Emma Chamberlain sent the internet into a frenzy earlier this year when she announced that the era of the influencer was coming to an end. Her argument was that the industry is becoming increasingly saturated, making it difficult to define, measure, and maintain a career within it.
In this article, I’m not going to address the “If everyone is an influencer, is anyone an influencer?” argument. But I will note this: The influencer industry is projected to grow by 2.8 billion dollars this year. For now, it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.
That being said, the way our culture thinks about and engages with influencer marketing is changing. That much is certain. A major trend has been the rise in user-generated content (UGC) due to its immense power to impact consumer behavior.
The aim of user-generated content is to relate to consumers by acting as a mirror for their future selves. So, it makes sense that consumer behavior is changing how marketers use UGC to connect with their audience.
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Keep reading to learn more about how consumer trends are changing UGC.
What is User Generated Content (UGC)?
UGC is content that is created by social media users. These users can, but don’t have to be, paid to make the content. The content can be scripted, it can be completely organic, or it can fall somewhere in the middle.
UGC has proven to be extremely effective in influencing buyer behavior because of its ability to simultaneously answer consumer questions, showcase value drivers and connect authentically to an audience.
73 percent of consumers say UGC increases their confidence in a purchase. For this reason, it is rapidly becoming one of the most valuable forms of social proof a company can possess.
How Trends are Impacting the UGC Industry
Because UGC is content created by the public, it is heavily influenced by trends. Here are three ways trends are shaping UGC in 2022.
More Personalized Representation
Picture an influencer in the golden age of Instagram and you’ll likely see a very specific type of person. The archetypal influencer: young, female, thin and white.
But these days, consumers want more personalized representation. They want to hear from creators they can relate to. They want home decor recommendations from a range of different family structures. High-coverage foundation demonstrations on a variety of skin tones. Clothing modeled on different body types.
Adapting to this change will require a basic understanding of your customer demographics, so your team will be able to seek out content creators to whom your customers can relate.
CTAs and Incentives for Customer-Created UGC
There have never been more influencers than there are currently. Between Instagram, Youtube, and TikTok, it is estimated that there are up to 37.8 million influencers worldwide in 2022.
This is great news for brands, as it means there is a wide variety of creators to choose from when it comes to employing influencers.
However, the true power of UGC lies in authenticity, meaning buyers prefer and actively seek out unsponsored reviews and content about products they’re interested in.
Unsponsored product comparisons, reviews, demonstrations and stories are all over social media these days, and they can make a huge impact on the public’s perception of a brand or product. So, how can brands encourage their customers to post their unbiased (and, preferably, positive) opinions on social media?
Many brands have created strategies for this exact concern. They include CTAs in their marketing messaging and packaging. Some even have guidelines for how users can maximize their chances of being featured on the company’s social media page. The aim is to offer non-financial incentives that won’t compromise the validity of the claims the user makes.
Ultimately, brands can’t control what users say about their products if they don’t pay them. But that is exactly the reason why consumers place so much trust in unsponsored UGC.
Informed Buyers Require Authentic Connections
Millennials and Gen Z are considered digital natives. They have spent their entire lives learning to navigate obvious digital marketing ploys, product placements, and other subtle attempts to manipulate their purchasing behaviors. As a result, they are well-informed about common marketing strategies.
Informed internet users react best to transparent marketing and authentic attempts at connection, which is where UGC has the power to shine. In order to create more trust with consumers in your content marketing initiatives, consider the following strategies:
- Encourage content creators to be completely honest with their viewers about your product. A minor complaint about the packaging or website navigability will actually be more beneficial than harmful when it comes to establishing an authentic and complete view of the brand associated.
- Develop strategies to showcase company transparency. Consumer insights into your supply chain, sustainability efforts, or efforts to increase the work-life balance of employees will go a long way to developing a trusting relationship.
- Include UGC in all aspects of marketing, including video, copy, and audio.
Use UGC in Your Marketing Strategy
There are many ways to use UGC in your marketing strategy. So long as your team keeps a focus on authenticity and integrity, doing so will increase customers' trust and confidence when making purchases from your brand.
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