First, expand your definition of “user-generated content” (UGC). In the early days, UGC was pretty much limited to guest blog posts and other long-form content, but these days the landscape of potential content creation includes...
Put widgets with your social feeds on your site, pulling user comments and posts directly in (yes, you’ll need to monitor this)
Anything a customer contributes is UGC. Feature your reviews and show them that you value their feedback. That will drive more submissions.
Blogging is still a thing, and there is more of a market for shared content than ever, given that syndication / outreach is part of pretty much everyone’s content strategy these days. Put out feelers and you’ll likely find a steady stream of UGC content from brands, readers, other bloggers, etc ready to help fill up your site.
Video in particular is pretty much one of the hottest things going in digital marketing, and the numbers back it up. According to Hubspot, 81% of businesses use video as a marketing tool — up from 63% in 2018, 60% of people would rather watch online videos than TV, and by 2022, online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic. That’s 15 times more than in 2017.
OK, but to answer your actual question, how do you improve your UGC submissions?
The same way that magazines and other publications did for generations: Value the content.
No one wants to spend the time writing or creating for a site that takes everything and posts a bunch of junky content. If you spend the time curating a quality user experience and focusing on quality, useful content, your users will be far more inclined to spend their own time creating for you. At that point, they’ll want to be involved with such a respected, quality site, and your UGC submissions will improve and grow.
It’s like writing for The New Yorker vs. submitting to a content farm. TNY is pretty tough to get into and carries with it quite a bit of prestige for those who manage to place a story there.
On the flipside, having your byline on a bunch of content farm sites doesn’t make you or your brand look smart and successful. There are different motivations for both and different results.