A quick Internet search will pummel you with statistics asserting that user-generated content, or UGC, is way better than the videos and images brands spend enormous budgets on for their advertising campaigns. We love sharing those statistics at CIPIO.ai.
(Forgive us. UGC is something we help brands find and use.)
Just to review a sampling of the proof points of UGC’s superiority, consider these:
79% of people say UGC highly impacts their purchase decisions (Stackla)
Consumers trust UGC content 50% more than other forms of media (Stackla)
UGC generates almost seven times higher engagement on Facebook (Mavrck)
Brands that incorporate UGC in their online marketing campaigns see a 20% increase in website traffic (Kissmetrics)
We could go on.
But has anyone really asked the question of Why? Why do consumers trust UGC more than brand-generated content? After all, advertising creatives at brands and agencies are typically trained professionals. They went to Art School. They have portfolios. Shouldn’t their work be better?
Well, if we were judging what pieces might be hung in a museum, sure. But advertising creative differs from art because it is judged by tangible outcomes. Did this piece of creative drive more clicks, website visits, sales? If so, it’s better.
Why UGC Performs Better Than Brand Content
The crack team at CIPIO.ai and I sat down recently to discuss the “Why.” Here are our (very subjective) explanations for the power of the people coming to advertising creative which makes UGC a better play for brands:
UGC Conveys Authenticity
Yes, we know it’s a word quickly becoming overused. We seem to have label fatigue with it in 2023. But it will never go away because it is the core reason any type of content is superior. When customers see content that is generated by people just like them, not Art School grads or actors or celebrities, they feel a more true connection to that person.
If the person creating the content does so with an honest and genuine approach to the message, we humans are smart enough to distinguish that from someone just reading a script or forcing a talking point.
An example: Shaquille O’Neal tells you to buy insurance from The General. Your best bud tells you how much money he saved doing so. Who do you believe more?
UGC Provides Social Proof
If you walked out of your house right now and everyone in your neighborhood was running frantically down the street in one direction, would you go the other way? Of course not. You probably don’t even stop to ask. You just run, too.
When social media users open up their feeds and see their friends … or at least people like them … sharing information and recommendations about a product, the same effect happens. This is called Social Proof. People are more likely to do something if they see others are doing it to.
And by others, we don’t mean Kardashians. Ever celebrity in Hollywood can endorse Pelletons, but it wasn’t until actual people (i.e. – non-celebrities) were sharing their experiences that the fitness craze started in earnest.
UGC is More Engaging
We’ve established that user-generated content is more relatable to the average person. That relatable content is also far more likely to draw more genuine engagement from people seeing it in their feeds.
If the stars align and the content they see is created by someone they know, but someone they also know isn’t a celebrity or shill for one product after another, the chances they’ll like, comment or share rise exponentially.
UGC Offers Different Creativity
This one is debatable, but hear me out: While a classically trained advertising creative (a copywriter, art director, designer, etc.) has the experience and credentials to offer more polished and creative outputs than random users generating content, that training can also handcuff them.
Sure, some of the most amazing marketing and advertising campaigns have come from trained professionals. But creativity is not the by-product of a degree or years of experience. It’s the by-product of the individual’s imagination.
And when you tap into the imaginations of more individuals, you get far more, and sometimes better, results. We’ll not go so far as to say UGC is more creative content than what a brand or agency can produce. But it’s different and that is often very, very good.
The Proof of UGC Campaigns
The more brands turn to user-generated content for creativity and content, the more examples we have to learn from. Starbucks encouraged consumers to decorate their cups and share designs on social media in its 2014 White Cup Contest. They chose a winner among the over 4,000 pieces of UGC generated to create a limited edition, reusable cup.
Dove’s outstanding creative work includes the Real Beauty Sketches campaign. Women described themselves, then someone else, to an FBI-trained sketch artist. The results showed women tend to be more critical of their own appearance than of others. The campaign drove over 64 million views on YouTube and led to $1.5 billion in sales for the brand.
But UGC can also be simple and cost-saving. Rather than spend thousands of dollars on product photography, clients of CIPIO.ai like Kekoa Foods and Valley Fitness are sourcing images and videos from their customers. The lion’s share of that content is being produced for in-kind exchanges of product or membership fees.
From a brand perspective, the cost efficiencies alone are the answer to “Why?” But we would humbly submit the four outlined above are the real reason for the UGC season in marketing.
Do you agree? Are there other reasons? We would love your thoughts. Jump over to our LinkedIn page and find the post to join in the conversation.
And we would love to show you how CIPIO.ai can help your brand scale your acquisition of high-quality, better-performing UGC for your paid and organic campaigns. Let's hop on a call so you can see!