As consumers are bombarded with more and more advertisements (estimates go as high as 5,000 per day), marketers are constantly looking for new and effective ways to promote their products. Two of the most exciting forms of marketing to gain popularity are user generated content (UGC) and influencer marketing.
While UGC can be a great way to generate online buzz and engage with consumers, it’s ability to drive actual conversions is often limited by a brand’s existing popularity. The more fans a brand already has, the more effective it is. But what about new products? Or smaller companies?
That is where influencer marketing comes in. Influencers are real consumers with a large, dedicated audience who create high performing content, or influencer generated content (IGC), that has been proven to generate substantial returns for brands of all sizes.
Consumers follow influencers because they are viewed as experts in their particular space. For example, Instagram influencer, @Koyawebb, is a health and fitness coach who has build a following of hundreds of thousands of female followers who look to her for advice and recommendations on all things yoga.
THe vital differences between UGC and IGC
In any well-rounded marketing strategy, there is a time and place for both UGC and IGC. UGC marketing campaigns are a free, reactive way for brands to engage with their audience and encourage online conversations. On the other hand, IGC campaigns are a proactive way to source high-quality content that has mass influence over consumers.
The following images are examples of user generated content and influencer generated content for the same health foods brand. The UGC (top image) has unclear messaging, no call to action, and received little engagement from the consumer's audience. The IGC (bottom image) is high quality image created by a health and wellness influencer. She gives an in-depth review of the product in the description, and has a positive response from her audience, who is also interested in health and food. The content received comments such as "I have to try this!"
User generated content: Why free is not always better
By definition, “User-generated content, or UGC, consists of any form of content that's created by users and consumers about a brand or product. UGC isn't paid for, and its authenticity makes the user the brand advertiser as well.” In other words, UGC is highly organic content that allows brands to interact with consumers and gather authentic insight. The primary value of this content is that it is free.
While access to free content may sound like any marketer’s dream, because UGC is created by “regular” consumers without any clear guidelines, brands have no control over the content that is associated with their brand, making it difficult for brands to tell their story. Keep in mind that UGC may not always be aligned with the brand’s aesthetic, may misrepresent company messaging, and may not be targeted to the right audience. This content solution relies on the idea that regular consumers will create the right content for a brand.
Furthermore, regular consumers have not established themselves as reliable sources for product reviews and recommendations, making the content they do make less likely to influence their network of connections to take action.
Influencer generated content: why influence matters
Influencer generated content performs well because the influencers have large, targeted audiences, experience in creating professional quality content, and most importantly, have the reputation for being reliable sources of information in their space. According to a study by Twitter, 40% of people admit to buying an item after seeing it used by an influencer on social media.
For example, a series of images and videos created by a plus size fashion influencer in collaboration with an online clothing brand generated over $25,000 in sales.
Influencers are modern day taste-makers, whether they create content focused on fashion, beauty, food etc. They are called influencers because they’ve proven their expertise in a specific topic and people follow them specifically for inspiration, reviews and recommendations.
Although, IGC does require some monetary investment, whether that is sending free product or paying content fees, brands who run influencer campaigns see increased web traffic, sales, and social engagement. Brands are also left with inexpensive, on-brand, and highly engaging content that they can repurpose on their own websites, social platforms, and other owned marketing channels.
In conclusion, while UGC is a great way for large, popular brands to generate online buzz, small and less established brands will have a difficult time driving actual conversion with this content strategy. Because influencers have established themselves as thought leaders, IGC is proven to drive sales, not just short-lived buzz.