Whether we are discovering a new place to visit, or sharing a favorite recipe with friends, one thing is for certain: We love pictures. Specifically, we love sharing pictures on social platforms that highlight our unique senses of style, our diverse values, and even our brand preferences. It’s the reason why Instagram sports over 500 million users and counting, and why written content paired with relevant imagery garners 94% more views than less visual content. More often, brands have been turning to their customers’ photos to learn how to engage them more effectively, and how to create deeper, more impactful relationships with target audiences.
Still, not all images are created equally, and the difference between choosing the right image and the wrong one can be costly for brands. To better understand the trends supporting this new era of content, Olapic recently commissioned a report entitled, “Consumer Trust: Usage & Attitudes Towards User-Generated Visual Content.” As the survey suggests, people have grown skeptical of traditional advertising—and fond of a new kind of visual imagery: “earned,” or user-generated content (UGC). This report, based on surveys conducted in six countries across the United States and Europe reveals not only a strong preference for UGC; it also indicates some remarkable new trends guiding how consumers create, discover, and engage with earned content.
Based on insights gained from the full global report, we’ve uncovered the primary benefits of UGC in a marketing strategy and identified three tips to help you prepare an earned content strategy for your own brand.
UGC: Honest, Authentic, & Consistent
While a sizeable 71% of total respondents look at UGC at least 2 to 3 times a week, millennials can’t keep their eyes off of it, browsing UGC at least once a day. Certainly, we all turn to social platforms to look at pictures when we’re bored, but for brand purposes, what about earned content generates so much interest amongst consumers?
[twitter quote=”In our survey, 44% of respondents say they trust UGC more than any other form of content. And a vast majority (76%) of them explain this trust by saying that UGC appears more honest.” custom=”44% of those surveyed say they trust UGC more than any other form content, says @olapic in its #research http://bit.ly/2gYGzFR”]
This, of course, makes sense: We’d sooner believe a well-balanced customer review than marketing copy that unequivocally sings a product’s praises. Most of us know all about the magic of Photoshop and we’re tired of seeing products online that look completely different in ‘real life.’
That’s why we’re turning to regular people, our peers, for inspiration and recommendations—and we’re doing it all throughout the customer journey, from brand discovery, to product evaluation, and ultimately to the point of purchase.
With hundreds of millions of social media photos posted daily, consumers often discover a brand’s content through UGC, especially since 65% of Americans and 57% of Europeans we surveyed browse earned content before they even begin the shopping process. Additionally, 56% of respondents overall say they are more likely to click on a user-generated image than a traditional ad using stock photography.
Making a purchase online can be risky, so consumers tend to conduct rigorous research before reaching for their wallets. When it comes to fashion, consumers check an average of three sources of information before making a purchase. In the travel industry, where skeptical vacationers may question glossy photos of “paradise,” this figure rises to four. And while some verticals may be more susceptible than others, no brand is exempt from the critical eye of consumers.
Purchases and Beyond
UGC also impacts the bottom line, with 70% of Americans and 53% of Europeans saying they are more likely to buy a product after seeing it featured in a relatable user-generated image. It can also prevent disillusioned consumers from requesting refunds. With nine percent of respondents saying they’ve returned items because they were different from the featured photos, using images consistent with users’ expectations will reduce the loss of forfeited sales. It will also keep millions of consumers from losing trust in your brand.
Harnessing the Power of UGC
It’s clear that UGC matters across the sales funnel. So how can brands make the most of our picture-happy culture and harness the power of earned content?
- Empower consumers to discover you. With so many consumers seeking out UGC each day, brands can build awareness and gain publicity by showcasing earned content in all of their visual communications.
- Become a trusted source of content. Since consumers trust UGC seven times more than traditional ads, putting UGC on your website or in your ads can help strengthen customer trust.
- Maintain consistency across channels. By distributing earned content across channels, whether owned, earned, or paid, you can make sure the stories are consistent.
Earned content has become integral to a brand’s collection of marketing visuals at every stage of the customer journey. And since only 27% of marketers currently have a system in place to manage their visual assets, launching a UGC strategy will give brands with a huge competitive advantage.
Click here to download the full global report, where we share additional insights into consumer behaviors by vertical, age group, and specific region. Additionally, the below infographic showcases the top findings from the aforementioned report – feel free to share!
Methodology: An online survey of 15 questions was completed by a total of 4,578 active social media users (defined as those who use social media at least once a week) between the ages of 18 and 49 in the U.S., U.K., France, Spain, Germany, and Sweden.