started a discussion of ‘Influencer marketing vs UGC’ - as if it's a binary approach in your marketing mix. As a passionate advocate of authenticity in marketing, I believe it's essential to understand the nuances of both approaches and harness their power to drive successful campaigns.

User-generated content (UGC) has been steadily gaining momentum, and it's no surprise why.

When real people, valued customers and brand enthusiasts create content that highlights their genuine experiences with products or services, it establishes a deeper connection with our audience.

Authenticity (whilst I hate the word.. It’s become so ‘hyped’ like ‘Disruption’ and ‘innovation’ - but it's the only right word in this instance!) is so key in building trust with potential customers, and UGC creators are the unsung heroes of this movement.

UGC creators, often your loyal customers or followers, share their unfiltered stories and experiences with your brand. They bring an air of credibility that traditional advertising simply can't replicate. Their content is honest, relatable, and exudes the raw emotions that resonate with potential customers.

But this isn't to take away from the role of influencers. These charismatic, talented & professional creators have carved out their niche and boast a dedicated fan base, that they have often spent years building trust and engagement with. Partnering with influencers can elevate brand visibility and reach, tapping into unreached audiences in a way that traditional marketing might struggle to achieve.

Influencer's Instagram post for a gifted campaign with skino2au brand

The key to success here is finding the right balance between UGC creators and influencers. Both hold unique strengths, and a combination of the two I believe is important to any marketers digital marketing mix.

When it comes to building long-term brand loyalty, UGC is an essential element of your content strategy to rely on. By featuring their content on your social platforms and website, you not only celebrate your customers & brand loyalists, but also demonstrate a genuine commitment to authenticity.

Importantly to add to this are influencers (from micro to macro or celebrity), who are ideal for specific campaigns or product launches, where you need a powerful push to reach a vast audience quickly. Their ability to curate content in line with their personal brand and engage followers on multiple platforms can be a game-changer for your brand awareness efforts.

This doesnt mean you should just go after influencers with the most extensive follower count.

Authenticity should remain the golden rule across UGC and influencers, always. Seek influencers who genuinely align with your brand's values and aesthetics. 
Influencer's post on Instagram about a gifted campaign with drinktanica

Additionally, always encourage UGC creators to keep it real - authenticity shines through when they share their genuine experiences, even if they're not always picture-perfect. This realism is what sets them apart from traditional advertising and fosters a deeper sense of community.

Scenario: Launching a new product

How to use UGC creators: When you first launch a brand, you likely have no testimonials, reviews, tagged photos on your social account, or UGC. This is a great opportunity to have UGC creators make photo & video content, and leave feedback about your products on your website. Use these testimonials to show how the new product solves customer pain points.

User-generated content can dramatically increase conversions—there’s an on average 29% increase in conversions when websites feature user-generated content.

How to use influencers: When launching a new product it is key to create awareness for it. Since influencers have dedicated & engaged audiences, and have already established trust with their followers, paying them to post about your products is a great way to quickly reach a larger potential customer base. To create hype, find influencers in niche groups and across different geographic areas, and distribute your influencer budget amongst them. 

People following multiple influencers will see their favorite online personalities promoting the same product, which creates more trust & interest, brand awareness, and the potential for higher conversion rates

Inflluencer's Instagram post about a gifted campaign with lalaland wines.

Scenario: Growing an existing brand

How to use UGC creators: As an existing brand, you probably already have a subset of customers who are already aware of your brand and your product offering, and your goal is usually to keep and expand that awareness, and ensure their brand is always top of mind. Social media and digital marketing is a key way to do this. By increasing their touchpoints across varying marketing channels from Facebook, Instagram, TikTok— as well as the more traditional in store,  print, OOH/billboards, magazine etc you will always be touching your customer in a different way to drive them through the funnel. UGC creators are a great way to make brand and product content, and reshare it across each of your marketing channels, and add to your ecommerce store to help drive conversions at checkout.

How to use influencers: To stay top-of-mind, established brands can tap into influencer audiences to grow their brand through building trusted relationships with that influencers audience. The goal of these campaigns might not even correlate to conversions, and instead, focus on making sure people are reminded of a brand, their products, and align themselves to a particular influencer and their reputation and trust they have established with their audience.

Influencer's post on Instagram about a gifted campaign with apero label

Scenario: Getting conversions

How to use UGC creators: UGC content usually lives on multiple marketing channels - not just your social media. You can use it as a sponsored ad on your ideal customer’s Instagram feed, add it on your landing page, insert it into your testimonials and feedback section, and put it next to the buy button on the product page. Brands can look at their marketing funnel, find gaps, and fill it with content from UGC creators that talk to specific audiences, and specific problems your product solves. It allows you to showcase ethnic, age and body diversity in an affordable way. When a customer sees someone who looks just like them, raving about your product, it increases conversions but creating trust

How to use influencers: Influencer marketing for conversions can involve tactics like providing discount code to the influencers audience, creating co-branded products or ranges (Rozalia Russian for Atoir for example, or Chloe Fisher for Prene Bags), through to unique events co-hosted by the influencer themselves. You want to think about building out your funnel so that if someone reaches your website from one of these influencers posts, they are then effectively retargeted with relevant content and reminded of their discount code or similar call to action to transact.

Influencer's post showcasing a gift receive from you foodz

UGC vs Influencer campaign, at a high level:

An informative table showing the differences between UGC and influencer campaigns
An informative table differentiating content generated by users vs influencers

How to amplify Influencer content and UGC

To help get the most out of both UGC and IGC, here are a few ways to maximize its exposure:

1. Consider amplifying content with social ads

You can take influencer and high-quality UGC up a notch by using it in social ads. By pairing relatable images or videos with the increased exposure of an ad, you can get a little extra mileage out of the content. You can also turn the content into a shoppable ad on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or TikTok, where shoppers can click the image to buy the product. 

2. Add content to your newsletter

Creating fresh content for a newsletter is always a challenge, which is something both influencers and UGC can solve. To help, add this content to the newsletter, too, dont just repost it on your own social channels. You can even write content in your newsletter about how the content was created, by whom, and why.

Food and skin care goods as gift samples that influencers may receive from brands

3. Re-share the content on social

You should definitely repost content on your own social channels to reinforce this social proof. This doesnt mean just posting it on the channel it first appeared on (ie Instagram) but also taking that content and sharing it on any relevant channels - Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter, pintrest etc. Make sure you always credit and tag the creator.

Both UGC and IGC are useful marketing tools, but they differ in the marketing goals they’re meant to achieve. Ultimately, the power of both UGC creators and influencers lies in their ability to amplify the human element in your marketing. The more authentic and relatable your content, the stronger the emotional connection with your audience will be.

So, whether you're looking to build brand loyalty or launch a new product, but understanding the strengths of both UGC creators and influencers, and best practice strategies in how to use them, you can really level up your marketing strategy. The future of marketing is all about celebrating real stories, real experiences, and both influencers and creators can add so much value in this process for your brand.

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