Did you see that viral TikTok video of a chihuahua doing six backflips last week? Or the Reel where a guy walks on water…in his living room? Or that hilarious dance challenge on Youtube Shorts that everyone from celebrities like Lizzo to grandparents seems to be doing?
If you’re like most people, the answer is probably yes. And there’s a good reason for that — user-generated content (UGC) is taking over the internet, and the world of entertainment, by storm.
In case you’re not familiar with the term, UGC refers to any content – videos, photos, articles, etc. – created by regular, everyday people rather than professional brands and design teams. TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram are just a few of the most popular platforms for UGC. And as social media platforms continue to grow and evolve, UGC will only become more popular too.
Consider TikTok TV; TikTok users can now easily watch TikTok videos — which are primarily UGC — on the big screen, creating an experience that feels like TV streaming and caters to groups.
So what’s behind this UGC phenomenon? Why are people so drawn to videos and photos of regular people doing everyday things? And what does this trend mean for the future of entertainment and eCommerce?
Why is UGC so popular?
When social media first became a thing, people were hypnotized by glamorous commercials by top brands, celebrities endorsing products on Instagram, or polished social ads from big media companies.
But as social media has evolved, users have become more interested in content that is relatable and real. In other words, they want to see content created by people like them, not professional brands and celebrities.
There are a few reasons for this shift.
It makes the world feel smaller and more connected
Through platforms like TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and so many others, we can connect with people from all over the world who have similar interests to us. And as we see more people like us creating content that we enjoy, it’s only natural that we would want to create content ourselves.
UGC is often more relatable than traditional forms of entertainment. We all know what it means to be dancing in our living room or doing silly challenges with our friends. But we might not relate to a glamorous celebrity endorsement or a big-budget commercial. As the world becomes increasingly uncertain and stressful, UGC provides a much-needed sense of connection and relief.
UGC on social media is also a huge driver of word-of-mouth marketing, as users tend to show off the products and brands they love in a genuine, trustworthy way. Instead of highly polished and produced commercials, ads and social posts featuring real people are becoming a major element of brand marketing. More on this later.
It’s more authentic
In a world where we’re bombarded with fake news and sponsored content, that sense of authenticity is more important than ever.
For example, consider the infamous Pepsi commercial featuring Kendall Jenner. The commercial was widely criticized for being tone-deaf and inauthentic. On the other hand, a recent TikTok video by student activist Kailee O’Neill went viral in a matter of hours.
The video’s raw and emotional take on what it’s like to be a teenager today, with the influx of cyberbullying and the destructive nature that social media can have on a person’s self-esteem because of its comparative nature, resonated with many. Which one would you rather watch?
UGC on social platforms allows viewers to interact with the content and its creators. For example, TikTok has become known for its challenges, where users create videos of themselves doing a certain task or dance and then challenge their followers to do the same. This level of interactivity is fun and engaging for viewers and makes them feel more connected to the content and its creators.
Many users over the past years have commented on how they feel as if they know the creators of their favorite videos, even though they’ve never actually met them in person. Creators often interact directly with followers, with tools like TikTok stitch and duet fostering this engagement. This level of connection is not possible with traditional forms of entertainment.
What does this mean for the future of entertainment?
Social media platforms are already giving traditional entertainment giants like streaming services a run for their money. And as more people become interested in creating and sharing content on social media, UGC will only become more influential.
Another huge factor that has led to the widespread prevalence of UGC content is how quickly it can be consumed and how accessible it is. According to Hubspot, 5% of viewers will stop watching your video after one minute, and 60% will stop watching after two minutes.
This means that people are not as interested in watching long-form content like movies or TV shows as they used to be. They want something quick and easy to consume. Not only that, they don’t want to sit through a long commercial break or wait for a new episode to come out every week. With UGC, they can watch as much or as little as they want, whenever they want.
This is not to say that traditional forms of entertainment will disappear. There will always be a market for big-budget movies and TV shows. But UGC presents a viable alternative – and one that is quickly gaining popularity. It’s only a matter of time before UGC starts to seriously disrupt the traditional entertainment industry.
For brands, this trend presents both a challenge and an opportunity. On the one hand, brands must work harder to stand out in a sea of user-generated content. But on the other hand, they also have the opportunity to connect with consumers in a more authentic and genuine way than ever before.
How can brands capitalize on UGC?
The key for brands is to focus on authenticity and relatability. Rather than compete with user-generated content, they should try to complement it, embrace it as an asset to their content marketing strategies, and take tips from online creators who have excelled at building an engaged audience on social media.
