The whys and hows of user-generated content
An authentic message delivered by actual consumer of a product carries far more weight and influence than any expensively produced television commercial, celebrity endorsement or advertisement. That is the exact promise of tastefully executed user-generated content, or just UGC.
Feedback, testimonials, products, books or movies reviews, real-life motivational stories, fashion and lifestyle blogs, news and opinions are grouped under UGC umbrella.
UGC as a form of content has been around for a long time but became a mainstay of marketing only by the 2000s. Today, approximately 72 percent of brands across the globe consider UGC as a path breaking strategy to engage with their widespread and evolving consumers.
So, what’s all the noise about UGC?
Before we dive into the crux of why UGC is making a comeback in a big way, I’d like to mention two notable campaigns that had UGC at the heart of the entire strategy.
The company launched an extremely interactive social media campaign called #ShotOniPhone. Apple invited users to send photos they #ShotOniPhone, and the best ones were featured on billboards across cities. The campaign garnered great worldly appreciation and was considered one of the best social campaigns.
Something similar happened when Mondelez India launched their #AtHomewithOreo campaign. The campaign was created to bring locked-down families closer to each other during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants achieved this by sharing fun recipes, playing daily games and bringing hobbies to life, once again.
The campaign helped Mondelez India strengthen consumer relationships and garnered 249 million impressions and 29 million video views.
These are some stellar examples of using affirming content generated by consumers efficiently to build a compelling case for a brand’s products with other consumers. Especially today, in the age of limited trust, product paranoia and mind-bogglingly huge number of choices, capturing consumer confidence and persuading them to believe in your brand is of utmost importance.
Consumers always want to know the product’s usability and reliability from the people they trust and know. And UGC does exactly that. It’s a level-up of word-of-mouth strategy where faces-next-door share their experiences of using the products.
In fact, reports state, ads that contain UGC have four times higher CTR than usual branded content. Which means, UGC not only enables consumers to understand the brand to the core but also proliferates the extent to which brands can engage their target consumers with relevant content.
The hard truth about UGC
As appealing and highly rewarding as it is to include UGC in your content marketing strategy, there are a few things that must be considered. In order to enforce a successful UGC marketing strategy, there has to be absolutely perfect creator-brand fit. If the creator profile does not fit the brand’s audience profile, then consumers will not be able to relate to the product, or even to the problem that the product solves.
So a popular content creator in his/her early 20s may not be a convincing ambassador for anti-aging creams. It won’t matter that the creator has a million followers who saw the content piece because the followers may not even belong to the anti-age cream consumption category. Here the impressive marketing numbers may not cause the much needed impact on bottomline sales numbers.
In addition to this, today’s consumers look for honest content that gives them a realistic picture of the brand and its product.
So it’s again on the brand and the creator to conceptualise the exact format of content that can appeal to the audience. For that, the chosen creator must believe in the brand and understand their audience well enough to know beyond doubt the format of content that will appeal to them.
For example, a complex DIY furniture brand may do better if the creator did a step-by-step unboxing/DIY video instead of a video that only talks of how good your house can look with the furniture. This way, the brand communicates the fact that their furniture is easy to piece together, allowing you to have confidence that you can do it yourself too.
My point here is, the two major factors integral to a UGC marketing strategy is in fact finding the right creator and communicating the right message through the best content format. There is no point in racking up impressive views and likes if there’s no impact on sales.
So then, how exactly can brands go about finding the right creator and the right type of content for their vast and varied audience segments?
Artificial Intelligence: Finding the needle in the haystack
There are platforms in the market that connect brands with the scores of existing and budding micro-influencers who are active on the internet today. Earlier it was easy, brands did a simple search and connected with creators immediately.
However, today, I honestly think there are more creators than brands themselves, and they’re all phenomenally talented at what they do! How, then, can brands find the perfect fit without overwhelming themselves?
Artificial intelligence it is! With AI, brands are able to thoroughly understand their audience segments. It helps brands segment their large audience base into cohorts, or micro-cohorts, through pico-segmentation. This ultimately contributes towards identifying the perfect creator-brand fit in almost no time!
The benefits don’t end at just that.
Cohorting through pico-segmentation not only helps find the best fit but also reveals information about audience behaviours and pain-points. Thus, allowing brands to address exactly these points through the ideal content format.
So this means we’re essentially helping brands find the perfect creator, address the precise pain-point they have, and solve it for them through a content format that they identify best with. I honestly cannot think of a better way to connect with audiences better on a large scale!
These tools make it easy for, both the brands and creators, to conceptualise, create, publish and measure content that’s authentic, trustworthy and tantalising.
And that’s why UGC must be central to your content marketing strategy
Consumers are constantly looking for deeper, more meaningful conversations and connections with brands and through UGC, you deliver just that. So long as the creator’s endorsement is actually as good as a brand’s promise, recall, retention and sales will be high.
And with AI tools at the marketer’s disposal, saving time, energy, resources, being on top of the industry and consumer trends and growing at scale, becomes more realistic.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)