Why UGC works better for app creatives and ads every time

Written by
Axel Portalupi
Creative Lead
Published on
September 7, 2023

Today, we’re living in the era of user-generated content (or, UGC for short). Marketing and brand professionals are operating in an environment where people make purchasing decisions, for example, based on reviews that real people made online. The modern consumer of anything, including apps, is now looking for authentic content to validate an idea. If you think about it, it’s not that surprising. The new TikTok University trend is the perfect example of how people search for authentic user generated content online - instead of using Google search for a product or a service, people now look for it on TikTok. 

Why? Well, your “potential customers” in large part no longer trust traditional branded advertising because they don’t believe in its objectivity or authenticity. Instead, what they’re looking for is social proof that it matches their needs at that time. This represents both a challenge and an opportunity in app growth and marketing. At Kovalee, we discovered that the most effective creative strategies for user acquisition campaigns are all centered around user-generated content as the core of our marketing strategies. 

So today, I’m going to take you through why you should use UGC, and how we do so at Kovalee to help grow the user bases of our partner apps.

Making sure we’re on the same page about what UGC is

Before we get started, though, let’s take a moment to make sure we’re on the same page about what we mean when we refer to user-generated content in the world of apps. UGC content marketing took off with the rise of influencers in the late 2010s and became a new “word of mouth” that grew brand awareness in a different way. People would now hear about a brand from an individual who wasn’t affiliated with that brand’s marketing team - but from a more objective third party. It’s easy to confuse UGC with influencer marketing, even though it’s not the same. As the name suggests, the latter influences the decisions a buyer might make. Using UGC content, on the other hand, is about convincing people of the worth of what they’re going to buy. Not only that, but traditional influencers who may have a “positive influence” on your brand are often associated with a fairly heavy price tag. With UGC on the other hand, that price tag is significantly lower as you’re relying on a real user testifying about their experience with the app. 

The same applies to potential app users. Think about your own life. Let’s say you want to subscribe to an app that’s going to help you get more flexible. What source of information are you more likely to trust - your friend who has done the splits in front of you, or a really fancy video made by the people selling you the app with a professional yogi in it? You’ll obviously choose the app your friend recommended. This is the core principle surrounding UGC - a person uses an app and shows you the benefits of the app that they themselves had positive experiences with. You don’t have that level of trust with a traditional campaign run by a brand.

Why UGC should absolutely be your primary format for app creatives

1. 72% of customers today believe it’s more credible when other people share their experiences with a product than when brands speak for themselves

2. Just 1% of millennials consider traditional brand ads engaging and trustworthy enough to click through

3. 88% of consumers trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust recommendations from their personal contacts

We see stats like this all the time at Kovalee. If we compare creatives that we run based on user-generated content to more traditional branded ads, we see that the UGC campaign wins every time. This is because people are more convinced of a value proposition when they see a testimonial of someone using an app, for example - it shows them more clearly why this particular app will suit their needs better.

So, let me show you an example of a time we ran a UGC app creative and A/B tested against a more run-of-the-mill brand ad.

Kovalee case study: Bend

The original, “traditional “ ad 

When we started working with Bend, our initial user acquisition marketing campaign was focused on traditional “brand advertising”. We opted for a traditional ad format, like this:

Our objectives with this campaign were centered around driving installs and purchases in the US market. As you can see, our primary message was “work on your flexibility”, and we focused our efforts on social media platforms like Facebook Feed, Insta Reels, and Insta Stories in a rectangular and vertical format. 

We struggled to reach our goals, running this ad over the course of a month. In fact, our total cost per purchase (CPP) was at $41, with an overall cost per install (CPI) of $2.38. It only yielded 400 installs. Why? Because another creative we were running at the same time took over… 

The UGC ad campaign

I know what you’re thinking - how can one creative take over from another? It’s simple. If you run two different creatives in parallel, the social network you’re using will “push” the better performing creative to use more of your spend than the other. It’s quite literally a technical confirmation that it’s a better creative - it’s actually Facebook’s regular attribution model whereby the algorithm “attributes” more to the ad with higher engagement. That’s exactly what happened in this case when we ran a traditional ad creative against a UGC creative for Bend. 

You can check out the UGC creative we ran here:

As you can see, the messaging was practically the same between this creative and the traditional ad campaign. Almost everything was the same except for the fact that one was clearly made by “a company”, and the other was made by “a user”. This instilled a greater sense of trust among our potential user base because a real person was sharing their real feedback on how the app helped them improve their flexibility. Our cost per purchase (CPP) decreased to $36, and our overall cost per install (CPI) lowered to just $1.44. The app was installed over 7500 times over the course of the same month thanks to this creative. 

To sum up: what are the main benefits of UGC?

Working with different types of UGC really has a wealth of benefits for anyone trying to grow the user base of their app. We discovered several of those benefits when working with Bend, and continue to experience them whenever we run UGC campaigns, which have now become the norm at Kovalee.

  • UGC content creation is more cost-effective than building an ad campaign. There are no production costs associated with UGC, and barely any time spent on brief writing. Your primary expense here is paying the content creator a fee, but this is significantly lower than what you’d need to pay an influencer with a lot of followers and reach
  • Over 98% of millennials own smartphones, making them your biggest target audience for app downloads. They have a much stronger sense of trust in UGC content over more traditional advertising tactics
  • Your credibility and reputation skyrockets, with UGC video content acting like a sort of “review” or social proof that your app is good
  • It will massively impact your conversion rates as a result of the above
  • Remember, there is a difference between influencer marketing and UGC. Influencers will post on their own social networks to influence their own communities, whereas with UGC, you will gather content from your users and implement it into your own marketing campaigns

A few final words

The benefits of UGC are really widespread, and working with content creators is really going to help you boost user acquisition. This strategy will help build trust among your customer base, allowing them to rest easy in the knowledge that real people are using and enjoying your app. It is really important to note, though, that branding ads remain relevant within the wider context of user acquisition and shouldn’t be neglected. It’s not all or nothing with UGC, realistically having the best app marketing strategy should really be about finding that sweet spot between performance (relying on UGC) and building a strong brand and working on its awareness (branding ads). 

When working on content curation for these campaigns (whether that’s across different social networks, or Google and Apple ads, for example), just remember that the key to a successful UGC strategy is really about showing people the value your app has had for others. This kind of content will simultaneously act as a great piece of brand awareness and as a sort of “customer review”, convincing potential users that your app is right for them.

If you need any help developing your UGC app creatives strategy, don’t hesitate to reach out to us by filling in the form below! Or, if you'd like to become a Kovalee Kreator and build some awesome UGC for our partner apps, reach out to us here!