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User-Generated Content: A Consumer-Company Relationship Like Never Before

Creating marketing content is no longer strictly available on the corporate side. With camera technology expanding and social networks becoming more popular, everyday consumers have become at-home, nearly professional content creators. High-quality user-generated content (UGC) allows loyal consumers to become advocates for their favorite brands. User-Generated content refers to content created by fans and customers, which brands can then use to market products and services. Essentially, this new customer-company working relationship allows loyal followers to become product ambassadors by creating videos, pictures, testimonials, and reviews used in online promotions.

The bedding brand Parachute showcases an illustrative example of UGC. By encouraging clientele to use the interactive hashtag #MyParachuteHome when posting their recent purchases, Parachute inserts this content on social media, as well as on digital campaigns and product packaging. Meanwhile, Apple’s “Shot on iPhone” campaign also illustrates this trend toward UGC accessibility. In “Shot on iPhone,” iPhone owners share, and Apple showcases, the best photos taken on their devices. The campaign highlights the ability of the phone to “capture the little things, in a big way.” Impressive, high-quality photography showcases small-scale, everyday experiences and things. Thus, anyone with an iPhone can “turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.”

For brands, UGC can bring company images “back down to earth,” offering more trustworthy, unbiased praise for products while showcasing “relatability and realness” in product marketing. In 2021, the Pew Research Center reported that 72% of the public, American adults, use some type of social media, a number which grew from 5% in 2005. Furthermore, Influence in the Digital Age reports nearly 52% of respondents 18 and older from the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia state that they post on social media at least once a month about recent purchases. Therefore, brands can leverage expanded consumer presence and increase product content on social networks.

Three Avenues for User-Generated Content

Brands have three audiences at their disposal when implementing UGC: everyday buyers, influencers, and employees.

Buyer harnessing brings a face to the forefront, which can feel and look just like the potential consumer, creating an opportunity for brand relatability. Meanwhile, the influencer approach takes advantage of our growing social media culture. Widely listened-to, popular Instagram handles can provide a stamp of approval, which encourages their large follower bases to follow suit. Lastly, few individuals understand the inner workings of a company better than employees. Thus, the employee method can help to “break the fourth wall,” giving audiences a closer look into how the brand works daily.

1) The Loyal, Everyday Consumer

A happy customer ranks among a brand’s most powerful marketing tools. Employing tactics such as customer-to-customer hotlines and grassroots product posts offer brands two methods to leverage these impactful relationships.

A customer-to-customer hotline puts real consumers on the phone with potential buyers to discuss positive brand experiences, such as everyday uses for the product and its application in their lives. Through this approach, future clientele can receive real-world advice on purchasing decisions. Thus, reaching out to a company’s most often recurring consumers increases the chances of positive feedback.

Alternatively, grassroots product posts can transform existing buyers into production models. Potential buyers seeing products worn or used by familiar faces immediately evokes a sense of trust, making the brand appear more attainable and closer to home. Scoping out social media posts from consumers through programs like Keyhole and Hootsuite can help discover the best clientele voices to amplify and harness for user-generated content.

Consumers are over the manufactured, picturesque façades; they prefer realness instead. We noticed the trends toward realness will proliferate in the movement against the use of unrealistic social media filters. This also proves true when considering the realistic body types recently showcased in fashion shows and photoshoots from huge brands like Victoria’s Secret. Likewise, Calvin Klein holsters this everyday look in their #MyCalvins landing page, which encourages customers to post in their new outfits, and then features some chosen content on the brand’s official site.

2) Use Code “Influencer”

Social media influencers can offer discount codes to followers for products, often-times containing the online personality’s name, making the purchase feel like a form of communication or transaction between follower and influencer.

There’s simply no denying the power that social media influencers have over fans. In a 2020 Edelman online influencer survey, 63% of respondents aged 18-to-34 reported that they trust what influencers have to say about brands more than the brands themselves.

Likewise, 58% of new buyers reported that an influencer’s two cents encouraged the purchase. Community-based niches formed by smaller creators allow for more friend-like relationships with followers. A trusted advocate voice forms from Q&A segments and the increasingly personal look that followers get into the everyday lives of internet personas.

3) Brand Employees

The last avenue, known as employee-generated content (EGC), allows consumers to get to know and have a close, intimate look at the story and mission of brands. Employee–generated content can give a better sense of the brand identity. EGC also gives employees the chance to share why they love their company with consumers. These behind-the-scenes features can showcase employees packing orders or making products.

More on How User-Generated Content Works

In all cohorts, promotion can come in the form of try-on hauls, lengthy reviews from real customers, or unboxing videos. Thus, brands can place UGC onto their websites or integrate it into email outreach.

The voices that consumers hear in these campaigns could easily be from their future selves, post-purchase. In other words, these promotions should always feel personal. They provide a look into a community that prospective purchasers may feel eager to join. In doing so, UGC increases consumer trust, thereby launching the beginning of long-term buying patterns.

This relationship, of course, is reciprocal. User-generated content reaps benefits on the consumer side through exclusive offerings like free products, discounts on future purchases, or payment rates for influencers. It truly is a win-win situation for both parties.

User-generated content also opens an avenue for communication between company and consumer, forming a working relationship between the two, often distinct yet commercially linked worlds. It’s a cooperative project, where brands can give consumers tags on the content they produce for often-times large, brand platforms. Brands not only can amplify consumer voices and opinions with UGC but also stage and highlight their creativity.

The Nitty-Gritty: Knowing Your Product & Market

There’s far from one formulaic approach in applying this strategy for any given company or product. The strategy offers a diversity of possible approaches for brands to embark on, providing key benefits of adaptability and flexibility. As a result, companies can easily mold and utilize UGC to fit with unique brand strategies and campaign goals.

The first question is who to employ: the average, loyal consumer-content creator, influencers, or employees. Will your consumers be more responsive to the personal account of any satisfied, everyday buyer or average employee, or will your product do well when highlighted in an Instagram story ad?

Secondly, which social media platform does your ideal clientele use most? In other words, where would UGC best resonate most? It is well reported that different markets utilize different platforms. According to the Pew Research Center, while 71% of U.S. adults aged 18-29 use Instagram, that number drops to just 29% for ages 50-64. Due to these demographic changes in social media platform use, considering all avenues such as Facebook, TikTok and YouTube offer a wealth of choices tailored to your specific product and market.

Fine-tuning Ads: Professional Touches with One Caveat

In the interest of aesthetic touches and keeping with some degree of professionalism, the editing and turn-over process is also critical. This could come in the form of providing scripts or guidelines for consumers or adjusting lighting and video quality on ads. Consumers are your best advocates but may not be the most refined and experienced ad producers. While that’s a huge part of the value of this ad type, it’s an aspect that must be balanced with some company help.

However, resisting the temptation of over-manicuring, directing, and editing consumers does not distract from the overall draw of these ads, which comes from their rawness and relatability. Too much of a corporate, engineered feel could work to undo any sense of consumer trust.

Tap Into User-Generated Content at Premiere Creative

User-generated content is more widely available than ever, so take the step in amplifying your brand’s “realness.” Doing so can make possible the elimination of senses of company bias or corporate slant from your brand marketing, and a closer and more personal appearance to your potential consumers. Dial (973) 346-8100 to get in touch with Premiere Creative and get to work on implementing this new wave of content creation into your business model.