Stock Images VS UGC

User-Generated Content Vs. Stock Images – Everything You Need to Know

10 minute read

Professional content with stock photos at the heart has been a key feature of traditional marketing for many years. However, with user-generated content (UGC) well and truly here, the winds are changing and people are connecting more with authentic user-generated content.

For marketers, this statistic tilts the scale in favor of UGC but let’s not jump to any conclusion. Keep on reading to understand everything about how user-generated content and stock photos fare against each other to make sound decisions.

Difference Between UGC And Stock Images

User-generated content and stock images hold importance in their rights. Before moving further let’s understand both of them in detail.

User-Generated Content (UGC)

User-generated content is the digital content created by end users of a brand in the form of images, texts, and videos on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. 

User-generated content is testimonials, blog posts, and videos that are posted by unpaid users of brands who have tried their products. They are not professionally associated with the brand and create content for free.

UGC Examples

Yes, user-generated content is free but there is a catch! Since user-generated content is created by the end users the content is authentic and connects with the potential customers on a different level. 

There are several other benefits of user-generated content, but we will take a look at them in the following sections. For now, let’s turn our focus toward stock images.

User-generated content is exactly that: content created by a brand’s user. The content can be anything from images to videos to blog posts. The user could be a brand’s customer, site visitor or social follower.

Michael, Senior Manager of Website Strategy at Sprout Social, Inc.

Stock Images

Stock images are images that a brand creates for boosting its marketing efforts. Everyone is familiar with stock images these days, we recognize them almost instantly. They have a particular look, massive smiles, people having fun in the frolicking field, perfect blue-skies, etc. 

Stock Images Example

They are well-designed posed images that scream disruptions and publicity. Stock images have developed a fake reputation over the years. They set off a little alarm in users’ minds saying “Oh, a staged image for marketing, let’s sit this one out”. 

But, now brands are experiencing a paradigm shift from stock images to UGC. Smart marketers understand the importance of originality, authenticity, and unfiltered content. Every UGC image speaks for itself, it connects with people and keeps users engaged. 

If you wish to create a more personal and humanized brand, using stock images can pose a barrier whereas user-generated content can add just the perfect amount of magic to your brand and improve your reputation in the market. 

That being said, let’s dive a little deeper into why brands choose UGC over stock images. 

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Why Should One Choose UGC Over Stock Images? 

We all know how genuine and reliable UGC is, and we also know how stock images can harm your brand’s reputation in the market. 

Let’s go over some benefits of UGC over stock images and understand how it benefits the brand.

Cost Effective (UGC and Stock Image Cost comparison)

A stock image can cost a whopping $9.16 per image. Many leading stock agencies have various memberships where brands can buy stock images in bulk, they are best for small businesses with a tight budget. The lowest price for an image is $0.49 while the average price for a stock image is $8.67. 

But, what does UGC cost? Absolutely nothing! UGC is the content created by your existing customers who share their experiences with your brand or service. This reliable content does not cost bands anything and leads up to many benefits like social proof, awareness, positive reputation, etc. 

Personal Connections with Users

 The key advantage of UGC is the personalization it brings along. The majority of the customers resonate with UGC more than any other marketing technique. Did you know that 71% of the audience prefers personalized ads?

Whereas, stock images look staged without any personal touch to them. But most importantly, UGC connects with the audience and speaks to them emotionally. 

Helps Build Trust

Trust has always been a building block when it comes to customer loyalty and a consistent flow of conversion rates. But, trust is quickly dwindling and is not easy to gain. Customers have become more skeptical of branded content than ever. 

Consumers feel confident with content coming from their peers or existing customers who have real-life experience with the brand’s products and services. This is why UGC is so powerful and can easily convince potential clients to trust you. 

Consumers trust user-generated content more than traditional advertising

Eileen Brown, Digital Marketing Consultant

Use Cases

When leveraged properly, UGC can grow your audience, boost engagement, and improve SEO. How? Well, it is existing customers sharing their true experiences in the rawest and most honest form. 

When customers see such unfiltered content, they immediately relate to it and tend to develop a sense of positivity which motivates them to make a favorable purchase decision. 

Changes with Trends

People speak the internet language, they grab onto current trends and use them quite efficiently. By leveraging UGC, you display how active you are with the ongoing techniques that people use. 

Whereas, stock images are the same. They do not change with any trends, once you purchase them, you rotate the same set of images for your marketing for a long time. You lack freshness in your images and uniqueness in your content.

User-­generated YouTube product videos are now part of the buying process. 52% of consumers say that watching product videos makes them more confident in their purchase decisions. So, it’s crucial for brands to monitor earned media to track reputation, uncover consumer insights and identify advertising opportunities

Thomas Owadenko, Founder and CEO, Octoly.

