With consumers spending more money online and more time on social media (more than half of the global population use social media today, a 12.3% year-over-year increase), businesses that wish to stay competitive need to understand the influence of their online presence on consumers’ buying behavior, and ensure their marketing tactics reflect that. While many brands have relied on influencers to engage existing and new customers in recent years, some are starting to turn to a more affordable, sustainable and authentic approach to improving their brand awareness online by leveraging user-generated content (UGC).
Recent studies from Bazaarvoice show 56% of social media users now prefer to follow “everyday” social media users, like friends, family and peers, compared to traditional influencers. This change in consumer sentiment has translated to their buying decisions as more consumers trust products that are promoted by people who actually use them as opposed to those attached to an #ad or #sponsor. With more consumers beginning to change their behaviors and favoring more authentic content, now is the time for marketers to begin understanding how to properly utilize UGC to connect with their communities in new and exciting ways.
The Ability to Harness Authentic, Brand-Approved Content at Minimal Cost
Hiring an advertising agency to create professional content or partnering with a celebrity influencer is both time-consuming and expensive. Because of the pandemic’s drastic impact on sales, many brands had to pause costly campaigns, and small businesses had to stop working with high-end influencers altogether. Since most businesses are still trying to make up for money lost over the past year, turning to UGC allows them to source relevant and authentic content in a faster, cost-effective and more sustainable way.
Brands can activate their followers through strategies like social media contests or hashtag challenges, provide specific guidelines on the content they’re looking for and incentivize followers with low-cost rewards like discount codes or free brand swag that they already have on hand. Even the smallest companies, like single-family restaurants, can leverage their community through UGC to build their business without breaking the bank.
Build Long-Lasting Relationships with Consumers Organically
In today’s digital world, there is a growing perception of branded content or advertising being over-exaggerated or unrealistic. Many consumers, especially those in the younger generations, have even put on ad blockers or avoid sponsored content from influencers altogether. With UGC, brands can directly connect with their followers and turn them into a loyal army of micro-influencers that act as an extension of their company. By inviting consumers to be the center of your brand’s voice, there is great opportunity to strengthen the consumer/brand relationship and bolster brand loyalty.
UGC also is a highly effective means of resonating with current and future customers and of increasing brand awareness by providing consumers with a more authentic look into their company’s products and services. Using organic content from real customers allows brands to connect with consumers on a more personal level and deepen their trust in the brand.
Staying Ahead of the Curve with Trending Topics
Trendjacking has become the way of the digital world for marketers as platforms like TikTok have become more popular. Brands that are able to hop on trending topics or video ideas are able to better capture the attention of consumers and ultimately increase their voice throughout the market.
For example, the recent viral TikTok trend of #BamaRush has shown marketers that content produced straight from their communities is a rewarding and effective method of gaining traction and engagement on social media. With UGC, companies can quickly insert themselves into timely conversations surrounding trends and gain visibility among audiences that they haven’t been able to reach. Since UGC is easily accessible and quick to produce, brands can hop on these trends much quicker than competitors that do not have a similar program, giving themselves a competitive advantage.
As more consumers continue to steer away from traditional digital marketing ads and sponsored social media content, UGC provides marketers the ability to maintain their relevancy and increase their customer base by bringing authenticity to their online presence. UGC is not only a cost-effective means to generate content that will better resonate with consumers; it’s also a great way for brands to activate their current communities and cultivate a network of loyal creators.
Adam Dornbusch is Founder and CEO of EnTribe. He is a digital media executive with 20+ years of experience developing content strategies for the world’s largest brands. Prior to founding EnTribe, Dornbusch spent four years building the groundbreaking Community Content & Rewards program at GoPro (GoPro Awards). Before GoPro, Dornbusch was licensing citizen journalism from over 50 countries for Al Gore’s Current TV (acquired for $500M). He has spent his career building scalable content communities for GoPro, Current TV, Tribeca Film, Starz/Encore, Jaman, Access 360 Media, and Ripe Digital. Not finding any suitable CRM solutions for creator communities, he decided to build EnTribe, one of the first SaaS platforms that flips the script on User-Generated Content (“UGC”) and empowers brands to build a network of creators that is driven by the people who use their products.