User Generated Content

UGC Ads: 3 Examples + Best Practices of Using UGC in Ads

Creating UGC ads is a top priority for brands looking to boost paid performance and give their marketing a human touch. Below we share best practices and examples of how to use UGC in ads.

UGC in ads cover photo

UGC ads are everywhere for a reason.

Because your satisfied customers are your best billboards.

The numbers don't lie: 83% of consumers crave authentic shopping experiences from brands. 

Modern consumers need to see products in the hands of real people before making a purchase.

Just look at the recent explosion of TikTok UGC ads (aka Spark Ads). Brands are seeing higher paid performance while doing less legwork with raw and unpolished ad creatives. It's a win-win!

Spark Ad Example
UGC ads make perfect sense for brands already collabing with influencers and sourcing content customer content. Still, making UGC ads isn’t as easy as flipping a switch if you're doing it all 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

Again, 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 earning 41+ million views. From product reviews to unboxings and beyond, there are so many UGC ad formats primed to engage potential customers.

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 UGC ad campaigns on IG and TikTok.

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

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.

Another big bonus of UGC ad creation via TikTok is the speedy setup process. With the exchange of a Spark Ad code, brands can kickstart campaigns without fine-tuning ad creatives.

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 who love the products they’re promoting. Creators likewise understand the challenges and 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. Partnership Ads (Instagram)

Note: Instagram's UGC ads were formerly called "Branded Content Ads" but this has changed!

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

Like Spark Ads,  Instagram Partnership 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. UGC-Style Ads

This is where the world of UGC ads can get super confusing but stick with us!

UGC-style ads are paid social media posts that resemble organic influencer content. Unlike Spark Ads or Partnership Ads, these ads are run through a brand's @handle (and not the account of the creator who produced them). These look like typical UGC ads at a glance. That's the point!

Check out the UGC ad examples below to see the distinction.

UGC Ad vs UGC Style ad

Note the subtle difference in presentation between the Spark Ad on the left and the UGC-style ad on the right. Likewise, notice the difference in engagement rates between them.

Producing UGC-style ads is in contrast with the streamlined process of running ads on TikTok or IG with each app's native UGC ad tools. This process is known as whitelisting (or allowlisting).

The steps involved in whitelisting vary between TikTok and Instagram. The idea is simple enough: brands can turn actual UGC into ads in just a few taps. This also gives you the opportunity to get in front of the creators' audience unlike UGC-style ads.

So, why would brands want to run UGC-style ads versus allowlisting?

The short answer is the ability to control and edit the messaging of their promotions. Rather than take an organic piece of UGC and turn it into an ad, you're essentially art-directing a creator.

However, consider the downsides of UGC-style ads versus actual Spark or Partnership Ads:

  • UGC-style ads require negotiations with creators and rightfully demand a higher fee. 

  • Putting together ad briefs and tweaking ad creatives and targeting is so much more time-consuming than simply whitelisting UGC. Worse yet, it's well-documented how much authentic UGC outperforms brand-generated ad creatives regardless.

  • Again, your ad targeting and potential to get in front of a creators' authentic audience is limited when you run ads solely through your @handle.

Featuring actual people in your ads is a smart move. However, UGC-style ads are a lot of legwork for brands. Not to mention by default they require more fine-tuned targeting and tweaking to reach your target audience versus allowlisted UGC ads. This all explains why allowlisting is so popular right now.

What Else Should Brands Consider When Creating UGC 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

As noted in our UGC advertising panel, expert advertisers are testing dozens of UGC ad creatives at any given time to optimize their campaign performance.

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.

For example, Statusphere not only matches brands with vetted creators at scale but also makes it a cinch to generate UGC ads. With our platform, brands can set up instant Spark Ads without having to wait for usage rights or negotiate rates.

How to Speed Up and Scale UGC Ad Creation

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.

Beyond instant UGC ads, Statusphere's software helps brands get guaranteed, rights-ready content to promote via social media. Our advanced matchmaking algorithm, vetted creator network and fulfillment technology speed up the process of sourcing authentic UGC for your brand at scale.

Statusphere Platform Dashboard

Our platform has generated 75,000+ pieces of UGC for brands, saving them 11,000+ hours.

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 March 5, 2024.

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