What's a UGC Creator? The Inside Scoop on Social Media's Hottest Side Hustle

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If you're on any of the big social channels, chances are you've come across user-generated content (also known as UGC).

And in 2022, this style of content creation is blowing up. So much so that it's likely going to going to solidify itself into every brand's marketing strategy moving forward.

In this post, we'll walk through user-generated content, UGC creators, how brands are utilizing this content, and how you can become a UGC creator, too.

The TLDR of User-Generated Content

Unlike glossy, high-production quality ads featuring unattainable model bodies or rich celebrity sponsorships, UGC is usually shot on a smartphone and features real people in normal, everyday settings. i.e. something that speaks to 99% of the population.

Imagine this: someone holding their phone and shooting a video in first-person, selfie-style, talking about a product or service, without needing a crazy studio setup or multiple professional cameras. This is the beauty of user-generated content.

Clarifying Free vs. Paid UGC

It's important to note that UGC doesn't always have to be paid for by brands. By definition, user-generated content can simply entail a content creator voluntarily posting about their favorite products or services to share with friends and followers.

However, sometimes, UGC creators are tapped by brands to create content for ads. And up until now, brands have typically compensated UGC creators with free products or gifts.

But given the incredibly heightened popularity of UGC in 2022, more and more consumers are making part-time and even full-time salaries as UGC creators, regardless of how many followers they have (more on that later).

And brands are investing more in normal, everyday content creators than ever before.

So how are UGC creators different than influencers? Let's get into it.

UGC Creation vs. Influencer Marketing

You've probably heard more about influencer marketing than you have about UGC creation.

And while you'd be right that both are types of user-generated content, there's a key difference between the two:

Popular makeup influencer on TikTok, Mikayla Nogueira

Influencer Marketing

A brand pays an individual with a large follower count (large being somewhat subjective at this point, given the more recent focus on niche and microinfluencers) to feature their product on either the influencer's social media accounts or the brand's social media accounts (both are considered "branded content").

UGC Creator on TikTok @social.glaze.ugc

UGC Creation

A person creates content about a product, regardless of their following or whether or not they're being paid by a brand. Content created by UGC creators feels authentic and natural and may be more effective in influencing a target audience (although this is a case-by-case basis).

This content is not always posted on a creator's social channel - it might be for the sole purpose of creating content for the brand, that the brand then distributes on their own channels. Brands might pay or give away swag in exchange for content.

Given the above, it makes sense why a brand would take a person to create content who doesn't necessarily meet the criteria of "influencer".

Is Influencer Marketing Dying?

While influencer marketing isn't going away, there's an overwhelming amount of conversation online about how the golden age of influencers is over. And here's why.

Take the definition of influence: "the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself."

Based on that definition, you don't have to have a large following to be able to influence somebody, right?

While an influencer might have the opportunity to scale their reach given their larger following, everyday UGC creators can be just as effective in influencing 500 people who follow them as an "influencer" who influences 500 people - but has 10,000 followers.

This is why authentic user-generated content is here to stay.

YouTube made "unboxing" videos ultra popular

Channels Where UGC is Most Popular

Fun fact: YouTube was one of the very first social media platforms to amplify the UGC creator in a big way.

Back in the late 2000s, a content creator would join YouTube to record their own unboxings, tutorials, and to show viewers a "day in the life". YouTube was truly the hub for user-generated content.

Today, these are the biggest social media platforms that feature user-generated content:

  • Instagram
  • TikTok
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest
  • Twitter

While UGC is popular on all of these platforms, each one has a different sweet spot.

For example, Twitter is great for short-form UGC content and commentary on current events, while content created on YouTube is better for longer, in-depth videos.

Reviews are a super popular type of UGC

Popular UGC Campaigns

Now that you're familiar with the rise of the UGC creator, as well as the different ways content creation comes to life, let's talk about brand user-generated content campaigns.

Some of the most iconic examples:

  • The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (yes, nonprofit movements count!):  One of the earliest and most successful examples of UGC, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral in 2014. Celebrities, friends, and family members challenged each other to have a bucket of ice water poured on their heads - all in the name of awareness and donations for ALS research
  • Dove's Real Beauty Campaign: In an effort to celebrate "real beauty", Dove launched a series of user-generated ads featuring women of all shapes and sizes. The campaign was widely praised and is still going strong today
  • Apple's #ShotOniPhone Billboard Campaign: This campaign is all about celebrating the power of the iPhone camera. Apple collects user-generated photos from all around the world and featured them on billboards, TV ads, and social media posts
Shot On iPhone Apple UGC Campaign

While these pieces of content are drastically different, they have one key theme that unifies them all: they encouraged real people to get involved and develop original content.

