Today, consumers look to other consumers for affirmation, confirmation, and validation to inform their purchasing decisions, choosing to heed the word of people like them over the companies themselves. It’s all about authenticity. If you’re a a marketer looking to harness your audience’s reach, you’ll likely turn to user-generated content, and the first tool you’ll look for is a UGC platform to manage it.
But with so many tools and platforms on the market, how do you choose which one is the right one for you? This guide is meant to answer this question.
First, let’s dig into what a UGC Platform is and isn’t.
What is a UGC Platform?
A UGC platform is essentially software-as-a-service (SaaS) that helps you curate images, videos, and other online media (user-generated content, or UGC) so that you can use it to tell your brand’s authentic story.
It’s about visual storytelling but it’s also about making life easier for digital marketers, reducing the time it takes to source media and clear the legal rights to use it on your various channels. Whether the content you are using comes from one user or a hundred, a UGC platform simplifies the process and helps you stay organized.
What about Influencer Platforms?
UGC Platforms and Influencer Platforms overlap in that there is a spectrum of influencers that range from mainstream celebrities to micro-influencers that may only influence the purchasing decisions of their immediate friend group. UGC Platforms cover the micro to macro influencer side of the spectrum, while Influencer Platforms cover the macro to mega influencer side.
To break the influencer spectrum down visually:
Popular influencer platforms include Revfluence, Upfluence, and Tapinfluence. However, this guide is all about UGC Platforms, so we won’t go into deeper detail about influencer platforms.
But, if you’re choosing between using an influencer platform or a UGC platform for your campaign, make sure to consider which part of the spectrum you aim to target that will advance your marketing goals the most.
You should choose a UGC platform if:
- Your brand already has a supportive audience
- Your audience is already sharing content
- Your audience isn’t already sharing content but could be called on to share content in the scope of a campaign
- Engagement is as important as reach
On the other hand, you might choose an influencer platform if:
- Your brand needs to build an audience from scratch
- Your audience does not or will not share content
- Reach is more important than engagement
Now that we’ve got the difference between a UGC and Influencer platform out of the way, let’s take a look at how to choose the right UGC Platform.
What to consider in a UGC Platform
Before you choose a UGC platform, there are a number of aspects you should consider:
- Ease of Use
- Reliability / Support
We’ll go over each of these in greater detail and give you questions to ask yourself as you evaluate different platforms:
There are several categories of platforms that fit into certain price ranges, allowing you to choose one that best suits your needs and budget.
Free or self-service
Most UGC platforms offer a free trial, but few offer plans that are truly free over the long-term. However, you may be able to choose a pay-per-campaign plan so you don’t have to pay if you’re not actively using the service. A basic plan supports a limited number of campaigns and brands and caps at a certain number of followers. You may also be limited to a smaller number of social platforms, integrations, and have limited customer support options along with only basic analytics.
Small to medium business
Mid-range plans may allow for unlimited campaigns but they will generally cap out at a maximum number of followers, brands, and leads.
An enterprise plan would be at the top of the scale, but if you commonly run several campaigns simultaneously or if your organization operates with teams of digital marketers this can be a much more cost-effective way to go. An enterprise plan should also give you access to live customer support, advanced features, custom integrations, and unlimited brands, followers, and so on. Being that they are far more complex to set up and manage, most enterprise plans require a commitment of one year.
- Do they offer monthly or quarterly plans?
- Do they offer short-term or campaign pricing?
- Is it possible to purchase features a-la-carte or create a custom plan that fits your needs?
- Are there discounts for non-profits or educational institutions?
Also, consider platforms with transparent pricing as they will charge you based on the services offered rather than the size of your budget:
Having a clear idea of what your campaign goals are as well as how much you are willing to spend should help you narrow down your choices.
Oftentimes, a platform will sell itself as everything to everyone. However, they each have a core set of industries where their strengths lie. Different platforms will have different and unique features that lend themselves more to certain use cases. UGC Platform features generally fall into the following 4 categories:
- Aggregation – Aggregation is all about what kind of content a UGC platform pulls in. Almost all platforms support Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, but some also include niche sources such as Slack (great for employee-generated content) or review sites like TripAdvisor (perfect for travel and hospitality content).
- Display – Display is all about whether the platform can take UGC and display it through various channels. For example, web (social hubs and campaign microsites), screens (retail activations, digital signage), events (social walls, social Q&A), email, print, and broadcast (UGC on Live TV).
- Publishing – Publishing is all about having features that allow you to post content back onto social networks. This is a less common feature set, but it includes some nice-to-haves such as having an “inbox” that lets you message users who have contributed UGC or having scheduling features that allow you to repost UGC on your own account.
- Analytics – Most platforms include some analytics capabilities to help you understand the impact the platform is having on your marketing. Some even go so far as to focus their UGC product entirely on the analytics side.
