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  • Writer's pictureTeam Reeler

Understanding UGC – where the "U" for "users" makes the authentic difference

Woman creating genuine UGC for a travel brand she stands behind

In the creative world of content marketing, things have become confusing. Many brands today engage various groups to produce content for them, in addition to traditional agencies. They source content from their staff, their customers, paid creators, and influencers. But there is some confusion here. In today's blog, we're diving into the difference between UGC (User-Generated Content) and paid creator content, better described as CGC (Creator-Generated Content). Let's delve deeper into the distinctions between UGC and CGC to understand why this matters.



User-Generated Content (UGC) – from real users

Let's now define User-Generated Content. UGC is content created by your real users or customers, the everyday heroes who have a genuine connection with your products. This content is authentic, unfiltered, and resonates with audiences because it comes from your real customers – the individuals who buy, use, know, and love your brand. UGC emerges from your authentic brand community and represents the beating heart of your brand.



Creator-generated content (CGC) – from paid creators

As an alternative to UGC, brands sometimes contract paid, semiprofessional content creators to produce content. Typically, these creators are sourced through an agency. The creators receive a brief and a product sample and are paid for creating content. Therefore, CGC refers to Creator-Generated Content from paid, semiprofessional creators.


While sourcing CGC can be a quick way for brands to acquire content, it comes with certain drawbacks. While these creators may be skilled at content production, they are not real customers and lack an authentic connection to the brand. Consequently, CGC may not effectively resonate with audiences seeking authenticity. While CGC may suit some companies, it may fall short for brands prioritizing authenticity in building community and trust.



Influencer content – from celebrities with a platform

We're all familiar with influencers; not only are they skilled content creators, but they are also celebrities and have their own social media channels with a personal following. When a brand hires an influencer to produce content, they pay for the endorsement, the content production, and, most importantly, for media space on their channels. These influencers may genuinely love your brand, but their sponsored content is part of a business transaction – and consumers understand that.



Evolving perceptions: from influencers to authenticity

As the marketing landscape has evolved, so too have our perceptions of authenticity. In the early days of influencer marketing, consumers often viewed influencers as authentic brand ambassadors, genuinely sharing products they loved.


However, as consumers became accustomed to endless product endorsements, they began to question the sincerity of influencers and distrust their messages. In response to this skepticism, brands are increasingly turning to User-Generated Content as the more authentic alternative. UGC, originating directly from real customers, provides a genuine perspective that resonates with consumers seeking authenticity amidst a sea of sponsored posts.



Paid content masquerading as UGC

Paid CGC masquerading as UGC presents a significant challenge. Many agencies mislabel semiprofessional creators' content as "UGC", blurring the lines between authentic, customer-driven narratives and paid content. This misrepresentation jeopardizes the trust that UGC builds inherently.


To build and maintain trust, brands should be honest about the sender behind the message. While CGC has its merits, it should be acknowledged for what it is – content crafted by paid content creators according to the brand's brief. Presenting such content as "genuine UGC" can backfire and harm the brand's reputation in the long term.



Two friends filming a selfie video as UGC for a brand they love

Navigating the shift toward authenticity

The demand for authenticity from customers is reshaping the way brands best communicate. While influencer marketing or paid CGC may offer quick results, they often fail to build long-term trust.


Cultivating genuine UGC from real customers requires time and effort, but it pays off in the long run. With UGC, brands can meet the growing demand for authenticity, foster trust, and shape brand narratives with sincerity. By prioritizing authenticity, brands can align the brand story with their customer community, truly fostering long-term brand loyalty.

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