Why User-Generated Content Doesn't Have To Compromise Brand Image in 2021

Cemented by lockdown limitations, the DIY marketing look is more popular than ever, and it looks like it’s here to stay. From photos of happy product users on e-commerce sites to cute TV spots filmed at home on smartphones, you’ll find all brands at it. Size doesn’t matter - although social-media-based obsessed businesses such as FENTY beauty were quick to take advantage of the benefits of User-Generated Content, savvy household names such as Dove and ITV quickly got in on the action also. So why has it taken a global pandemic to accelerate the popularity of marketing with UGC?


User-Generated Content, or UGC for short, is content created by the public about your brand which is commonly shared on e-commerce sites and social media. UGC content usually consists of reviews and product demonstrations, as well as more imaginative applications. Traditionally written, UGC is becoming increasingly visual, taking the form of photo and video content in line with the rise of social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.


UGC for your brand might already be out there on social media, it just needs to be found. If your brand needs more UGC you can encourage its creation by putting calls-to-action up on your owned social media channels or elsewhere in bigger marketing campaigns. Successful UGC generating campaigns will feature a task that resonates with both the brand and the customer and gives clear instructions such as what hashtags to use, and how to feature the brand in the content.


The power of UGC lies in its ability to help brands make money by increasing engagement and conversions, whilst simultaneously saving brands money by being readily available and free to use. Social proof - that is seeing people that you can strongly relate to enjoying a product - is behind the potency of UGC. It’s a supercharged version of traditional Word of Mouth marketing because it’s both plentiful and has the chance to reach a huge number of people at once.


Although UGC can be collected manually, using a content platform such as Miappi will save you hours of precious time. As well as collecting and curating the content using a blend of sophisticated AI smarts and a human eye, it semi-automates the licensing process and sends UGC on to its intended destination inputed hashtags, @mentions and image tags. By placing UGC at key points along the purchase path online, potential customers are given an extra bit of reassurance and are highly likely to be nudged towards the shopping basket and onwards to checkout. Republished UGC on owned social media channels helps give your brand a social buzz and a sense of authenticity, increasing your Social Share of Voice with very little effort on your part. But best of all, companies that add UGC to their marketing increase their bottom line. Adweek reports that websites with UGC present, benefit from a 29% higher conversion rate than those without it.


The destinations for UGC are only limited by your imagination. With the correct permissions, you can remix and distribute UGC however you see fit.


If brands were not using it before the pandemic, they certainly are now. By introducing logistical limitations and tightening marketing budgets, COVID-19 has accelerated the movement away from traditional - and expensive - marketing activities towards digital and social media-based content. Happily, brands are embracing UGC as the clear benefits become evident, and they watch their Return On Investment skyrocket. So why has it taken a pandemic to get brands to take advantage of UGC?


The misconception

One of the biggest objections by sceptical marketers is that UGC compromises brand image. There is a common misconception that UGC is of poor quality and doesn’t align with brand guidelines. After all, you’re giving your customers the power to display your brand visually, with all the potentially questionable artistic calls and dodgy camera quality that may encompass. However, UGC needn’t strike fear into the heart of a brand manager as the upsides hugely outweigh any concerns about a lack of image control. Here’s why:


Authenticity matters

Adage recently wrote: ‘This is an age of transparency. The consumer wants it real.’ At a time when our social media feeds are dominated by paid social and polished influencer posts, UGC delivers an authenticity that the consumer craves. What could be more real than a relatable customer sharing their love for your product of their own volition?


The quality of UGC has risen sharply recently, as your target consumer is now likely to be equipped with the latest smartphone and its high-res camera, whilst elsewhere content creators are increasingly taking advantage of affordable action cameras and drones.


You can be selective about the UGC you use if you have access to a User-Generated Content Platform. This technology, which is growing in popularity with forward thinking brands, scans social media, and can moderate and chooses content based on a mix of intelligent AI rules, leaving you with the best bits. It can even integrate telling engagement data from Instagram’s “Top Posts” for example, acting as a success predictor of sorts.


Tell your creators what you want

By using clear and specific Calls To Action (CTA) and thinking about the rest of your marketing campaign holistically, you can influence the direction of a UGC campaign. For example, you can take a leaf out of Glossier’s book by designing packaging that forms a backdrop to UGC content and encouraging happy customers to use it in their UGC. As well as providing social proof, this CTA has the added effect of giving you greater control over and reinforcing your visual branding. Another example is Fenty Beauty’s use of TikTok. Fenty was quick to see the potential of this relatively new video and music platform. By providing clear and fun demonstrations on TikTok Fenty get their customers to respond to invitations to engage such as the Wipe It Down challenge in a way that is appropriate for the brand.


With the right permissions, you can edit and remix UGC visually however you want. You don’t have to look too far to see examples of this in ad breaks on national TV right now, as big brands turn to heart-warming and self-filmed content depicting lockdown life.


So, what are you waiting for? Tell your inner control-freak marketer to take a hike and enjoy the UGC ride with ease.


Toby is the co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer at Miappi.