Consumers find the word-of-mouth nature of user-generated content to be particularly trustworthy, which has resulted in a surge of popularity comparable to that of influencer marketing.
"User-generated content" (UGC) may have become a clichéd marketing buzzword, but it's still one that resonates enough with consumers to have shifted the nature of content marketing.
According to digital think tank L2, 55 percent of consumers trust UGC over other types of marketing. Coca-Cola for example, attributed a 2.5 percent quarterly sales increase in part to an Instagram gallery centered on the massively popular "Share a Coke" campaign from last summer.
Why is UGC so popular with people? Authenticity, according to Tessa Wegert, communications director at digital agency Ensighten.
"Brands are producing more content than ever, and consumers are starting to feel overwhelmed," Wegert says. "There's the potential for native ad and brand content blindness, particularly if the content doesn't ring true to the viewer, but UGC can combat that. We all know the power of word of mouth, and there's an element of that with UGC. Consumers are seeing their peers speak favorably of products and services. It's trustworthy and it's visual, and those are powerful things."
The visual nature of UGC makes it particularly popular on Instagram. Hyatt uses location tags to incorporate Instagram photos into its email marketing, while Sigma Beauty, for whom Instagram has become the top source of referral traffic, curates 16,000 user photos each month.
"When I have an army of 16,000 marketers [marketing] for me, it's a far more cost-effective, timely way for me to produce marketing content for my brand," says Matt Langie, chief marketing officer at Curalate, the visual and analytics platform behind #SaksStyle. Also known as "the shoppable selfie," #SaksStyle is a hub made up of pictures users have shared (Read more...) Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram.
"The smart brands are the ones going, ‘We're seeing behavioral changes; how do we connect that with a sale?" Langie says. "What's interesting to me is that this is really becoming a conversion of social, content and commerce where consumers are sharing what they're doing on social and brands are developing more and more authentic imagery. The missing link has been connecting all this to commerce."
The way Wegert and Langie speak of UGC is parallel to the sentiment toward the growing trend of influencer marketing. According to content and influencer marketing firm IZEA, more than half of digital marketers invested in paid social influencer endorsements last year. For example, Michelle Phan, whose beauty tutorials have helped her accrue nearly 8 million followers on YouTube, was recently featured in a Diet Dr Pepper campaign.
For brands, the idea is that regular people see Phan as more relatable than someone like, say, Gisele Bündchen. According to Langie, the same principles apply to UGC.
"[Consumers are] tired of the manufactured image. They want something that's authentic to a consumer who looks just like me: maybe a little heavyset, maybe a little too skinny, maybe not handsome," Langie says. "Everyone has their own shortcomings and at the end of the day, I'm not buying a product because I want to look like Gisele. I'm buying it because it makes me look good."
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