User Generated Content

Using UGC in Ads: 3 Examples and Best Practices for Brands

UGC ads featuring creators boost performance and give your marketing a human touch. Below we share best practices and examples of how to use UGC in ads.

UGC in ads cover photo

There’s a reason why the best brands on social media are using UGC in ads like never before.

Because your satisfied customers are your best billboards.

Food for thought: 83% of consumers crave authentic shopping experiences from brands. 

Translation? 

Modern consumers need to see products in the hands of real people prior to purchase. 

Leveraging user-generated content to uplift the performance of your paid ads makes perfect sense. This is especially true if you're already working with influencers and sourcing content from customers.

Still, making UGC ads isn’t as easy as flipping a switch if you’re managing campaigns yourself.

Below we break down how to use UGC in ads with real-world examples of brands doing it right.

Why So Many Brands Are Using UGC in Ads

The popularity of “real” content in paid campaigns is no coincidence. 

Chances are you're seeing more UGC-based ads and we're seeing more brands run them. Here’s a quick breakdown of why brands are shifting to UGC from solely brand-created ads:

  • Social proof boosts ad performance. UGC’s ability to increase conversions across the funnel is well-documented. Recent research says that shoppers who interact with UGC result in a 100.6 % lift in conversions. Anecdotally, we’re seeing a lot more customer photos and videos featured in marketing campaigns.

  • User-generated content reduces the burden of content creation. This is actually easy to overlook. That is, potential ad assets made by creators and customers mean less work for your team. Repurposing your UGC into ads means saving serious time and resources.

  • People-centric content is what pops off on social media. Creative UGC is a welcome break from lifeless product photos. Check out this TikTok from Hoover featuring a UGC creator that earned 41+ million views. 

All of the above illustrates why brands are investing in a dedicated UGC marketing strategy. Every piece of creator content you source serves as valuable social proof and potentially powerful ads.

3 UGC Ad Examples on Instagram and TikTok

For this post, we’re going to focus on brands running campaigns on IG and TikTok.

Much like both apps are different in terms of content, the same applies to their ad platforms. 

Below are three types of user-generated content ads plus real brand examples to inspire you.

1. Spark Ads (TikTok)

The concept of Spark ads is simple: take an existing video from a creator and transform it into an ad. Below is an example from Kiala Nutrition. The brand netted a staggering 75+ million impressions and 10,000+ conversions from its Spark campaign.

Spark Ad Example TikTok

Source: TikTok

It’s no surprise that Spark campaigns are among the most popular types of TikTok ads. The platform cites higher views, engagement rates and conversions for Spark Ads over other types.

Tips and Best Practices for Brands

  • TikTok UGC ads should feel off-the-cuff and unpolished. Authenticity is key to connecting with viewers. Heck, TikTok’s own mantra is to “make TikToks, not ads.” 

  • Trust creators when it comes to promoting products on TikTok. The best UGC ads are actionable when they’re made by people that love the products they’re promoting. Creators likewise understand the challenges that pain points of their audiences.

  • Consider top-performing creator TikToks as the basis for a Spark campaign. If an organic creator post pops off, chances are it’d make a strong ad for your product. One of the biggest benefits of UGC ads is the ability to validate your video ideas via organic engagement.

2. Branded Content Ads (Instagram)

UGC ads grew so big on Instagram that the platform went all-in on its suite of branded content tools.

Like Spark ads, branded content ads transform organic content into paid promotions. Creators receive attribution for their content with a “paid partnership” or “sponsored” label.

branded content ad on instagram example  Branded Contend Ad Reels

Source: @tani.coy.rollermama

Tips and Best Practices for Brands

  • Branded content ads tend to be more polished than TikTok ads. Sure, authenticity matters on both platforms. That said, Instagram ads usually feature more edits and creative touches.

  • Show off your product(s) from multiple angles. This highlights why UGC video ads via Instagram Reels are so popular. Branded content ads should bring your product to life. Prioritize ads that feature real people in real-world settings.

  • Branded content ads benefit from value-packed captions. Unlike Spark Ads,  Instagram ads tend to be lengthier in terms of their copy. This applies to In-Feed Posts and Reels alike. Instead of “show, don’t tell,” branded content ads show and tell.

3. Whitelisting (Instagram and TikTok)

Chances are you’ve heard the term “whitelisting” pop up in the marketing space.

Whitelisting is the process of accessing a creator’s content to promote it as an ad. Through whitelisting, brands blur the line between branded-created and creator-made assets.

The steps involved in whitelisting vary between TikTok and Instagram. The short of it? Creators provide permission to brands to access their posts. Then, brands set up ads as normal but select a creator's assets as the basis for their campaign.