UGC platforms like Pixlee TurnTo [now Emplifi] allow brands to collect, curate, and publish UGC shared online from existing customers, with options to source content through specific hashtags, photo tags, mentions, and more.
If your brand is interested in starting any campaigns around UGC, a content management platform can save you time and effort, and help your brand team access the highest-quality community content.
In a similar vein, Pixlee TurnTo’s influencer marketing solution allows brands to discover influencers within their existing fanbases, or partner with new creators and manage campaigns from start to finish in-platform.
Influencer marketing and UGC creators
One way brands can break into the UGC world is by partnering with influencers who align with their values and create content that matches their brand identity.
For example, a skincare brand might partner with a beauty influencer who creates videos about natural makeup routines. This type of marketing allows brands to reach their target consumers through relatable and authentic content. Seeing someone they trust using a brand’s products also encourages users to purchase and share their own UGC.
Cosmetics influencers are typically known for tutorial and makeup inspiration social content, which other users often recreate on their own channels. Brands like Morphe break into this sphere by partnering with creators who will then reference their products in videos and photo content.
The best part about this is that the influencers already have an audience that trusts them. That trust is what will make people more receptive to the content and your brand, rather than a commercial of a random model at the beach promoting eyeliner while eating a pineapple.
UGC creators are individuals who are skilled at producing UGC-style content that brands can reuse on their own marketing channels. These creators are experts at conveying the raw and authentic yet aesthetically-pleasing element of traditional UGC.
UGC-oriented social media contests
Another way for brands to capitalize on UGC is by running campaigns encouraging users to create and share content.
Brands can run contests or giveaways that encourage users to create content. For example, Windsor recently ran a contest asking TikTok users to share content wearing their apparel and tag them with #WindsorGirlSweeps. The grand prize was a gift card, which incentivized people, especially existing brand fans, to participate.
Sephora also ran a campaign called “Beauty Without Borders,” which invited people from all over the world to share makeup looks that represent their culture. This type of campaign not only allows brands to tap into trends and what’s relevant to their target consumers but also gives them a chance to show that they understand and appreciate the diversity of their customer base.
By running campaigns like these, brands can increase their reach and build loyalty and trust with their consumers.
How to derive value from UGC and social media
As social media is where most UGC and UGC-style content originates, your brand should follow best practices for engagement and conversions down the funnel.
Give customers an inside look at your company
Piggybacking off of the authenticity and human connection UGC emanates, one of the best things you can do for your brand is tell the world who you are and show it through the eyes of your employees.
Influencer Marketing Hub said it perfectly, “Unfortunately, companies do not have a face, but individuals do.” So, providing insight into your company culture and showcasing your brand’s genuine and diverse personalities can provide consumers with a perfect platform to interact with you.
This is why behind-the-scenes content is a great way to get started on Reels, YouTube Shorts, and TikTok. People are always curious to see what goes on behind closed doors, whether through packing orders, showcasing some of your employees, giving an insight into the company’s work culture, or even taking them on a tour of the office.
Include CTAs in all content
When resharing UGC, you can also directly create CTAs through Reels, ads, or posts that encourage people to learn more about your brand and follow you on social media. Additionally, you can guide them to visit your website and make purchases while you ensure compliance with PCI standards so that all customer financial data is kept encrypted and only shared amongst your employees on a need-to-know basis.
You should also mention that you adhere to the PCI standards for all financial transactions in your marketing and social media posts, and customers may feel more comfortable buying from you. At the very least, it helps to solidify your business as legitimate and trustworthy.
Repurpose content with Shoppable Instagram and TikTok
The best part about UGC is that you can repurpose content across multiple platforms. So if you create a TikTok video that does well, you can also post it as your Instagram story or Reels.
However, you can also take that content’s value further by bringing it into your brand’s marketing strategy outside of social media. Creating a Shoppable Instagram or Shoppable TikTok gallery allows customers to shop straight from customer photos on your website, providing both social proof and an easy path to purchase.
Experiment with different content types
And finally, don’t be afraid to experiment! With social media, there are always new trends, platforms, and features emerging. Try your hand at short-form video, Instagram live streams, and more. Remember, when these platforms create new tools and features, they want their users to use them. So if you take action quickly, the algorithm will reward you by pushing your content out to more people.
The shift in how we consume entertainment means that brands need to focus on creating engaging content that resonates with their target consumers.
The goal is to connect with your audience on a deeper level, and the best way to do that is by creating content that is relatable, interactive, and yet straight to the point!
So if you’re looking for ways to spruce up your social media strategy, take advantage of user-generated content, keep pumping out consistent content, and experiment with new features and platforms.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on pixlee.com. Any statistics or statements included in this article were current at the time of original publication.