As you can see for brands, user-generated content is an absolute home run.

The Big Winners in User Generated Content: Brands and Marketers

We can't ignore that a UGC creator is a brand's biggest asset for creating assets right now.

The UGC creator is becoming an increasingly valuable resource for brands to market their products or services - especially if said brands don't have the budget to hire a team of influencers, but are still itching to hit their sales and marketing goals.

Here are a few different ways that brands partner with a content creator:

  • Invitations for brand ambassadors: These are typically long-term relationships in which a brand sends a UGC creator free product in exchange for social media content featuring that product
  • One-time sponsorships or partnerships: These can be anything from an Instagram post to a TikTok video, and they usually involve some sort of monetary compensation
  • Contests or challenges: A clever way brands get UGC creators involved is by hosting a contest or challenge with a prize. A good example of this from a brand is Chobani's "Switch The Chobani Flip" challenge, where Chobani asked people to enter through UGC content creation on TikTok for the chance to win a not-sold-in-stores product

Don't Make This Mistake As A Brand....

If you're a brand, the best way to leverage UGC content for your channels is to make sure that there is an agreement in place between both the creator and the brand.

Otherwise failing to get explicit permission from a creator for use of something like branded photos is essentially stealing their content for your benefit, even if the UGC creator posted the authentic content in the first place.

Think of it this way: if you're a brand, you'd pay a celebrity to use and promote their authentic content, so why wouldn't you pay a UGC creator for theirs?

Having an agreement in place safeguards both the creator and the brand so that both sides are on the same page.

How Brands Can Find UGC Creators

You'd be surprised how easy it is to start finding people to create content for your brand.

Here are a few quick ways to kickstart the process:

Social media hashtags

Hashtags are an easy way to see who's already talking about your brand, and more importantly, who's creating content around it. Look through relevant as well as branded hashtags on your social feeds to see which content creators stand out to you and then reach out via DM or email (many creators will have their email in their profile/bio)

Google and YouTube searches

A quick Google or YouTube search can also be helpful in finding content creators. Simply type in "[ brand name ] + user generated content" to see what pops up


If you already have ambassadors for your brand, they're likely a great resource for finding additional UGC creators. Ask them if they have any recommendations of people who might be interested in creating content for your brand

Influencer marketing platforms

There are a number of different platforms out there that can help connect you with UGC creators, such as Grin, TRIBE, and Upfluence. These platforms typically offer a suite of tools to help brands with things like influencer discovery, campaign management, and analytics.

Grin is known in the industry for their influencer marketing programs

How to Become a UGC Creator

If you're thinking about becoming a UGC creator, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Remember that by organically posting content about brands, you are already a UGC creator (which is pretty sweet). Technically, you could become a UGC creator in the next five minutes.

With that said,  here are a few tips to help you get started:

Start by posting content about the brands you already love

The first step is simply creating great content around the brands you're already passionate about. This could be anything from writing a blog post reviewing a new product to filming a YouTube unboxing video. As long as you're creating content that you're proud of, the rest will fall into place

Use branded hashtags and geotags

When posting about brands, be sure to use relevant hashtags and geotags so that your content is easily discoverable. This is especially important if you're trying to get noticed by a particular brand.

For example, if you're posting about Nike sneakers, some relevant hashtags might be #Nike, #NikeSneakers, and #JustDoIt.

Include a call-to-action in your bio

If you want to work with brands, make sure your social media profiles include a call-to-action in the bio section.

This could be something as simple as saying "Looking to collaborate with brands that align with my values" or "I love working with XYZ brands."

The key is to make it crystal clear what you're looking for so that brands know how to get in touch with you.

Sign up with a UGC platform

As mentioned previously, there are a number of UGC platforms that can help connect you with brands. By signing up for a platform, you can make it even easier for brands to find and work with you.

Reach out to brands and agencies directly with your UGC portfolio

Still in the early stages and trying to land a deal? Start using items around the house to shoot test content if you're still itching to work with brands, but haven't booked anything yet. This will gives brands and agencies an idea of your style so they can know what to expect if they book you. Most creators create their UGC portfolios on Canva - give it a try!

Creator @UGCAng on TikTok shares her income journey as a UGC creator

So - are you ready to start your UGC journey?

If so, we're excited for you, whether you're a brand or a creator making authentic UGC. Creating great content is its own reward, but getting paid to do what you love is pretty sweet too.

Join the Marketer community today to learn from other creators and brands just like you.

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