Below is a snapshot of the ad approval process (from the creator’s POV) on TikTok:

example of authorizing spark ads

Source: TikTok

Note: both TikTok and Instagram have significantly streamlined the process of whitelisting content through Spark Ads and branded content ads, respectively. Brands used to have to negotiate with creators off-platform to create branded assets to promote. This is similar to hiring a  UGC creator.

What Should Brands Consider Before Using UGC in Ads?

Brands are spoiled for choice when it comes to where and how to integrate user-generated content in promotions. That said, make sure to take a step back before jumping head-first into a campaign.

To wrap things up, here are some quick best practices and considerations for using UGC in ads.

Short-Form Video > Static Images

Short-form video has taken over social media and ads are no exception.

It’s well-documented that marketers are going all-in on formats such as TikTok and Reels. Heck, 41% of Gen Z prefer to discover products via short-form video.

Here’s a snapshot of the benefits of short-form video as an ad format:

  • The ability to hook viewers at a glance (without requiring them to read any copy)

  • Opportunities to pack entertainment value into your ads (ex: music, humor, flashy edits)

  • The ability to educate potential customers about your product in a matter of seconds

The popularity of UGC video ads speaks for itself. This is particularly true on TikTok which is almost exclusively a short-form video platform. Brands are seeing success with TikTok campaigns featuring creators of all sizes. This rings true with paid and organic content alike.

UGC Ad Example Hoover

Source: @hoovervacuums

When in Doubt, Ask for Permission and Give Creators Credit

So much of using UGC in ads is about getting permission through the proper channels. This applies to repurposing or reposting user-generated content but especially when running ads.

If you’re second-guessing whether you own a piece of UGC, ask permission to be safe. 

This highlights a big upside of running campaigns via Spark Ads or branded content ads. That is, creators provide on-platform consent to use their content.  

Ownership rights should be part of your influencer agreement when working with content creators. This will help you avoid any headaches or even legal issues. 

Below is an example of how brands ask permission to promote UGC.

ugc permission example

Source: @wanderingmyhome

Comments, DMs and emails are all fair game for asking permission. Many brands use copy-and-paste message templates to collect UGC manually. Here’s a sample:

“Hey there, [@username and/or creator name]! We absolutely love this [content type, ex: photo, Reel]. Would you be okay with [your brand name] sharing it on our digital properties (such as social media and email) for marketing purposes? We’ll tag your account and give you credit for your content. If so, please reply #agree and let us know!”

Many companies also direct customers to a terms and conditions page regarding UGC:

jetblue ugc request tweet

Source: @jetblue

Also, tagging creators in promotional content on your account is a smart move. This is both a courtesy and a way to double-check that they’re cool with being promoted by your brand.

Below is an example of tagged creator content on a brand’s TikTok account. Both Spark Ads and branded content ads allow brands to give attribution to creators. 

tagged creator content example

Source: @ninjakitchen

Note: for more details on permissions and creator consent to promote content, we recommend reviewing the branded content policies of Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

Scale How You Source Your User-Generated Content 

The more potential promotional UGC you can earn, the better. 

That makes sense, right? Getting more UGC is a long-term goal for most brands.

There’s no “right” way to go about it, though. You can start by monitoring your @mentions and uses of your brand’s hashtag. This uncovers satisfied customers to source authentic content from.

For example, The Pink Stuff has thousands of posts to choose from via their Instagram hashtag.

Instagram hashtag example

Thing is, gathering UGC at scale is the tricky part. 

The legwork required to individually reach out to influencers to ask for permission to promote their content is exhausting. This process is time-consuming even with outreach templates

Only having a handful of UGC posts to promote doesn’t give you many options when running ads.  Again, anything you run as an ad should represent your brand’s best posts.

The takeaway? You shouldn’t settle for so-so content if you want to put your ad budget behind it.

That’s why more brands turning to influencer marketing platforms to scale their UGC. With the right platform, brands can earn consistent and guaranteed content from real people.

60 tiktok and reels ideas for brands - free ebook

How to Run Regular UGC  Ads Without Wasting Time

The boom of UGC in ads isn’t slowing down any time soon.

If anything, creator content will continue to be in high demand. After all, modern consumers rely on recommendations from creators when researching products.

These examples can help you brainstorm ways to level up your UGC marketing strategy.

And if you need to streamline the process of earning more UGC to run as ads, our platform can help.

Statusphere's software helps brands get guaranteed content at scale. Our advanced matchmaking algorithm, vetted creator network and fulfillment technology speed up the process of sourcing the most authentic UGC for your brand.

Statusphere Platform Dashboard

We've generated 75,000+ pieces of content for our brands, saving them 11,000+ hours in the process.

Want a peek at how our platform works? Get in touch with one of our experts to see how we can our software can get your brand rights-ready UGC at scale.

This article was first published in February 2023. It was last updated May 30, 2023.

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