In addition to feature categories, platforms also distinguish themselves in certain industries. The features they choose to spend more time developing influence the kind of customers that tend to succeed with their platform.
The easiest way to see what industries a platform focuses on is to take a look at their client lists and look for trends among the featured logos.
- Olapic/Pixlee focuses on e-commerce and fashion brands
- Tagboard focuses on broadcast television and sports
- Stackla is geared toward travel, agencies, and sports
- TINT supports agencies, hospitality, higher education, and events
- Chute is all about hospitality
Here are some questions to ask to ensure you are landing in the right place:
- What kinds of customers and industries succeed the most with your platform?
- If you had to give a score from 0-10, how would you rate your platform in the following categories: aggregation, display, publishing, analytics?
- What use cases for the platform are the most relevant for my business goals?
- Who are the competitors to this platform? How does your platform differentiate?
How easy a platform is to use can make or break the success of its implementation. For example, consider what might happen if your team isn’t willing or able to learn how to use the platform.
Getting a demo or a free trial and taking the time to try out the platform is important to assess its usability and its suitability for your needs.
Here are some questions to ask about the UGC platform’s ease-of-use:
- Does the product have a free trial? (usually, only easy-to-use products will include a free trial. Others will offer a demo that is overseen by the SaaS provider)
- Will my team need an onboarding/training session, or will they be able to learn it on their own and get started right away?
- Do you need to know how to code to use the platform?
A customizable UGC platform helps you align your efforts with the brand standards of your organization.
Some platforms offer API integration so that you can completely customize the look and feel, but you might need a developer in order to explore this fully. Some platforms do not allow you to customize important parts of their platform on your own.
Here are some questions to ask about customizability:
- Can you show me some examples that highlight the customizability of the platform?
- What parts of the platform can I customize on my own and what do I need to reach out to your team for?
Integrating your UGC platform into the rest of your marketing stack helps scale the value that the platform provides by making it part of your overall marketing workflow.
First, you need to understand your own marketing stack. For example, what CRM are you using? Are you using a digital asset manager? How are you collecting and analyzing marketing metrics?
Then, be ready to discuss whether there are any valuable integrations for your marketing stack that are already built-out in the platform.
Here are some questions to ask about integrations:
- What integrations does your platform support that will help me save time and money?
6. Reliability / Support
The last thing you want to do is to commit to an annual contract only to find out that their support team is on the other side of the world in a different time zone. When you have questions, you need to have them answered—fast—so it’s important to find out what levels of support are offered and be confident in the reliability of the platform in general.
Questions to ask about support:
- How many years has the platform been around?
- Where is your company headquartered?
- During what hours can I expect to reach the support team?
- Do you offer different support plans?
And don’t forget to check the status page for the platform to see how reliable they are:
Security ties in with reliability and support, but it deserves a separate mention because it is such an important topic. If you are an organization that is of any meaningful size, it’s important to know how secure the UGC platform is before you dive in.
Worst case scenario: You are using the platform to display UGC and attackers gain control of your web or screen displays. Or, attackers gain control over your social accounts’ tokens.
Questions to ask about security:
- Do you have formal security policies in place?
- Does your engineering team run independent penetration testing?
- Has there ever been a hack or data breach within your platform? If so, what happened?
List of UGC Platforms
Among the many UGC platforms available today, these are counted among the top contenders:
TINT is serves events, travel, hospitality, entertainment, education, and non-profits and is one of the only companies to offer self-service / transparent pricing, a free trial, and fully featured events and signage products on top of being a UGC Platform.
Stackla serves food and beverage, consumer goods, agency, automotive, and more. Stackla leverages visual recognition technology and machine learning to create a content engine for UGC.
Pixlee focuses on integrating with e-commerce platforms, and integrates an influencer marketing element, helping you connect with individuals who can elevate your brand and engagement.
Olapic offers the ability to turn your UGC, influencer-generated content, and your own brand-generated content into short-form motion videos – a unique differentiator for them.
Tagboard: specializes in sports, media publishers, brands, and events. They offer the ability to live broadcast UGC as well as on event screens and social walls.
Chute serves the travel and hospitality market. They offer an API, geotracking, and influencer marketing support. Their workflow management is tailored to those with complex content management needs.
Wayin serves creatives, consumer brands, digital marketers, agencies, and media companies at the enterprise level with a feature set focused exclusively on making it easier to run various types of campaigns.
Yotpo got started by helping its customers collect and display text testimonials but it now helps collect every possible type of UGC.
Curalate focuses on connecting social with commerce with conversions being the main goal. Their products revolve around making social more shoppable.
Crowdriff focuses mainly on travel and tourism and focuses on being a searchable digital-asset-manager that can also pull in and display UGC.