Is UGC oversaturated? Not even close.
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Picture this: You’re lounging poolside at a popular rooftop hotel, cocktail in hand, tagging your location, and posting it to social media. Or maybe you’re finally trying that home meal delivery kit and want to share an unboxing experience with your TikTok followers.
Congratulations, you’ve made what is called user generated content, better known in the marketing world as UGC.
Keep this in mind: We’re talking about UGC coming from customers and brand fans; however, there’s also paid UGC created on behalf of a brand, but that’s a different conversation for another day.
It’s no secret that we tend to trust the content that looks real or authentic on social media.
Mega-influencers and celebrities don’t always have the reach they used to because there’s a general consensus they’re being paid simply to post about a product or service they don’t care about or use.
See exhibit A:
For that reason, the popularity of UGC has grown exponentially over the last few years. However, as with all things, there’s an abundance of UGC creators working to connect with brands and provide a service.
Instead of social media feeds being filled with celebrity endorsements and paid ads, we’re now seeing an influx of UGC and a competitive market for creators to connect with brands.
With the growth of TikTok in the last couple of years, the number of content creators has grown (and fast). As Meta (Facebook and Instagram) continues to alienate creators, more are tapping into the tools of TikTok or getting started as new creators altogether.
Another force driving the demand for UGC is that brands are looking for new ways to connect with consumers in a world that’s changed so much over the last few years. Booming e-commerce trends and increasing competition amongst brands mean returning to the drawing board and learning how to turn social media scrollers into customers.
But what does that mean for UGC and the possibility of an oversaturated market?
Let’s explore what both sides are saying, what the future of UGC looks like, and how creators can stand out when connecting with brands for potential partnerships:
The who, what, and how of UGC creators
UGC is an important part of any marketing strategy. When people are asked what content they find most authentic, it almost always points to content created by consumers rather than brand-created content or advertising.
80% of consumers say what they see on social media through UGC makes an impact on their buying journey, according to Stackla. That’s more impactful than what consumers see through influencer marketing and branded content.
What makes UGC so valuable to brands?
It allows consumers to see how a product works or fits across many bodies, skin tones, lifestyles, and surroundings. One example of UGC in action is here with Designing Nashville on TikTok, showing a review and experience of water enhancement brand Waterdrop:
Though influencers have shown how to use Waterdrop water enhancers, a more authentic and trusted view comes from content like this over perhaps paid advertising.
UGC is also super valuable for brands as a way to build trust between themselves and consumers. Showcasing real-life usage and product experiences from UGC creators is sometimes the difference between younger shoppers (millennials and Gen Z especially) making a purchase and not.
In fact, 64% of these younger shoppers share they’ve actually left an ecommerce website because there was no customer content or reviews, according to Social Media Today. Tapping into the UGC world is essential for brands to generate ongoing and evergreen content.
Tip: What better way to market to new customers than with the positive experiences of current customers? Sharing content on social media is just one way consumers hype up the brands they love.
Is UGC an oversaturated market? Nope.
Over the years, the number of creators getting out there and sharing their work has grown, so it makes sense that some of the novelty wears off over time.
But that doesn’t mean interest is necessarily waning.
Take, for example, the Kardashian family. Ask any of your friends, and they’ll probably say the family (and the business ventures) has way too much exposure, and ‘no one cares about them.’ However, their social media content and television show consistently see record-breaking numbers.
There’s also the ability to create content with very little equipment. At one point during the early days of creating content, there was a need for high-end equipment. Nearly every influencer had a DSLR camera and a bunch of gear they’d used to create the simplest of videos.
Today, a lot of USG is done with a smartphone. This opened up opportunities to an entire demographic of people who want to try their hand at becoming creators and build a following on social media.
Plus, TikTok greatly changed the game.
Instead of highly curated content getting the most attention and likes, a la Instagram, the simplest and least produced content garners the most views on the growing platform.
If anything, the need for UGC creators is growing.
Brands looking to get on new platforms, attract and engage new customers, and create relevant content that resonates will continue to want to work with creators who help them reach those benchmarks.
Likewise, does that mean brands should shift away from produced content and focus solely on UGC? No – there’s room for both, and brands must find a balance between content that resonates with an audience.
The future of UGC
What does the future look like for UGC and brand relationships?
As commerce grows, brands will need to work harder to stand out and gain trust.
Moving forward, consumers will continue to look to UGC as they would recommendations from friends and family. And, even though it’s a controversial topic in the marketing world, social commerce is finding its way onto various platforms.
YouTube and Amazon shopping is gaining attention, and the ability to buy something you see on Instagram without ever leaving the platform is appealing to many users.
By integrating UGC content into social platforms, consumers will be more likely to purchase or try something out if they see it used by everyday people.
Let’s face it: video is a medium that’s continued to grow in popularity, especially on social platforms that favor video over static content.
In younger demographics, more are spending time on social media rather than on television. Where traditional advertisements once worked and drove brand awareness and sales, in today’s world, that attention is mostly on TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram.
Bottom line: Brands need to look for ways to integrate UGC assets into marketing strategies for print and digital content.