UGC and Influencer Marketing
You have the whole marketing team holed-up in a meeting room powering through another brainstorming session, trying as hard as possible to come up with something fresh and exciting for the next campaign. “We could use cute animals?” - but you did that last spring. “Maybe we could find a celebrity to tout the product?” - there’s no way your budget would cover that.
Don’t despair! There’s one option you still haven’t looked into yet, and that’s tapping into your consumers, and taking advantage of some killer user-generated content.
What Is User Generated Content?
User-generated content is content created by users who are outside of your brand. This covers everything from product reviews, to recommendations, to original influencer content. And it can work wonders.
There are instances when using user generated content (UGC) can be beneficial for you. UGC gives you a more authentic voice, it lends credibility to your brand, and it saves you the time, energy - and let's face it - the hassle of creating content in-house.
The truth is simple: People don't trust brands like they used to. Authenticity is more important to your customers than your polished and cleverly-presented marketing messages. The path to purchase isn't a straight line anymore. It isn't even a squiggly one. It's a Six Flags-styled thrill ride with dips, turns, loopty loops and vertical drops that can wipe your brand from a prospect's mind if you're not prepared to meet your customers at each pivot point.
For instance, according to Talking to Strangers: Millennials Trust People Over Brands, a white paper released by Bazaar Voice, 84 percent of Millennials and 70 percent of Baby Boomers are directly influenced by the UGC on a company’s website.
We published a stats-heavy post on UGC to LinkedIn Pulse earlier this month that reported Millennials tend not to make without first reviewing user-generated content on the product they’re researching:
- 44 percent of Millennials won’t buy major electronics without user-generated content
- 40 percent won’t buy cars
- 39 percent won’t book at a hotel
- 32 percent won’t book travel accommodations
- 29 percent won’t get credit cards
- 29 percent won’t buy insurance from a company without first reviewing user-generated content
My friend, you're going to need a little user-generated content to win some fans, and that's just all there is.
Brands That Are Crushing It with UGC
One of the most successful UGC campaigns right now is being run by fashion brand Aerie. Their campaign #AerieREAL asks for customers to post un-retouched pictures of themselves in their Aerie swimwear using a branded hashtag. For every picture posted, they pledge to donate $1 to the National Eating Disorders Association.
This campaign has been successful, in large part because it taps into the “authenticity” factor. People - especially women- are sick of the pressure to be “bikini ready” from the perfectly photoshopped images of models splashed across the media. The Aerie campaign is working to combat this trend by promoting healthy, natural body types instead.
So, not only does Aerie's get a boost in authenticity from more than 116K posts on Instagram alone now using the hashtag #aeriereal, the campaign is also making a big social impact.
Another brand that really has a way of leveraging user-generated content is the social media scheduling app Buffer. The challenge for a brand like Buffer usually centers around not having a sexy product that would be ideal for Instagram. I mean, it's an app.
Still, Buffer's Instagram feed is made up almost entirely of user-generated content from their community. Using the #BufferCommunity hashtag, customers from all over the world are posting pictures of beautiful landscapes and exciting adventures, all being used to promote the message that by using Buffer, customers will have the time to relax and explore the world by automating their social media marketing and brand-building campaigns..
When User Generated Content Goes All Wrong
Not every campaign goes as planned, and asking your users to generated content for your brand carries with it considerable risks. You’re effectively handing over your brands reputation to an untrained group of people and hoping for the best.
There have been a number of brands who have tried their hand at UGC focused campaigns and had it blow up in their faces. Let’s take a look at a few of the less successful campaigns out there and learn from their mistakes.
One of the more well known UGC disasters was the #McDStories campaign back in 2012. The fast-food chain asked consumers to share their memories of McDonalds over the years by posting to Twitter using their designated hashtag. A lovely sentiment which could have resulted in some heart warming and positive stories.
Unfortunately, what actually transpired was a lot of unhappy customers sharing stories of puking after eating there. Some even posted about instances when they had found things like fingernails in their food! Not exactly the content the marketing team was hoping to get.