Boost Purchase Decision

70% of Americans say they are more likely to purchase products after looking at user-generated images. It prevents them from getting misled and avoids refund requests in the future. When they see UGC and get the exact product without any confusion that comes with high-quality images, they are more likely to come back and become loyal long-lasting customers. 

Stock images instantly give out a promotional and advertising message that discourages users to make favorable purchase decisions, instead, they leave the product without considering it further.

The results revealed that online reviews impact 67.7% of respondents’ purchasing decisions.

Dhinckley, SEO Consultant at Go Fish Digital

Best Social Proof

UGC serves to be the best social proof for brands as it comes with honesty and reliability towards a brand. With reviews and UGC, you display that your product is worth buying and users are happy with it. 

It influences them to buy and triggers them to trust the brand. It is basic human nature that they do what others are doing, it’s like stalking a person on social media before you go out with them and you know the rest!

SEO Benefits

UGC is conversion-driven, customer-centric, and raises brand awareness. Apart from this, UGC also improves search visibility and involves keywords in it. You get a lot of long-tail keywords, serve as a content-sourcing tool, and can boost your domain authority. 

While stock images are simple images without any keywords or the ability to boost engagement. They are static images, that do not add up to any of your marketing efforts including SEO. 

Google favors UGC. The usefulness of user-generated content as a way to build greater context – and content.

During an AMA with Google’s John Mueller

Boost Social Media Reach and Brand Awareness

Getting your brand in front of the right audience, getting your voice heard, and establishing a positive brand name are critical to growth in the market. 84% of millennials believe that UGC on the website has a huge impact on purchase decisions. 

Types of Content Available About A Brand

Moreover, did you know that 65% of 18-24-year-olds trust social media and find relevant information there before making a purchase? People find the brand familiar, recognize the name, and trust the brand simply if UGC is present.  

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Top Brands Moving to UGC

Brands are moving away from traditional marketing and getting their hands on UGC. Brands now work in a more personalized, transparent, and authentic path to offer the best user experience. 

Here are some brands and their UGC campaign

1. Artifact Uprising

Their product reviews bring customer images into their eCommerce experience, they can select a product and will be redirected to its product page.

They can then find multiple ideas for their galleries from real people. 

2. Tarte

It is a cosmetics brand that displays reviews and visuals on its high-performing product pages. It serves them as social proof and has helped in spiking their sales. By leveraging UGC they have seen twice as many conversions and a 6% increase in their average order value. 

3. Alo Yoga

This brand has been inspiring people to join the yoga community for years. Their UGC campaign ideas have taken over our hearts. Their #AloGivesWater social campaign offers water access to one person in developing countries for a year every time they post visual reviews

4. Quay Australia

Quay Australia capitalizes on UGC to boost customer engagement, improve customer acquisition, and hike conversion rates.

They are a sunglasses brand that shows how its shades look on real customers to give them an honest idea about its products. This stimulated social engagement and brand awareness. 

5. Lauren James

This fashion clothing brand uses UGC to build brand loyalty and motivate shoppers to share their classy and stylish looks with the hashtag #LifeIsBetterInLJ. They highlight the colorful prints and engage like-minded folks.

People used Taggbox in their UGC campaigns, see what happened next!

How Taggbox Benefits Your Band?

Taggbox is a UGC platform that helps aggregate content from more than 20 platforms and displays UGC on multiple marketing touchpoints without any coding complexities. You can run hashtag campaigns, and email campaigns, leverage UGC on the website, and display social walls in multiple online and offline events, digital signages, digital screens, etc. 

UGC Can Be Used Anywhere

Highly equipped with features, Taggbox is a one-stop solution to grow your brand, boost user engagement, and uplift sales. Here are some key highlights:

  • Use the customization feature to change the background color, add a theme, and other elements to personalize your visuals. 
  • Add custom CSS to further implement your imagination and go beyond in-built features. 
  • Eliminate any irrelevant content using the moderation option. Get UGC rights from original creators to repurpose their content ethically. 
  • The SnapUp allows users to upload UGC on the website directly. 
  • With the Display Studio, you can add gamification and other fun elements to your campaigns.
  • Most importantly, analyze and monitor the success of your campaigns to constantly offer fresh and updated content. 

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We now understand the power of UGC and how it impacts users’ decisions. It helps the brand deliver transparency and authenticity. With raw and unfiltered content they build trust and allow their target audience to make better decisions. 

It all seems easy to talk about than done. Well, marketing is not easy but UGC takes most of the load off you. So, what are you waiting for? Leverage UGC and yield desired results.