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How the rise of user-generated content changes marketing

User-generated content has become an important part of content marketing, with consumers being part of a brand’s strategy. How does this affect branded content?

I’ve been talking to Rachel Meranus, Chief Marketing Officer at Olapic about the popularity of user-generated content and the recent trends marketers need to know.

How do you see the future of earned content?

The rise of visual user-generated content (or earned content) has fundamentally changed marketing and the conversation brands are having with their customers. Consumers are becoming more skeptical of advertising and celebrity endorsements and are now demanding a more authentic dialog with the brands they love, and may even turn away if they don’t feel they are getting it.

There is no better way to capture the voice of the customer than using the visual content they create and share on social channels, and integrating it into the marketing mix.

Research shows consumers are five times more dependent on content than they were five years ago, and brands are struggling to keep up with creating enough content to fill this need. The use of earned content  can ease the costly burden of producing elaborate campaigns while building customer loyalty and increasing engagement.

What’s so appealing about UGC?

Authenticity resonates. As we have seen with Facebook and Instagram, people are interested in what their friends and family have to say about products they use. It is also because of these platforms that our eyes and brains are being retrained on a daily basis to see more ‘real’ photos from ‘real’ people.

Humans have an innate ability to spot a fake and when products are over-stylized or staged, it does not ring true and we are automatically skeptical.  By placing products in real settings on average people, we can now see images that we as individuals can relate to.

The use of earned content offers brands a more genuine endorsement than traditional advertising, as it captures everyday consumers’ true feelings about products and brands. Additionally, earned content is more easily available and affordable than content created directly by brands – in most cases, consumers will allow a brand to use their image at no cost.

How can a brand start with UGC?

If a brand is considering an earned content program, it’s essential to develop a set of brand guidelines for identifying the types of content that makes the most sense for their brand. Marketers should also consider the role earned content plays across multiple channels – whether social, digital or offline – and use the mediums their audiences frequent.

Once these considerations are made, marketers should decide on a simple, unique, and branded hashtag. By encouraging shoppers to tag their purchases across all relevant channels, brands can identify compelling images, reach out to users for permission, and begin using these assets in their outreach.

What should they measure as success?

To measure the success of a campaign, marketers must tie each piece of earned content to an analytics platform that can help them understand which content has the highest engagement rates, conversions, and increase in average order value.

Brands can evaluate earned content performance by analyzing click-through rates, the amount of likes, shares and comments a particular post receives, and the engagement that the content creator experiences him or herself.

Ultimately, this enables brands to identify the content that best impact overall sales and yield a better return on investment – while helping marketers build trust and inspire action from consumers at every touchpoint.

What’s the best platform for earned content right now?

While consumers are increasingly serving as brand ambassadors across all social platforms, Instagram is leading the charge for earned content. The platform has successfully developed a community centered around user-generated images and videos, wherein everyday shoppers can turn to other consumers for ideas and inspiration along the path to purchase.

As an inherently visual content network, Instagram generates an average of 95 million consumer posts a day, often focused on people’s favorite brands and products.

Consumers also tend to have a higher standard for sharing quality content on Instagram, given the platform’s roots in photography. This provides brands with a wealth of valuable, genuine, and readily-available content, and marketers should leverage these posts to drive authentic engagement with their audiences.

What role will consumers play in branded marketing in the future?

Consumers have become exceptionally good at telling brand stories visually – often without solicitation. Marketing is fundamentally changing, and the brand-consumer conversation is demanding a new level of authenticity and trust.

Today’s shoppers are not interested in generic experiences; they crave genuine content that demonstrates an accurate depiction of how a product or brand can be used by real people in a real world environment. Social media, specifically, plays a large role in driving more honest, human conversations.

As consumers continue to share content across these platforms daily, brands must embrace the customer voice and recognize the massively important role earned content in the marketing ecosystem – both now and in the future.

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