User-generated content (UGC) adds a layer of authenticity to a brand’s marketing. By showcasing what other consumers think and how they use a product, UGC builds on the characteristics—such as relatability and trustworthiness—that brands want to focus on to drive engagement and win the hearts of consumers. Your customers want confirmation of their brand choices, to know they are making the right decisions and the right purchases. UGC does this by presenting authentic and honest social proof, something much relied on by consumers today.
Indeed, half of the millennials surveyed by Ipsos MediaCT and Crowdtap say that UGC has influenced a decision to purchase a product. This group spends an average of 5.4 hours every day interacting with UGC, representing 30% of their media consumption time. That is a statistic marketers best not ignore.
Marketers who understand the value of UGC and how it drives authentic engagement are taking this content to the next level. User generated brands are those companies that specifically leverage UGC on a strategic level, those that understand how social sharing and peer created content builds trust, provides inspiration, and lowers the barrier to reaching new consumers.
3 brands that understand UGC Authenticity
AirBnB effectively incorporates UGC into its marketing mix. As a company that connects travelers with people who rent out their homes to visitors, AirBnB sells community and adventure. Unlike most consumer products or traditional lodging options, customers of this service may have a natural hesitancy to stay in the homes of complete strangers (who may or may not be there while the traveler is staying in their home).
Thus, this brand that truly needs to build trust and reduce the perceived risks for consumers. Enter UGC. The genuine way people interact with this brand is what builds that trust.
As the founders say, “A house is just a space, but a home is where you belong. And what makes this global community so special is that for the first time, you can belong anywhere.” #BelongAnywhere
With UGC campaigns like Create AirBnB, which gives customers an opportunity to create their own version of the company’s logo, and AirBnB TV, which gives them a chance to create helpful and creative video content about their homes and cities, the brand focus is about helping its customers belong.
Customers can choose to connect their AirBnB account to their Facebook to find out where their friends have stayed and get ensure an even more personal connection with potential hosts and guests. This feature in particular takes advantage of the tendency to be influenced most strongly by those who are closest to us. As a Neilsen study revealed, 85% of people in 58 different countries say that the most trustworthy recommendations come from friends and family.
As a tried and true American brand that recently celebrated its 140th anniversary, Levi’s takes advantage of UGC to both amplify its history and authenticity and position itself as a modern company. Last year, to re-engage consumers with their iconic 501 brand jeans Levi’s launched a social UGC campaign that asked customers to submit photos of 501 jeans—wearing them, using them as inspiration for art, or somehow interacting with them. The campaign worked. Sales of the jeans increased steadily throughout the campaign.
Their current Live In Levi’s campaign (#liveinlevis) encourages the same type of social sharing now, this time with any of their products. These campaigns enable customers to tell their own stories about how they love and use the brand. This kind of content is so valuable for consumers—they see other people wearing the same products they own, they see people who look just like them wearing a new product, they see a representation of a lifestyle they have or want to have. And they are inspired—to buy, to share, to submit content themselves. Social credibility like this, even for a long-lived brand with undisputed name recognition in its product category, is what allows today’s consumers to trust the brand.
A theme park is all about shared experience—visitors share the experience of riding thrill rides, watching shows, and spending the day together with family, friends, and complete strangers. So part of the marketing for theme parks has always focused on the experiential aspect of this product.
The advent of UGC provides theme parks like Universal Orlando with a deeper way to build connection with its visitors. And a way to give potential visitors a glimpse into what a day in the park is like. Visiting a theme park can be a costly excursion for a family, so there is a good reason for these companies to want to help their visitors get a feel for the experience.
Universal Moments (#UniveralMoments) asks customers to share photos and videos of their experience at the park. The ultimate goal is to create an advertisement from the best of these content that is submitted, from the thousands of pictures and videos that show genuine joy and laughter and fun.
As a tool for engagement, this is unbeatable. The brand can focus much more squarely on the authentic, real life visitor experience. Visitors are already taking photos and videos of themselves having these experiences. Sharing this UGC with the park is a chance to build additional engagement, beyond the day of the visit. And it’s a chance to for other visitors and potential visitors to see how much fun everyone else is having. It’s social proof and maybe even a pang of envy.
UGC is a fantastic tool for marketers for many reasons. It is opportunity to add authenticity to the brand and create social proof to help your consumers make their brand and purchasing decisions in a world dominated by information and noise.