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How are brands working with the growing number of user-generated content creators?

Brands say they are getting countless cold pitches from a new kind of influencer — user-generated content creators.

User-generated content creators provide brands with authentic-feeling photos, videos and reviews. (Photo: Ibrahim Boran)


Over the past 30 days, Adam Simone, the cofounder of Leaf Shave, has received 115 cold pitches from people offering to create user-generated content (UGC) for his brand.

UGC has existed since the dawn of social media, and refers to images, videos and other content that a brand’s customers might choose to post after purchasing an item. And as brands seek to make their marketing content more relatable, a new breed of aspiring influencer has emerged, offering to create this content in exchange for a fee, so that brands can put marketing spend behind it, or some freebies.

Stories of UGC creators detailing how they earn thousands per month from these side hustles has also encouraged more people to jump on the bandwagon. There are even online courses that teach new UGC creators how to “be your own boss” and make money.

And while brands are certainly keen to put budget towards UGC — 85% of shoppers say they’re more influenced by UGC than content a brand produces itself — the number of people wanting to cash in on the UGC boom has also led to an increased number of untailored pitches, causing something of a nuisance for brands.

UGC overload

Some founders have complained that this flood of messages means genuine customer queries aren’t as easy to spot. Simone says this is a problem on Instagram, where customer requests “sometimes get lost in the ‘message requests’ folder. We do try to police it, but every so often I’ll find [a customer request] that’s been there for a couple of weeks, and that’s annoying.”

Simone says he receives “nearly 30 messages a week from UGC people,” which is far more than for any other kind of business-related cold pitch. He says he has never hired someone off the back of one of these pitches.

Andrea Popova, the CEO of CPGD, a directory and resource for brand builders, recently placed a PSA in her company’s newsletter, asking UGC creators to stop “spamming founders.” “I kindly ask that you avoid using CPGD as a way to mass-message founders,” she wrote. “I've been getting a lot of spammy emails from UGC creators and have heard several founders complain of the same.”

“It seemed these UGC creators were using the directory to find brands and then spam them with a ton of inbound,” she told Thingtesting. CPGD doesn’t list brand contact details on its website, but Popova suspects some creators were citing the directory as the place they discovered the brand.

“Now more than ever brands do need authentic content, and for better or worse, that’s something more people in the population are able to provide,” says Popova. “You don’t need a studio, you don’t need a model. You can have someone in their bedroom with their iPhone.”

Is there a better way for brands and UGC creators to connect?

The issue for brands being bombarded with pitches from UGC creators is that it can be difficult and time consuming to vet which creators are actually a good fit for a brand, and will be able to create decent-quality content.

For shoppers it can become problematic too: how will they be able to tell which bits of UGC content were created from a love of a product, and which were driven by financial benefit?

“I wish there was a tool that more easily enabled or incentivized existing customers to create UGC of their own,” says Popova. She says that brands could offer things like discounts on future products in order to keep the relationships with their customers going, rather than paying a fee for one-off bits of content.

Tools like Bounty, a platform where TikTok users can earn money and rewards from brands by posting videos featuring products they have purchased from partnered brands, go some way to solving this problem. The startup raised $4.7 million last August to scale up its service.

Popova predicts that as the UGC market continues to saturate, brands will likely shift to working with agencies and platforms to find UGC creators, rather than responding to freelancers and cold pitches. “Brands will work more and more with the services where they can find UGC creators that are vetted and approved,” she says.