What can we learn from McDonald's? Be specific. Making the “rules” as clear as possible means you have a little more control over what kind of content is going to be produced on your behalf.
Bic For Her
Worldwide stationery company Bic, recently launched a brand new style of pen that was targeted specifically at women. Of course, men and women don’t actually need different styles of pens, so the campaign was not quite so well received.
The reviews left by many on online stores were comical and mocking of the “Bic for Her” range, and did nothing for the brands reputation. Nowadays, reviews are the backbone of online shopping, and many people don’t feel comfortable buying something without checking them out first. These reviews still count as UGC, even if you didn’t run a specific campaign to get them.
What can we learn from Bic? Take the temperature of the market before launching a new product. One of the hottest topics then and now is gender equality. Use social media to speak to (and listen to) your consumer base to see what they want, instead of blindly going into something. Once it’s on the internet - it never goes away.
Here's Why UGC Matters
UGC Makes Brands Seem More Human
All the recent algorithm changes on Facebook and Instagram have seen social media moving to a more authentic space than ever before. Thanks to the increasing problems with “fake news”, these platforms have been shifting their focus away from businesses, and back toward users.
But that's good news for influencer marketing. The trend toward brands relying more on UGC will strengthen influencer marketing as a whole, with experts predicting the $2 billion influencer marketing industry will more than double (and possibly even quintupe) in the next 18 months.
Credibility and Authenticity
Consumers crave the convenience of automation, the innovation of AI, and the connection of human-to-human interaction. We've gotten to the place where we can spot an automated message from a mile away, and we don't particularly care for them EVEN THOUGH we've come to expect an immediate response to all of our queries.
UGC does a great job of helping brands to automate the content creation process, and it lends itself rather nicely to fostering human connections.
According to a recent Nielson Global study, 42 percent of consumers are more likely to trust a recommendation from another person (even if they don’t know them personally) over branded content.
Going Against Traditional Advertising
With nearly 1 in 3 people on the planet now online (and a large number of their pets, too) traditional advertising is not as effective as it once was. Users are installing ad blockers to keep themselves from seeing ads (it's cable television all over again) and our BS detectors have become fine-tuned, noise-canceling instruments. The solution for brands has been directing more resources to SEO, social media, and content marketing in recent years.
A More Creative Approach
Creativity really should be one of the defining traits of user-generated content. But the truth is sometimes sponsored content sucks. Brands skip the research Handing over the creation of your content to the users also expands the amount of creativity in your marketing. While marketing teams are, of course, valued for their creativity, gaining content from an outside source can be even better.
People love seeing something new and inventive when hit with marketing campaigns - at this point, we’ve seen a lot of ads in our lifetimes. So, creativity is key! And, keeping in mind that 86% of millennials think that UGC is a great indicator of a brand’s quality - you’ll be winning either way.
Of course, the most important factor in any marketing campaign is how it positively affects your brand or business. UGC is a fantastic tool for boosting your KPIs throughout your digital marketing efforts. From social media, right through to inbound marketing - utilising this type of content can be awesome for your brand.
Social media stats
The importance of authentic and interesting content in social media marketing cannot be stressed enough, and many marketers pour a lot of effort into producing this. But, no matter how creative they are, marketers know that they need to be working on those numbers too if they want to succeed.
Luckily, 45 percent of marketing professionals agree that UGC can help to boost those all-important social media stats.
For most marketers, content engagement is one of the most important key performance indicators (KPIs) - and UGC is a powerhouse for engagement. Follower counts are no longer as important as they once were. Especially with all the algorithm changes holding back your reach.
Higher engagement means more people are invested in your content. More engagement means more leads. And that’s what it’s all about folks! By using UGC, especially at the first customer touch points - which for most of us, is social media, can be a super effective strategy.
In fact, some recent research by ComScore says brand engagement increases by 28 percent when consumers are exposed to a nice mixture of both professional and user generated content.
