By Ideas Collide
When it comes to supporting your brand with digital content, some of the most impactful content you share will be made by people outside your creative team. It’ll be user-generated content, promotions developed by content creators, and testimonials shared by influencers — in short, content created by, well, anyone but you.
That can be a frustrating realization, given how much time, effort and expense go into creating digital content on a day-to-day basis. It doesn’t have to be, though. When you view the success of content created by others as a gateway to maximizing your homegrown content’s impact, you’re ready to harness its power.
But what’s the difference between user-generated content (UGC), content creators and influencers? What impacts do they each have on your brand reputation, and which ones should you pursue? Read on.
Beginning with the least formal of these three content types, if you’ve spent any time online, you’ve come across UGC in the wild. Think of it as digital word-of-mouth advertising. Hootsuite defines UGC as “original, brand-specific content created by customers and published on social media or other channels. UGC comes in many forms, including images, videos, reviews, a testimonial, or even a podcast.”
Here are some examples:
While social media is often the easiest way to share UGC, don’t feel limited to it. The conference registration scenario above is a good example of that. As Hootsuite explains, UGC can be used “across all stages of the buyer’s journey to help influence engagement and increase conversions. The customer-centric content can be used on social media and other channels, such as email, landing pages, or checkout pages.”
The prospect of being recognized by your brand — whether that’s simply appearing in your stories or winning a full-blown contest — might be incentive enough for your customers and brand loyalists to create this content, but what’s in it for you? Why should you seek out and share UGC?
Simply put, it elevates the authenticity of your content in a way your branded creative never could. When 88% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support, that matters. Plus, we aren’t being dramatic when we say the content you produce just doesn’t have the same credibility. According to a recent Stakla report,
"People are 3.1x more likely to say user-generated content (UGC) is authentic compared to brand-created content and 5.9x more likely to say it’s the most authentic compared to influencer content."
As an added bonus, when you start incorporating UGC into your marketing strategy, you’re tapping into a community of your brand loyalists who, in many cases, are simply eager to be a part of something larger than themselves. Further, they may even feel they play a role in your brand’s success. Sharing someone’s photo on your grid can make that person a brand loyalist for life — for a mere fraction of the cost of hiring an influencer (in some cases for the low, low price of free).
Often UGC is created by someone merely going about their day-to-day; in the scenario of that hotel guest by the pool, their livelihood likely doesn’t depend on whether the hotel reshares their Story. Content creators and influencers, however, have a little more skin in the game.
In some cases, the lines between content creators and influencers can blur, but simply put, content creators create and influencers influence. Sprout Social defines this further: “Digital creators focus on creating content that engages their audience. …Their content is professional and high-quality because creating that content is the sole purpose of digital creators. This is why they tend to draw in highly engaged audiences, even if they may not be all that large. … Influencers are simply sharing how they live their lives, promoting the products and services they use along the way.”
Think about it this way: A YouTube channel that uploads workout videos once a week may promote a product at some point, but it’s not the channel’s purpose.
"The majority of an influencer’s content, however, promotes their experiences with various products, places or services with the intent of encouraging followers to make a purchase."
Much like UGC, content developed by either of these groups should be used in tandem with the content you’re creating in house. It doesn’t replace homegrown content. Instead, it augments it. Content creators will likely produce content of a much higher quality than UGC, but serving a similar purpose: another video, photo, blog article or graphic to incorporate into your digital footprint — but often in a style all their own. Influencers, similarly, will make content for your brand in their own style, but where they have the advantage is often increased reach among a niche audience. They are gatekeepers to communities you’d have a much tougher time reaching on your own.
Though the method of payment often differs from creator to creator, know that both content creators and influencers charge for their services, and the larger their following, the more you can expect to invest — whether that’s cold hard cash or in-kind products or services.
Beyond knowing the difference between each of these content types, it’s important to know when to use each. Essentially, it comes down to your objective:
While incorporating UGC, content creators and influencers into your marketing strategy can pay off big for your brand, having an expert to guide you along the way can make all the difference. From monitoring brand-managed hashtags for UGC to finding and negotiating contracts with content creators and influencers, working with an agency can free up your team’s time and ensure every campaign is properly executed and evaluated after the fact.
At Ideas Collide, we’ve successfully developed UGC campaigns and worked with content creators and influencers on clients’ behalf across multiple industries. We can help you, too. Our team of digital marketing experts is eager to help you energize your marketing efforts with these strategies. Think of us as an extension of your own team — working with external creators as an extension of your own creative! Drop us a line today.