Working in social media, user-generated content (UGC) and influencer marketing are two terms that have been ingrained in my vocabulary from the very start of my career. My team and I are constantly discussing ways in which UGC and influencers can form part of our social media strategy to deliver tangible results for clients.

Although UGC and influencers are similar in the sense that both work as brand ambassadors, contributing to a company’s content strategy and influencing audience decisions; there are distinct differences between them.

Unlike influencer content, UGC isn’t sponsored by the brand, which enables the content to feel more authentic. In fact, 55% of consumers trust UGC over other forms of marketing which goes to show just how powerful this form of social media marketing is becoming.

The rise of user-generated content

It will come as no surprise that TikTok has had a huge impact on the popularity of user-generated content. The app is full of real-life customer reviews and videos, which hold a real sense of authenticity and trust.

As a result of the way TikTok inherently works, the content produced by these users can reach a mass audience simply through the way the For You Page (FYP) functions – and this is multiplied when considering how common it is to share videos via direct messages.

The TikTok FYP algorithm suggests content based on users’ actions and preferences, from likes, shares, and comments to how much time was spent watching videos.

This means that users are likely to be shown UGC-containing products they are actively interested in. For example, a user who is interested in beauty and makeup might be shown real-life reviews of a new foundation or eyeshadow palette.

Brands should look to harness the power of this content for increased awareness. Some studies have shown that millennials find UGC to be 35% more memorable than content from mainstream sources. If your target demographic is millennials, you should absolutely be using UGC to build brand recognition.

On TikTok, there is a real sense of user-generated culture that is continuing to grow; a culture which is now being adopted by Instagram and could easily spread further onto other channels like Pinterest or Twitter. But where does this leave influencer marketing?

The fall of influencers

With the growing trend towards UGC, what does this mean for influencers?

In recent months, more influencers have faced scrutiny for partnering with brands that don’t align with their values.

A recent example is Gemma Owen from Love Island partnering with the fast fashion retailer, PLT, despite being the owner of a sustainable swimwear company. It goes without saying that fast fashion and sustainability do not go hand in hand, so this partnership appears less authentic to consumers.

As a result of this new scrutiny, there has been a lot of talk implying that influencers are losing their influence – and without that, what benefit do they offer a brand?

Larger influencers have been slowly becoming less prevalent for years as consumers favour real voices and authentic reviews. Data by HypeAuditor recently found that nano-influencers with fewer than 5,000 followers have some of the highest engagement rates in the industry.

Despite this negativity surrounding influencers, brands continue to utilise them as a key aspect of their marketing strategies. In fact, 17% of companies spend over half of their marketing budget on influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing can work incredibly well, but there are two important considerations:

  1. Does the influencer align with your brand values?
    Do they encompass everything that’s important to your brand? If the answer is no, keep searching for the perfect fit.
  1. How will you measure success?
    When you’re spending thousands on an influencer campaign, it’s vital to be able to measure success. Set clearly outlined KPIs and ROI targets at the beginning of any campaign.

User-generated content vs influencers

So, is UGC taking over influencer marketing?

The trend for UGC is certainly continuing to gain momentum across social channels and brands should take note. However, it will only be effective if it’s a part of a wider strategy – you really can’t rely on UGC to replace your own social media marketing.

Consumers want authentic and unique content. Real voices and honest customer reviews have never been more important than they are right now. The rise in UGC is shining a light on the way the influencer marketing industry has been operating up until now. TikTok has and will continue to play a huge role in this shift.

Influencers still play an important role in social media marketing, but perhaps they shouldn’t be the lynchpin to your success. Now, more than ever, it’s vital to partner with the right influencer and brands should tread carefully when it comes to vetting each influencer. This should include a full review of all their social channels and any previous brand collaborations. While UGC hasn’t taken over influencer marketing just yet, it’s certainly catching up and no one can deny that it’s changed the way we as marketers play the game.

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