Time-saving for your team
How much time do you usually spend planning, creating, and editing content for your brand? Trust us, we know how time-consuming this can be. And while it’s always worth it when you get to create an awesome campaign and see it succeed - sometimes you need to get a lot of content together, without a lot of time.
This is where UGC really comes into its own. Essentially, it gives you a huge pool of resources created by people who genuinely love your product, and want to contribute to its success. Your team will still need to sort through the content and choose the best pieces to really push out there. But, you’re still going to be saving a whole bunch of time this way.
Inbound marketing magic
Traditional advertising just doesn’t really cut it anymore (but more on that later). So, if you’re trying to capture those leads - you need to be thinking outside the box. Using UGC gives your content an authenticity that you just won’t find anywhere else. And authentic content in itself is unique!
By showing consumers right from the start that people love your product so much they’re creating their own content for you is like gold. You’re making possible customers feel secure and confident in your product right away. And confident customers are much more likely to spend their money with you.
UGC in Influencer Marketing
Now UGC being awesome is all well and good, but you’re probably here because you want to invest in some killer influencer marketing. Well UGC and influencer marketing go hand-in-hand. There is no influencer marketing without UGC - not effective influencer marketing, at least.
The downfall of traditional advertising
Raise your hand if you have an ad-blocker installed in your browser?
In case you were wondering, the hands of 30 percent of all internet users just shot right up. That’s a lot of blocked ads.
Traditional advertising is dying a death right now, and as marketers, we need to stay ahead of the curve. Between ad blockers and algorithm changes, getting your marketing campaigns seen is harder than ever.
This is where influencer marketing comes in. Working with an influencer means you get to tap into their already existing audience that trusts your influencer's judgments. Consumers are now the best brand advocates you could hope for. People will ignore paid ads to consume content about your brand post by your actual customers.
User generated content or influencer generated content?
You may be wondering why you would want to spend money on influencer generated content, rather than just mine the free world of UGC. Both are valid options for boosting your content pool, and they both have different bonuses to their use.
If you are a smaller brand, or just don’t have a huge consumer base to tap into, trying to gather enough UGC for a campaign will be tricky. In order for a UGC campaign to be successful, you need to be able to make the most of your existing audience. If that audience is not there, then the campaign is not likely to bring in the kind of results you want.
Instead, you might want to engage an influencer to create some awesome content for you. This way, you’re able to tap into the influencer’s existing audience. And, if you’re doing influencer marketing right, then that audience is already going to be pretty interested in what you have to offer as a brand. Sometimes you’ve got to spend money to make money, guys - and this is one of those times.
Quality over quantity
Another huge benefit of using influencers to generate content for you is the fact that these guys actually know what they’re doing. Now, don’t get me wrong - some UGC can be pretty amazing. But, when you work with untested creators, you’re really rolling the dice for what kind of quality you’re going to receive.
While users may be huge fans of your brand, they usually won’t have marketing experience. So they may not be well versed in terms of camera angles, lighting, and photo composition. Influencers, on the other hand, have built their careers on this skill set - so you know your brand will be in good hands.
Finally, when working with influencers, you’re able to retain a modicum of control over the content they create. Since you are entering into a professional relationship with the influencer, you can install brand guidelines for the content, and even provide feedback and choose your preferred pieces.
On the other hand, when you cast the net out and ask consumers to create content for you - you have no idea what you’re going to get. And like we mentioned earlier, there have been some pretty disastrous examples of this happening in recent years. Giving the general public free reign with a brand hashtag can work wonders for you - but it can also open a can of worms as people use the opportunity to air their concerns and complaints.
Like every marketing strategy, UGC has its benefits as well as its drawbacks. Building trust with your consumer base is essential nowadays, and this can be a great way to help you achieve that. Whether you utilise the power of a good review, run a targeted UGC campaign, or invest in some influencer marketing, just keep one thing in mind - you’re going for authenticity. So don’t pay people to write fake reviews to boost your rating - people will know. Use real content created by real consumers, and you’ll soon see the positive effects this can bring.
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