We live in a digital age, where it’s normal to spend hours on end with a screen in front of our faces. In fact, the average US adult spends 3 hours and 43 minutes on their mobile devices everyday. That’s more than 24 hours a week!
While it’s healthy to moderate how much time you spend online, screen time isn’t all bad. Much of the content we see online is a digital representation of people’s lives. It’s a way of documenting memories via the lens of our smartphone and keeping in touch with one another through social media. And who’s to say that staying connected is a bad thing?
In addition, the surge in screen time gives brands more opportunities to have one-on-one interactions with consumers and build deeper relationships with brand enthusiasts, no matter where they are in the world. As consumers spend more time inside and online due to the pandemic, brands need to prioritize engaging with each community member through personalized communications.
That’s why community-generated content is the secret to success.
What is community-generated content?
Community-generated content is genuine and purpose-driven content created by members of a brand’s community that compels someone to think, feel, act, and share. It’s a powerful tool that can create an ecosystem of community stories amplified by your brand. In other words, it’s authentic user-generated content (UGC) created by your community, including social posts, unboxing videos, customer reviews, and more.
However, we want to make it clear that community-generated content includes both influencer-generated content (IGC) and user-generated content, as influencers are also a part of every brand’s community.
Why is community-generated content so powerful?
As the media inflates the inauthenticity of influencers and exaggerates claims of the “death of influencer marketing”, incorporating other user-generated content into your overall content strategy may add back that trust and social proof that consumers crave.
In fact, a recent study from M2 Technology Group revealed that:
- 93% of consumers find UGC to be helpful when making a purchasing decision
- On average, sites with featured UGC experience a 20% boost in return visitors and up to a 90% increase in time spent on site
- UGC posts shared to social channels see a 28% higher engagement rate than standard brand posts
Community-generated content not only has the ability to drive conversions, but it also has values that are integral to every good marketing campaign.
It’s super authentic.
When it comes to community-generated content, your brand isn’t controlling the narrative. Rather, you’re amplifying your community’s stories by sharing them.
The community members who are creating content around your brand are typically very passionate about your products and services. They’re basing their content on the real, personal experiences they’ve had with your brand. And it’s not a bad thing if the content isn’t highly polished! People will relate to it more because it’s raw and incorporates more human elements.
American Eagle’s Aerie brand is famous for its authentic community-generated content. Since 2014, the loungewear brand has been committed to stop retouching photos of its models, and instead use real photos of its #AerieREAL Role Models, a select group of women who promote body positivity and diversity.
In addition to showcasing its products worn by real women, Aerie celebrates and empowers all of its community members — whether it be the Role Models, its campus ambassadors, or customers — by sharing their stories on the brand’s social channels.
Jennifer Foyle, Aerie’s global brand president, explains, “As a team, we follow and connect with influential, real women across social media, at industry events, and by listening to our customers. Our Role Models represent social causes that are important to our Aerie community and the issues that impact their daily lives. We have open conversations with our customers around who and what inspires them. The Aerie community is diverse, so it’s important to be representative of the different backgrounds and beliefs of our customers to ensure they feel their voices heard in everything we do.”
Repurposing content from your community is a quick and cost-effective way to scale content creation. With this method, you can drastically cut the amount of time and resources poured into your content creation strategy, especially when you consider everything that goes into a brand-directed photoshoot — hiring a creative team and photographer, waiting for an editor to have finalized images, recruiting diverse models, finding a venue, etc.
Not to mention, community-generated content is free in most cases, as community members are already producing user-generated content. But even when it comes to influencer-generated content, some creators are willing to work with brands in unpaid, product-only campaigns, resulting in major cost reductions.
In fact, high-end skincare brand Coola ran a product-only campaign and repurposed IGC instead of arranging studio shoots, which allowed the company to save over $75,000 each quarter. The brand also paired IGC with customer reviews, adding more credibility.
Similarly, SmartyPants Vitamins worked with a diverse group of people, including expecting mothers, lifestyle influencers, and pet owners, to source content that showcased its many different products. By repurposing its community’s content, the brand was able to reduce spend by 80% while increasing content creation by 7x.
In a recent survey, we found that over 90% of customers engage with their favorite brands, yet over ⅔ of those surveyed don’t feel like they have a say in their favorite brand. More importantly, half of them said they were eager for the chance to contribute more to a brand, illustrating the value of brands who co-create their stories alongside consumers and give them a say into how the brand is molded.
Glossier is a prime example of a community-driven brand. Across Instagram and Twitter, the cult beauty brand engages its community by asking for genuine feedback via polls. It also reposts product reviews, before-and-after shots, and makeup tutorials from its customers, employees, and other brand fans. In these ways, Glossier not only shows its community members that their voice is being heard, but also elevates their brand experience.
Co-create with your community
These days, anyone has the ability to influence. That’s why industry-leading brands like Aerie, Coola, SmartyPants, and Glossier are engaging not only influencers, but also their customers, employees, ambassadors, and other brand enthusiasts. By treating everyone like an influencer, you can boost your relationships with your community and build your business in an authentic way. And the most important ingredient? Community-generated content.