The world of marketing can seem like a cold and sterile environment at times. Yet that’s all changed with the meteoric rise of readily accessible and shareable user-generated content (UGC), which has effectively transformed the marketing landscape.
Media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat stand out as the most commonly used and employed by marketing campaigns, either as the source of the content or the eventual endpoint for a campaign. But all social media platforms are proving their worth thanks to the authentic content they display from real people.
With the ever-increasing popularity of social media, marketing campaigns – both digitally and otherwise – have found unequivocal success through this medium. In particular through sharable content directly from their audience shares – not necessarily what they share themselves.
Here are five ways UGC has improved marketing campaigns
Its unique, diverse and growing exponentially
The authentic and diverse nature of content generated by users offers an alternative to corporate stock images and provides a unique and homemade quality to many new marketing methods. With over 30 billion visuals spread across social media, and with millions more uploaded every day, the scope for choice is immense.
Live events on Snapchat draw in views of 20 million-plus, which in turn creates more content for companies to share through users uploading and submitting their own experiences at the event. Marketing no longer feels as bland and sterile as it has done in the past, with a larger emphasis on rotating images and user submissions.
Several tourism agencies effectively make use of their users’ content through Instagram platforms, with an overwhelming majority of the images submitted with hashtags and comments. More often than not, it doesn’t feel like a campaign designed to draw people to the mountains of New Zealand or the plains of Africa despite this being the case. Instead, their galleries look like a selection of beautifully curated photos, all of them either taken on or uploaded through a traveller’s phone.
It gives faceless companies a human element
In the past, the level of interaction between the consumer and manufacturer was minimal at best. While marketing strategies take their audience into account and tailor their campaigns to suit them, direct interaction between the two has proven to be a rarity.
Today, successful corporations play a more active role on social media, whether handling complaints, taking onboard customer suggestions or general feedback via Twitter handles. They also generate buzz through cryptic images uploaded to Instagram or Facebook. The sharing of their consumers’ content has seen a steady rise over the past five years, with returning annual campaigns increasing in popularity.
The now iconic red cup campaign run by Starbucks encouraged and promoted creativity from its customers and generated enough buzz for the campaign to return later this year, with countdowns already in place to build anticipation.
Most interactions feel genuine, make people laugh, start conversations and promote the feeling of a community based on a product or idea – something that was hard to cultivate in the pre-social media age.
Campaigns are building a global community
The world is much smaller than it used to be, and we are more connected now than ever before. Social media is the primary driver behind this, and the power it retains has not gone unnoticed by marketing professionals.
User-generated content has revolutionised the way that companies approach regional specific releases, with multiple iterations of an advertising campaign often running independently of one another in different regions worldwide. We as consumers connect more directly with topics that we identify with, especially with domestic products. However, in the case of global goods and services, a more diverse selection of user content is often curated.
Apple’s ongoing marketing strategies are a perfect example of the growing prevalence of a global community, with adverts and online galleries that make heavy use of user-submitted photography, videos and artwork from around the globe.
They allow us to massage our ego
Most social media pages now are awash with selfies, holiday snaps, viral trends and hashtag upon hashtag. We all like to feel good, and now brands are affording us the opportunity for greater exposure by legally licensing the day-to-day content we create.
It is human nature to want to be liked and to be a part of a group or event, and through this innate social fixation, professionals have tapped into a formidable bank of subconscious interaction with their campaigns. The uploading and sharing of photos as part of a competition, trend or experience account for a growing proportion of the time we spend online, with viral trends seasonally boosting our community focus onto specific brands and companies.
Perhaps it is a Coca-Cola can with the name ‘Brad’ being held in front of the Eiffel tower, a pumpkin spice latte overlooking Central Park, or a backpack high in the Himalayas – we get to show off, to puff our chests out and show the world the view we are currently taking in. We receive positive feedback on the image, to boost a burgeoning business or a creative idea, or maybe even just feel a direct interaction with the brand themselves.
It puts us in the driver’s seat
Whether consciously or otherwise, the content that consumers upload, share and create acts as an enabler for companies deciding on their next marketing direction. The users of social media have the power to make something go viral, boost charitable causes, and have positive or negative impacts on a brand.
While this may not initially seem like a positive, the good that people spread through their images, posts, blogs and web pages cannot be understated. Charitable donations have seen a steady rise because of social media, and in an increasing trend, promoted products and events are often linked to a charity or fundraising program, either through voluntary donations or promised and matched donations as part of a purchase or contribution.
A diverse mix of content allows representation of all aspects of society, and it makes it possible to promote images that we feel are special or important. Modern marketing strategies are successfully empowering and enabling people from all backgrounds through their use of genuine and diverse user-submitted content.
The future of content
At times, some aspects of the social media age may appear to be negative ones, yet it is hard to dispute that marketing as a medium has steadily become less rigid and one-dimensional as a result of the connection between the two.
While at their core they are still a means to sell a product or promote a thought or idea, through the use of their users’ content, many campaigns now take on other iterations.
They can be charitable, or they can make people feel good. Many spread positive messages and promote equality and acceptance. They can be all this and more, and it’s all through the power of the individual.