The last 12 months have completely destroyed the concept of big ad campaigns. Social distancing meant that film crews were unable to do their job and many brands faced restrictions on content production.
But one type of content has been pandemic-friendly: UGC (User Generated Content). In 2020, we saw a dramatic increase in the number of photos and videos created by customers across all industries. Brands were able to collect and publish content on a tight budget, in a short time frame. More importantly, they were able to share content that responded to the growing need for human interaction.
Why UGC Connected Consumers Around the World in 2020
“Communication” was a buzzword in 2020. People were forced to stay at home in strict isolation. We were separated from family and friends, and all these trials led many people to look for a connection wherever they could find it. The pandemic has brought with it the feeling that “we are all together,” and brands can use this to maximize their connection with their audience.
It is clear that people did not want to feel lonely, and the Internet brought solace in the form of user generated content. He brought people together and built communities around brands, and gave people hope and inspiring stories to focus on.
The power of user generated content – why it was the most requested form of content in 2020
UGC wasn’t just the easiest content type in 2020 – it was needed. Here’s why: It has contributed to a surge in “globally oriented” content.
Brands that attracted local audiences ahead of the pandemic found their doors wide open to a global customer base. People were forced to stay at home and many turned to online shopping. This allowed brands to focus on optimizing their online stores and serving customers that were not only in the immediate vicinity of their regular stores. UGC has helped bring it all together by enabling brands to connect with shoppers anywhere in the world.
In fact, UGC has fostered human interaction – and this connection is more important than ever during this global crisis. As humans, we want to feel like a part of something. UGC helps bring like-minded people together, bring a sense of community, and create more “human” campaigns instead of sophisticated, branded offerings.
Mastercard’s “Separate, But Together” campaign is a great example of how a brand can do it well. They pieced together real-life footage of clients into a short documentary-style video that was emotional and cohesive.
During the pandemic, consumers actively searched for inspirational, inspirational, and engaging content. In fact, one study found that 70% of people wanted brands to share positive content. They were especially looking for content that acknowledged the turbulent situation in which we all found ourselves, but did so delicately. UGC bridges the gap between brands and customers and enhances a sense of belonging.
The dynamic nature of user generated content and the abundance of content from real people means brands can be much more flexible. This was vital when the state of the world was changing so quickly – the last thing brands wanted to spend two months working on was a campaign, and a couple of weeks later they found it completely out of date. UGC enables brands to quickly collect and share content, and create relevant campaigns based on current needs and trends.
Trust has been absolutely critical for brands looking to attract and retain their customer base during the pandemic, and user generated content is key to building trust. In fact, 70% of consumers trust UGC more than branded content, and 75% believe UGC makes content more authentic.
What does this mean
We can be confident that many of the 2020 trends will continue into 2021, including the UGC surge. Brands now serve a much wider audience, and this audience is often scattered across the world. To maintain these new customer bases, companies will need to continue to build trust and strengthen customer relationships. User generated content is the perfect way to do this through social proof and community building.
What UGC will look like in 2021
UGC’s status report states that UGC volumes will continue to be huge in 2021. The effects of the pandemic continue to be felt around the world. This won’t change anytime soon. Brands using user-generated content can be expected to evolve and evolve as they enter this new rut of customer-centric marketing.
Use UGC for deeper social proof. Instead of sharing custom content as it emerges, make it an integral part of every marketing campaign. Positive customer reviews will be critical to a brand’s success, and social proof will expand to include real customer stories told in a variety of content formats.
Encourage the creation of content for employees. Employees were also stuck at home. In 2021, more brands will engage their employees in content creation to bring disparate teams together.
Personalize your UGC campaigns. Most consumers today expect personalized campaigns. In fact, they are happy to transfer their data in exchange for personalized product recommendations and customized travel based on their needs.
Immerse yourself in nostalgia. According to one study, nostalgic feelings make customers more willing to spend their money. As people strive to “get things back to normal,” we will see more brands turning to the past.
Embed user-generated content into other marketing campaigns. User generated content has proven to be an integral part of marketing in 2020. Next year we will see it appear in other types of campaigns as well.
Share with other live broadcasts. Live streaming has been incredibly popular in 2020, which really isn’t surprising given that consumers are stuck at home and hungry for connection.
Include User Generated Content in Your Marketing Plans for 2021
You’ve probably mapped out your marketing plans for the next few months, maybe even next year. But do you have enough UGC?
We cannot predict what will happen in 2021, but we can learn from what has worked in the past. And UGC was definitely one thing that did well in 2020. In fact, it was the perfect marketing tactic during the pandemic. He rallied people, instilled a sense of “we are all in this,” and helped brands build trust with an increasingly skeptical consumer base.
So, if you haven’t already, it’s time to think about how you will add a significant dose of user generated content to your marketing campaigns.