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Top image: UGC collaborators: What your brand should look for

Jeff Haws, Director of Content Marketing, Emplifi

UGC collaborators: What your brand should look for

User-generated content (UGC) isn’t just another marketing buzzword; it represents a fundamental shift in how brands engage with their audience. It offers a path to authenticity that today's consumers crave. For brands, leveraging UGC isn't just a strategy — it's a necessity to stay relevant and resonate deeply with audiences.

However, as social media burgeons with creators, each with their unique style and audience, selecting the right UGC collaborators becomes akin to finding a needle in a haystack. The right partnership can amplify your brand’s message, build trust, and foster community engagement. 

It’s important to know how these UGC collaborators differ from influencers. UGC creators are unique in that their value is purely in their ability to create engaging, original content, not necessarily in the size of their audience or their overall reach. There’s an inherent authenticity there that brands can tap into if they’re smart about finding the right creators, forging a natural connection, and (mostly) letting them do their thing.

But how do you sift through the sea of talent to find creators who not only align with your brand values but can also engage your target audience in meaningful ways?

Authenticity and brand alignment

The heart of a successful UGC collaboration lies in authenticity. Collaborators who genuinely love and use your products or services are invaluable. Their enthusiasm is infectious and resonates with their audience more effectively than any scripted advertisement. You should also ensure the creator’s values and overall content vibe align with your brand ethos. This sort of harmony is critical for maintaining your brand’s authenticity and trustworthiness.

Engagement over follower count

In today's social media world, a strong engagement rate is more important than your follower count. A smaller, highly engaged audience is often more valuable than a larger, less engaged one. Look for creators whose followers actively comment, like, or share their content. Furthermore, the collaborator's audience should reflect your target demographic, ensuring your message reaches the right ears.

Content quality and creativity

The internet is flooded with content, making quality and creativity more important than ever. Seek out UGC creators who produce eye-catching, high-quality visuals and can weave compelling stories that naturally incorporate your brand. This innovative storytelling can not only elevate your brand but also keep audiences coming back for more.

Content mix and platform presence

A healthy mix of content types (images, videos, blogs) and a strategic presence across platforms can amplify your brand’s reach. Emplifi research shows Carousels and Reels on Instagram, GIFs on X, and especially live video on Facebook are the best bets for prompting user interaction. And, while TikTok still shows strength, Instagram still drives the most video engagement in terms of median post interactions. 

Identify UGC creators who excel on platforms where your target audience is most active, ensuring your brand message is heard loud and clear.

6 red flags to look for in potential UGC collaborators

While the allure of large followings and glossy content can be tempting, you should stay vigilant when selecting UGC partners for your brand. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:

  • 1. Mismatched audience demographics: A creator’s audience demographic that doesn’t align with your target market is a subtle yet significant red flag. Detailed audience analysis should be part of your vetting process to ensure your message reaches the intended consumers.

  • 2. Inconsistent posting schedule: Posting frequency is a hallmark of professional creators. Sporadic activity can signal a lack of commitment, potentially disrupting campaign timelines.

  • 3. Controversial or off-brand content: Aligning with creators who engage in divisive topics or whose content strays far from your brand’s identity can alienate your existing audience. It’s vital to thoroughly review potential UGC collaborators' past content to ensure it complements your brand’s image.

  • 4. Engagement pods or bought followers: Genuine engagement is the currency of social media. Signs of artificial engagement, such as unusually high engagement rates without corresponding follower interaction or comments from unrelated accounts, can indicate the use of “engagement pods” or purchased followers. These practices can undermine the authenticity of the engagement and, by extension, your brand’s integrity.

  • 5. Lack of disclosure about past partnerships: Transparency about past brand collaborations is crucial. Creators who fail to disclose previous sponsored content appropriately may be violating FTC guidelines in the United States, for example, posing a risk to your brand’s reputation.

  • 6. Negative public perception: Creators who have been involved in public controversies or exhibit behavior that could reflect poorly on your brand should be approached with caution. Online sentiment and reputation around these UGC collaborators could quickly transfer to your brand.

5 best practices when partnering with UGC collaborators

To forge successful UGC partnerships, consider these extended best practices:

  1. Clear communication of expectations: Beyond establishing goals and deliverables, it’s important to discuss content guidelines, deadlines, and any specific campaign hashtags or mentions. Regular check-ins can help keep the collaboration on track and address any issues promptly.

  2. Creative freedom: While it's important to maintain brand consistency, allowing creators the freedom to express their unique voice and style is crucial. This autonomy encourages authentic content that resonates with their audience and feels less like a traditional advertisement. Understanding and respecting the boundaries set by creators regarding how they wish to incorporate your brand into their content can lead to more genuine and effective partnerships. Pushing too hard for brand-centric content can dilute the authenticity of their message.

  3. Performance tracking: Having specific, measurable social media KPIs in place — such as engagement rates or conversion metrics — can help assess the effectiveness of your collaborations and help you adjust your strategies as needed.

  4. Legal agreements and compensation: Ensure all your collaborations are backed by clear contracts outlining terms of compensation, content usage rights, and any exclusivity clauses. Fair compensation not only respects the creator’s work but also fosters a positive and professional relationship.

  5. Feedback loop: Constructive feedback is valuable for both parties. Keeping each other posted on what is working well and what could be improved can only help enrich the partnership and future content.


Selecting the right UGC collaborator goes beyond metrics to understanding the nuances of partnership, from the authenticity of engagement to the alignment of brand and creator values. The success of these collaborations hinges on mutual respect, clear communication, and a shared vision for what the content can achieve. 

If you’d like to learn more about how Emplifi can help your team succeed with your UGC strategy, we’d love to give you a look at our industry-leading UGC solution.

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