Long gone are the days when couture fashion models and high-end magazines determined what was “in” and what was “out”.
Instead of consuming highly produced content, today’s shoppers go to their friends, family, and social media for product discovery and research. Shoppers crave authenticity, and no matter the budget, this is not something that brands can duplicate in a studio.
Most social media users interact with those who share similar interests and values. Even if users don’t have a personal relationship with their online “friends”, genuine product recommendations and reviews from similar-minded peers speak louder than any advertisement.
Social proof is humans' natural inclination to mirror the behaviors of the people around us, especially those we relate to and trust. By leveraging customer reviews and testimonials, brands give other shoppers the social proof they need to make efficient purchase decisions. That’s why brands that want to see success on social media and beyond go directly to customers to source the content that fuels their campaigns.
User-generated content (UGC) is the content that consumers create and share organically. Many direct-to-consumer brands, like Glossier, have seen huge success by leveraging the content its fans create to fuel not only its social media platforms, but all channels from websites and emails to in-store and outdoor advertisements.
Luckily, a UGC marketing strategy is not limited to fashion or beauty brands. Businesses such as Apple, Starbucks, and Netflix are notorious for featuring UGC in their marketing campaigns. After all, who hasn’t seen and admired one of Apple’s "Shot on iPhone” ads?
However, while UGC can be a great way to generate online buzz and engagement with consumers, it’s ability to drive conversions is often limited by a brand’s existing popularity. In other words, the more fans a brand already has, the more efficient a traditional UGC strategy is.
But don’t fret, even if your brand doesn’t have a fanbase as grandiose as Apple, you still have the opportunity to boost your online engagement and sales. Here’s how to leverage influencer generated content (IGC) to boost your UGC and streamline your marketing campaigns.
Advantages of UGC and IGC
The photos and videos created by real consumers of your brand are just that — real. UGC captures how real people integrate products and services into their real lives, making it much more relatable to the everyday shopper.
In most cases, UGC is free of charge because it already exists. On the other hand, most influencers charge a fee for their high-quality content. Regardless, consumer-created content is almost always considerably less expensive than the costs associated with professional photoshoots.
It’s made for social
Both regular consumers and influencers are well versed in creating content that’s tailored for social media. Brand directed content has a look and feel that is drastically different than the content everyday users are sharing. In comparison, UGC doesn’t seem as stark on users feeds.
Because consumers come from all walks of life, brands have the ability to source content that iterates on every demographic, psychographic, or geographic location. It would take a massive amount of resources to recreate this variety of content in a studio. You would need to hire hundreds of models, travel to dozens of locations, and feature potentially thousands of products.
It’s high performing
The proof is in the pudding. Campaigns that incorporate consumer-created content see a 50 percent lift in engagement than those that do not.
It fuels community
When a brand shares and engages with the content its fans create, it makes customers feel like they are an integral part of the brand community. Plus, UGC portrays brands in an approachable and relatable way. Whereas branded content has the tendency to feel staged and inaccessible.
The traditional way to get UGC
The old way to source UGC is to scour the internet for existing photos created by fans. Searching through hashtags and mentions on various social media platforms can take hours. Not to mention, organic content created by consumers does not always paint brands in the best light. In fact, angry customers are notorious for blasting their distaste for products or services online to gain the attention of the brand.
In order to encourage happy customers to create branded content, some businesses hold contests to reward customers for creating content featuring their products. The winning fan is awarded with gift cards, exposure, a cash prize, or a combination of all three. And the brand is awarded with free content that they can repurpose.
While this is a good way to source free, positive content, this solution relies on the idea that you have a strong community of customers that will create content. And even more importantly, that regular consumers will create the right content for your brand. You could receive hundreds of images, but if they do not align with you brand aesthetic or values, they’re essentially useless.
That’s why, when it comes to content, free is not always better.
How to source the best UGC
The most effective way to source large amounts of user generated content that is guaranteed to support your campaign is to leverage influencer generated content. IGC eliminates the risks associated with UGC and at the same time allows brands to maximize impressions.
Influencers are the epitome of social proof. Influencers create professional-quality content worthy of being placed on a billboard, yet their appeal stems from the fact that above all else, they are real consumers.
Unlike the average consumer though, influencers gain large followings by being trustworthy sources of product recommendations and reviews online. People look to them to set trends, try new products, and share their approval — or lack thereof. When a respected influencer declares their love of a brand to their audience, that respect is then transferred to the brand.
The most valuable part of influencer generated content is that is proactive, not reactive. Meaning if your brand has a need for a specific type of content, you can run an influencer campaign and source hundreds of the exact photos and videos you need in no time.
Check out these two images create for ecommerce retailer, ebags. The one on the left is created by an influencer. It is polished and highly engaging, proven in the fact that is gained more than 1,900 likes on Instagram. The image on the right is UGC. It too acts as a positive sentiment towards the brand. However, the image is not nearly as high-quality and only generated 16 likes.
When compared to traditional UGC, IGC is;
- Always professional quality
- Always aligned with brand values and aesthetic
- Always aligned with current campaigns
- Shared with a larger audience
So how can your brand source large amounts of IGC? The answer lies in influencer marketing platforms (IMP).
Using an influencer marketing platform to boost content creation
Influencer marketing platforms, like AspireIQ, are full-service solutions that streamline content creation and marketing campaigns. In addition to connecting you with influencers, a true influencer marketing platform gives brands relationship management and analytics tools that allow you to run influencer marketing campaigns from A to Z.
The best influencer marketing platforms give you access to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of influencers. With these software tools, you can identify influencers from categories as broad as fashion, to niches a granular as mothers over 25 in the midwest — ensuring that you get the right type of content for every marketing campaign.