Emerging Trends in UGC and Implications for Brands

If we’re not currently integrating our customers into our marketing efforts, what is the first step to get started?

Creating a customer-first marketing approach isn’t something that brands can do passively. For clients, the first step we recommend is to create an intelligent evergreen hashtag, and to bake it in to all consumer touchpoints. This does two things, it demonstrates to consumers that the brand is serious about engaging with them, and it creates a source of content that customers know to turn to for inspiration. The next step is to develop a more comprehensive customer engagement program, content sharing incentives, and to distribute and measure the performance across channels. But in order to start, you must educate your customers on the ideology and build a wealth of relevant content.

Aggregation of questions on permissioning content:

  • You’ve talked gathering content, how do you deal with the licensing to use content? Is it common for consumers to really want to participate?
  • Do you need ask permission from customers before sharing their content?
  • To piggyback off of the permissions question – do you think you should request rights for all content even if its syndicated content from another brand?
  • What’s the best process for getting permissions from users so we can use their images?
  • Is it asked through email? How do you ask them?
  • What about sources that aren’t consumers? For instance, if you want to share an article from a magazine or other media source?

Getting permission to use consumers’ content is important not only to protect the brand legally, but to further the relationship through trust. We advise that brands reach out to their consumers and obtain the rights to use and repurpose user-generated content across channels, and our platform has the capacity to help them do so at scale. Typically, brands will reach out on the platform through which the content is being generated. As an example, if a user shares a photo on Instagram tagging #brandx, then you would reach out to that user from Brand X’s Instagram account with a message asking for rights and including a “Terms of Use” link. In our experience, consumers not only want to participate in this process, but are extremely excited to do so. Across brands and verticals, we see roughly 7 out of 10 users give an affirmative response. Of course, any rights-related conversations are unique to each brand, and dependent on a number of factors. So you will need to work with legal experts to help identify the best approach for your brand.

You mention distribution strategies, but what about measurement? Is it possible to track performance of UGC specifically? Do you have any industry standards around ROI with UGC?

Measurement is of growing importance not just for UGC but for all marketing activities. Today, we are largely tied to ROI and understandably there is more pressure than ever to justify all of our efforts against revenue goals. At Olapic, we help our clients by measuring the performance of UGC in the e-commerce experience. Specifically, we display revenue being generated by images with specific characteristics (colors, people, etc.) as well as by individual users and even by individual photos. This allows brands to prioritize their media investment with creative that is performing, and to recognize which users they should be proactively engaging with and rewarding. Additionally, through strategic partnerships and campaign testing, we help brands understand the performance of UGC across different channels such as email, display, social, and even direct mail and in-store.  

Lately, what has been one of your favorite examples of a client who has activated more than one of these trends?

NYX Cosmetics and Bubbleroom are both great examples of how brands can merge the benefits of digital and in-store experiences through the use of consumer content.

The issue I’ve always found with UGC is how to incentivize and motivate users to create or join in the content production. With no incentive, I find that they have less motivation to be part of the brand conversation. How do you address this?

Certainly, providing an explicit incentive helps to encourage users to create and share meaningful content. In our research, across all regions surveyed, the number two incentive for sharing photos was “a contest.” We’ve helped many brands execute contests that drive an enormous volume of visual content for a very reasonable cost. At the same time, brands can turn that single activation into a loyal follower base, and identify users that have a strong creative aptitude. Additionally, and this is a more challenging and complex effort, brands must communicate the benefits of consumer-generated content to their audiences. The consumers must know that it’s not simply about winning a prize, but rather, that through UGC brands will be able to create better, more personalized experiences across all segments. Perhaps it starts with an incentive, but then the brand needs to turn that momentum into a campaign or activation that encourages the behavior to continue.

What types of insights can you learn from consumer content? Are there any universal themes?

The specific insights that our clients have uncovered vary widely by audience and by vertical. But they often fall into a few categories: product usage, lifestyle trends, and consumer sentiment. As an example, one home furnishings brand found that many of the pictures shared on social platforms had pets sitting on a couch or a rug. So creatively, the brand can take that insight and use it to inform some of its brand-owned efforts as well. By understanding your customer demographics and which products/experiences really resonate with them and why, brands gain valuable, and sometimes qualitative, insights that can be used across all marketing programs.

Could you give us a description of the survey respondents upon which the report is based?

This research was carried out by market research specialists Censuswide on behalf of earned content platform Olapic, in collaboration with Withpr. An online survey of 15 questions was completed by a total of 4,578 active social media users aged 18-49 in the U.S. (611), U.K. (698), France (807), Spain (852), Germany (762) and Sweden (848). It was carried out in April 2016. To see the full report, you can download it here.

