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The UGC TikTok money-making scheme may not be what it seems

  • UGC – user-generated content – is TikTok’s latest get-rich-quick program.
  • The creators say they make a lot of money making UGC, but it’s unclear if the gold rush will last.
  • Many make money by teaching others how to create UGCs rather than creating UGCs themselves.

If you could make $10,000 a month with a side hustle, would you quit your job from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.? For many, the answer is an easy yes – The Quick Money Promise is the number of TikTokers being lured into participating in the latest get-rich-quick scheme: UGC.

UGC – or user-generated content – ​​has dominated TikTok’s For Your Page (FYP) for months. The UGC hashtag currently has nearly 200 million views on the platform. It seems like no one can open the platform without seeing at least one TikToker making the case for the profitability of the secondary hustle.

The surge in this type of content creation has led to something of a “gold rush” among TikTokers entrepreneurs. UGC creators on TikTok boast of making thousands of dollars a month producing short videos for brands. Accounts like UGCang and SocialCheatSheet receive millions of views and thousands of comments from impressionable Gen Zers eager to make money.

But many marketers are skeptical about how long the gold rush will last, warning that TikTokers glorify hard work and encourage young Gen Zers to make risky life choices — like quitting their jobs. stable job in pursuit of a gig which, in fact, is not as easily lucrative as it seems.

So what is UGC, anyway?

User-generated content is exactly what it sounds like – content created by social media users for the use and promotion of brands and products. Where influencers post sponsored content on their own pages – leveraging their own brands and personalities, UGC content is specifically designed to post on branded pages; creators often don’t even bother to post it on their own accounts.

UGC content referred to content created by users independently and organically about the brands and products they genuinely loved and used – but the term has changed its meaning in recent years. UGC campaigns are now increasingly generated by brands.

It’s not exactly a new phenomenon, but it has apparently exploded on TikTok in recent months as brands move away from influencer-based sponsored content campaigns in search of more “authentic” reactions to their products. UGC has grown rapidly over the past 12 months, Louisa Warwick, founder of social media marketing agency Social Acceleration Group, told Insider.

“UGC helps create brand authenticity, a higher level of trust in the product or service, a sense of community loyalty,” she said. “In the creator space, we used to see brands requesting influencer partnerships, now we’re seeing an all-time high of brand requests for UGC.”

When it comes to influencer partnerships, brands rely on the influencer’s large audience so their products can be seen by more eyeballs. But UGC doesn’t necessarily require a huge number of subscribers, because brands hire creators for their content, not for their subscribers. Many UGC evangelists on TikTok actually claim that you don’t need followers at all to be a successful UGC creator.

Instead, they say being a successful UGC creator is as simple as creating a portfolio of working examples and then competing for jobs on freelance sites like Fiverr, Upwork, and Billo.

Annalyse Cordon, head of media and creator of UGC, told Insider that it’s not uncommon for someone to comfortably earn five figures a month doing UGC, but successful creators have typically spent lots of time developing skills and relationships with brands. And they often have clients on long-term mandates rather than one-time projects.

“It’s a little worrying to think that someone who’s never done a single piece of content before could be told and sold the idea that in the next two months they’ll be making $10,000 a month with nothing else under her belt,” she said. “Again, nothing impossible but it’s a big hill to climb.”

When Insider scoured Upwork for UGC creator jobs, the vast majority of the 127 UGC jobs available had rates between $10 and $100, with a few outlier posts listing gigs for $1,000 or more.

Teaching others how to do UGC is how many UGC evangelists actually make money

While some TikTokers make money by producing UGC content, many of them actually make their money by teaching courses on creating UGC.

Several would-be successful UGC creators have started selling beginner courses or kits on how to get into side hustle.

But Misty Lam, CEO and founder of Aestheticreative Marketing, said it’s unclear whether these “self-proclaimed gurus” primarily make money creating UGC or derive the bulk of their income from selling courses. .

“Because there’s no way to prove if anyone actually served clients as a UGC creator or social media manager, many people said they didn’t learn much from these programs or that they felt ripped off,” Lam said.

Taylor Loren, former marketing director of Later.com and former chief marketing officer of Girlboss, says she’s wary of the “multi-level marketing vibe” given off by some of UGC’s strongest supporters.

“[There’s] kind of a ‘get-rich-quick’ vibe,” Loren said. “It’s a very new space, and there’s not a ton of expertise available for it. So it’s a bit of a blur who you can really trust.”

TikToker Crystal Harris recently explained exactly how a “UGC creator” bragging about his big paycheck actually made his money. The TikToker claimed they made $6,000 from UGC, so she went to their profile and saw they were selling a “cheat sheet” for $150.

“Which means out of the average 20,000 views they get, they only had to suck up 40 people to make $6,000,” Harris said on his TikTok. “It’s a scam. They don’t make money from content, they make money from selling you the idea of ​​creating content.”

Loren thinks online courses can be helpful, but TikTokers need to make sure the person they’re buying a course from is a trusted expert.

“You have to go beyond just watching a few TikToks from someone,” she said. “You have to look at their work experience, look at the clients they’ve worked for if you’re going to buy a course and want to quit your job to pursue that.”

The lack of transparency on how UGC creators actually make their money has left many skeptical of the ‘gold rush’

woman on laptop and phone wearing headphones

Marketers warn that UGC creators are often not transparent about how they actually make their money.

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While a glance at the #UGC hashtag on TikTok makes every UGC creator seem like an achievement, marketers are warning Gen Zers about the trend.

“UGC Content Creation. Is it a scam?” reads the text overlay in one of Courtney Park’s TikToks. The social media manager and freelance tech posted a trending video in July.

Park worries about the image the creators of UGC are painting of the career where they promise young viewers that the job requires no expertise as long as you have a laptop/phone.

“I think it’s a really simplified way to talk about things,” Park told Insider. “Creating content is definitely a real thing, and it can be very profitable, but you need some expertise. You need to know how to take good quality videos. You need to know how to create content that actually converts. ”

She claims that most UGC creators who champion secondary hustle never really show data and evidence to back up their expertise.

“There is no transparency behind these videos,” she said.

One of the most popular pro-UGC videos on TikTok implies that UGC is worth quitting your job — and therein lies the danger, Loren told Insider.

“I would advise people against going all out, just because of the current shift in brand budgets, a lot of weekly budgets of entrepreneurs or influencers are starting to get cut and slashed at brands,” Loren said. “Right now, I would be a little hesitant about people just listening to a TikTok saying you can make $10,000 a month.”

Instead, Loren advises trying content creation on the weekends or as a side hustle first.

“It’s still a skill like any job. Not everyone will be able to create beautiful, captivating and engaging content. It takes a certain eye,” Loren said. “If everyone could create beautiful content that converted, we would all have millions of followers.”

“A lot of times I think the outliers are the strongest,” Cordon said. “So those are the people who may have been lucky, but it’s a very different journey for each person.”

While Cordon agrees that creating content is a great option for people with creative and niche interests, she thinks TikTok has glamorized it to make it look like it doesn’t require hard work. Some TikTokers are now making it clear that their plans for a lucrative UGC career have not worked out as they expected.

And others admit that their success was largely due to the fact that they had already worked in social media and understood what brands were looking for.

“I think UGC, as we see it right now in 2022, has just been repackaged as something Gen Z can eat like this new trending hustle,” she said.

Park, the social media manager, remembers many accounts that simply shut down because they started UGC and realized it was a lot harder than expected.

“For those looking for a get-rich-quick scheme, they probably won’t make it,” she said.

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