“The number one reason people share content is identity,” said Shafqat Islam, founder of Newscred at their 4th annual #ThinkContent Summit hosted in New York. He continued, “If a piece of content resonates with who I am as a person, what I believe, why I exist… that prompts me to share.”
The lineup and presentations at the event were nothing short of enlightening. Some of the world’s top brands were present to discuss their content marketing tips, such as Airbnb, Uber, Dove, Instagram, Google, and the New York Times, to name a few. While the future of nascent technologies, like virtual reality (VR) and Snapchat, and their implications in the content marketing world were discussed, there was another theme that stood out: the call for authenticity across all marketing experiences.
Authenticity is a term that has become consistently overused, but for good reason as millennials and Generation-Z gather more buying power and call for increasing transparency and creativity in branded content.
The Power of UGC
Many of the companies that stand out in the industry are newer brands that are opening communication channels to allow consumers to tell the brand’s story. AirBnb is a prime example of this idea and noted during their panel that 85% of all the brand’s social content is created by its customers, and that their goal is to get to 99% user-generated content.
AirBnb exemplifies the idea that even a new marketing department (only 1.5 years old) can create a successful formula to connect with its multitudes of users around the world. Through engaging a worldwide community and encouraging its customers to share their individual stories, Airbnb is already seeing results. The company won “Best Brand on Instagram” at the Shorty Awards, and has had numerous mentions in top industry publications for its social media presence.
How to Reach a Millennial
In addition to Airbnb and other growing companies like BlueApron and SweetGreen implementing user-generated content in their strategies, there was another guest who stood out among the crowd of speakers for her strategy discussion. That person was “resident millennial,” Samantha Jayne.
An actor, author, poet, and videographer, Jayne’s keynote addressed the common question in our industry: how do we use content to capture the attention of a millennial?
As the author and illustrator of her new book, Quarter Life Poetry, and a real life millennial herself, she knows a thing or two about how to reach this coveted audience. After introducing us to her hilarious poetry (and why it’s grown to be so popular), she stopped to share a few of her biggest calls to action for brands:
“Don’t try to impress… try to connect.”
It’s not about attempting to create something that will go viral or developing a marketing objective like, “this should get a lot of shares.” It’s about creating something that connects with your audience. Because it is through genuine connection to an idea, a story, or an emotion that a millennial will want to take an action, whether that be sharing content or purchasing a product.
“They can sniff out the BS.”
While it may be that millennials can spot the BS a little sooner than other generations, it has become true for most audiences today that if a brand is trying too hard to sell a product or mass producing a message that isn’t targeted, people are not likely to take kindly to that company. With a shorter attention span and a plethora of content options to consume, it makes sense for brands to deep dive into their priority consumers and understand what they want, and more importantly how they want to be reached with information.
User-generated content, whether visual or otherwise, is one way brands can increase their authenticity in messaging and in content. When a user sees someone like themselves represented in a brand’s marketing, it will quite obviously create a connection for a customer and potentially increase the interaction with a product or service.
“Our audience doesn’t expect perfection, and they don’t want perfection either… they just want to know they’re understood.”
This may seem like an oxymoron when the constant headline in the advertising industry is “how do we understand millennials?” but that is no excuse for brands to stop making attempts to do so. A quick hint: One generation cannot be defined by a set number of qualities or reached by using a few hip phrases.
Whether your audience is made up of millennials, Generation-Z, or Gen-X, they need to know that they are significant, and that they don’t fall into some generic category. Consider delving into the user-generated content your brand has earned to seek out insights about your buyers. Consumers know best which products they use the most, how they use them, and why they like them. Let their photos, their captions, their reviews, and their stories give you more understanding and context for your product or service to create more targeted marketing strategies.
Newscred’s event illuminated the idea that content marketing is not a side show anymore, and its value is finally recognized for increasing ROI and driving business. Now, the challenge is cutting through the content crunch to provide not only relevant, but meaningful marketing and information to consumers.
With consumers becoming more discerning than ever, it’s no longer acceptable for brands to dictate the conversation without their audience’s voice injected. The roles have reversed: consumers create the content, and it’s the brand’s turn to listen and act.
Newscred’s founder mentioned at the beginning of the event, the #1 reason people share content is because of identity – because the message, branded or not, connects with how a person feels or what they believe. Let your customers show you what is meaningful to them.