As Mark Twain once said, there is no such thing as a new idea. While the unprecedented events of 2020 have changed the world in ways no-one could have imagined, there has been one clear winner in the world of digital media - User Generated Content (UGC).
As pandemic lockdown restrictions have restricted professional production opportunities from making video, user-generated content has become the medium of choice for many marketing teams. From Team GB’s ‘Isolation Games’ TikTok challenge, through to Sam Neill’s Cinema Quarantino Productions, UGC has been on the front foot, both in terms of mass engagement and capturing the zeitgeist.
Sports leagues leading the charge
Sports leagues have shifted gear from their usual live-action content to social channels, with TikTok leading the way. Major League Baseball (MLB) has been particularly active on the platform, and believes this activity (itself generating a 6% engagement rate) has driven a surge to 1.4 million followers and 55 million likes on the platform. Meanwhile basketball retrospective #NBAMoments has received more than 300,000 submissions and has been viewed more than 1.4 billion times on TikTok.
All these figures hint at a compelling reason behind another statistic from a recent Yotpo report, which found that the amount of user-generated content in marketing strategies has almost tripled in the last ten years. This is unsurprising given that almost nine in ten respondents to that survey agreed that UGC increased conversion rates. The overwhelming reason for this belief is that marketers (and in particular retailers) believe that authenticity and social proof are the keys to success, especially in an age of waning influencer power.
A separate report from StackLa dug even deeper. This found that a massive 90 percent of consumers consider authenticity important when deciding which brands they like and support (up from 86 percent in 2017).
Brands undervaluing user-generated content
However, the StackLa report also revealed a disconnect between consumers and marketers. Consumers were 2.4 times more likely to say that user-generated content (UGC) is authentic compared to brand-created content, while marketers are 2.1 times more likely to say brand-created content is authentic compared to UGC. This suggests that there is still a lot of opportunity for organizations to drive measurable business value through embracing a UGC strategy.
There are other key factors that point to UGC as a viable strategy for brands to pursue. Ease of production is one, since almost all consumers have a video-capable smartphone to hand. However, there’s a psychological element too - everyone loves to chime in and tell their side of a story.
Another consideration is upfront cost, in that the cost of UGC media creation is much lower than more traditional methods, especially where video production is concerned. Given the enormous potential reach of a positive brand message going viral, or even being referenced in a viral context, the potential ROI from UGC is enormous.
Managing your media
There are a host of associated benefits too, especially if historical UGC content is archived by a business. Doing so enables future usage in marketing initiatives as well as having the ability to contribute to trending topics as they arise. This, in turn, reaches new audiences and enables a brand to create buzz around key moments or dates in its calendar.
The key to success here is getting a formal process in place to ingest, tag and store high-quality UGC in an accessible format. When content can be discovered via search easily and quickly in response to a well-positioned trend, and used without lengthy licensing and rights investigations, brands can be highly reactive. A Digital Asset Management system (DAM) is a vital asset here, replacing lengthy battles with internal folder systems, or cloud-based versions of the same thing.
No compliance shortcuts
However, the perception of UGC ‘free content’ can open the door to dangerous assumptions, especially in the context of managing rights and compliance. One of Imagen’s media clients, the Endemol Shine Group, is the world’s largest independent producer, with 120 production labels spanning 22 different markets. In the UK alone Endemol manages 27 different brands, which meant that the company needed a highly granular and robust system to manage rights and permissions across the globe. In addition, GDPR compliance was a vital concern, due to a range of productions that show members of the public.
This is particularly critical for UGC too, as in the event of a data access request from an individual, companies are obliged to respond or face considerable fines for non-compliance. Such fines reach a theoretical maximum of up to 20 million euros, or up to 4% of total global turnover in the most egregious cases.
However, when assets are correctly managed, and security and audit trails are in place, then any asset can be rapidly queried, and a clear audit trail established. This will indicate where the content has been, where it came from, which individuals are visible, and what rights or permissions have been sought or allocated. These are all key components of managing data access requests efficiently.
Telling your story
Having this system in place allows internal marketing teams to pivot the brand story to engage different audiences using a mix of in-house owned content and the supplementary content that the audience is submitting. This is a powerful combination, as Arsenal Football club have discovered with the TikTok tag #ArsenalRecreated. Using this tag, fans attempted to recreate classic Gunners moments on the pitch, back at their homes. As one might expect, this resulted in general hilarity, cute kids, and more than half a million (526.7K at the time of writing) views.
In many ways, it is the ability to ‘cross the streams’ with content that offers businesses the biggest win. With TV and display unit costs at nigh-on historic lows, the ability to create targeted but low-cost content is a golden opportunity. Speed to market, low capital risk and the ability to be in tune with the public mood are all exceptionally valuable attributes at any point, but in the world of today and tomorrow, they are essential.
Overall, the use of user-generated content might not be anything new, but it has certainly come of age. UGC humanises brands, increases personalisation, boosts SEO, takes advantage of content creation, helps to boost social media and delivers tangible asset value without significant investment. The question you need to ask is: can your future marketing and production plans succeed without it?
Click here to read 10 reasons why your business should embrace video in social media, and to learn more about how Imagen can be the foundation for the success of your UGC video strategy.