How do you best deal with UGC across cultures and multiple countries?

Certainly, as our research confirmed, there is variability in consumer preferences and usage across different global markets. At Olapic, we have an enterprise solution that allows brands to create a hierarchy within the platform, and to address different regional markets. Our platform can track in a number of languages, follow hashtags unique to different countries, and even ask for rights in a variety of languages to communicate with the end user in their native language.

Do you have any data for Latin American countries, such as Brazil? And how does it work regarding e-commerce or POS endorsement?

We do not have any data for Latin America countries, as it was not part of the scope of this study. However, we have in recent years begun working with brands in Brazil and other countries (especially given our large office located in Argentina) and have seen an enormous amount of value in UGC as a way to engage and convert consumers in this part of the world.

Has Olapic thought about connecting beauty vloggers with beauty brands? Making the platform able to do that?

We are constantly looking to evolve our product, and have developed an ambassadors functionality that helps brands engage with their top users. Certainly, there is value in the influencer space, and it is something we will continue to monitor and develop in the future.

From your stats, it looks like UGC is an influence, but it doesn’t look like it’s the primary influencer. What % of customers use UGC as their primary means of making a decision? What % of customers who look at UGC also look at another source to make a decision and what do they look at.

We expect that all consumers today are relying on a number of sources to make a buying decision. That specific number varies based on what type of purchase we are considering. For brands, it may be difficult to become the only source that a consumer turns to for purchase validation, but in executing an earned content strategy, they can accomplish two goals:

  1. Remain present at all potential moments of inspiration: Consumers are buying at all points throughout the consumer journey, and brands must be present and top-of-mind at each point in order to capture their consumers’ attention during the “I-want-to-buy” moments.
  2. Keep the user on-site: With so many disparate sources of information, it is exceedingly difficult to convert a buyer, and especially for brands that are sold both on the brand-owned site as well as by third party retailers, there is value in keeping the consumer on-site. UGC helps to create a more credible experience that will engage the consumer and increase the chance of a conversion on-site.

Is that return stat from apparel or from all categories?

If it’s from apparel, it’s not that big a deal, because >6% of all customers return products in apparel. If it’s true for categories like CPG or HDTVs that’s different. This stat is across all industries that were part of the survey, so it is a significant finding in our opinion.

You mentioned making UGC more appealing thorough video. What are your thoughts on the use of UGC through GIFs or Boomerang (Instagram specific video)?

This is enormously valuable for a couple of reasons. First, and perhaps most important, scaling video is very expensive and resource-intensive. Creating animations or Boomerangs is a fun way to capture the spirit of video at scale. We’ve created a product called Content-in-Motion, which allows brands to turn static imagery into animations, again, with speed and scale being front and center.

How useful is this platform for startup companies and brands? Clearly established brands have consumers already generating a lot of UGC, but what about startups who don’t have a big presence yet?

We work with companies of all sizes. In fact, for some digitally-native brands, having UGC as a primary part of the marketing ecosystem can be extremely helpful as a way to grow brand awareness and loyalty while accumulating high-quality content at a reasonable cost.

If you had to pick one platform to reach millennial moms, which one would you pick?

Instagram seems to be a place where many young mothers share their lives with their personal networks. We’ve worked with giggle, a leading maker of baby apparel and furniture, and the brand has seen enormous success by engaging millennial moms on the platform.

Is there a recommended timeframe for a hashtag campaign to run?

We recommend that brands employ both an evergreen hashtag strategy as well as campaign-specific hashtags. An evergreen hashtag is one that can become part of your brand DNA, and live across all marketing messaging for a long period of time. Something like #mycalvins or #fourseasons that is simple and inherently tied to the brand in all its experiences. Campaign-specific hashtags can be deployed for holiday or other use cases where you are trying to get a certain type of content. These hashtags can be seasonal or tied to a contest or other activation.

Regarding who is posting UGC, in Higher Education we see females posting at a much higher rate than males. How do we engage males to post UGC?

In our research we found that males are posting actually more often than females. So for your brand, it’s possible that female users identify more with your brand message. Find out what your male audience is posting about and create a strategy for bringing them into the fold and enticing them to participate. We’re happy to chat with you directly about your strategy and opportunities for improvement. Send us a note to info@olapic.com if you’re interested!

What’s the best way to credit a fan for UGC?

In the e-commerce experience, we often put the image in a gallery or lightbox with a direct link to the content creator. This way, it simultaneously gives credit to the user and demonstrates a sense of authenticity to viewers who are coming to the site and engaging with it.

What’s the price range for the UGC solution?

The price varies widely depending on a number of factors, as you can imagine. We’re happy to chat with you directly about your needs and come up with a recommendation. Send us a note to info@olapic.com if you’re interested!