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User-generated content (UGC) leads to greater brand reach, higher conversion rates, and perceptions of authenticity. (Consumers think user-generated posts are more trustworthy than advertisements.) Many brands hesitate to adopt the practice due to concern about the lack of control over posts, neglecting that UGC no longer means a mix of off-brand and on-brand content. Brands can curate posts that match their style and message and leverage them at a larger scale, at a fraction of the cost of producing their own.
Specialty Retail brands are appealing to younger consumers on Instagram, reflected by the relatively even distribution of user-generated content among brands in the category. Victoria’s Secret has been able to stand apart by garnering 26% of total interactions through leveraging a cycle of influencers or “Angels.” Popular Instagram influencers that walk in Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, such as Kendall Jenner, share content on the brand’s behalf under no obligation and generate enormous organic exposure. Furthermore, the brand compiles images of Angel influencers and reposts them within the Buzz section of the branded app, creating long-tailed marketable content.
Brands should leverage UGC beyond social and incorporate it into their site experience as well, a practice that remains heavily underutilized. In the Beauty sector less than one-fifth of brands have a UGC gallery page on their site and even less have a UGC board on product pages. And while the number of Specialty Retail brands that have UGC on the product’s page has doubled, two-thirds of brands still do not incorporate the feature.
As video continues to rise in popularity, brands can leverage UGC to offer a robust library of content. GoPro is one of the few brands that have made the leap to incentivizing, posting, and promoting UGC videos on their channels. In October 2015, GoPro launched “GoPro Awards,” allocating $5 million each year to reward content creators that submit photos, raw video clips, and video edits to the brand. In doing so, GoPro uploads an average of eight videos each week and receives over 300 thousand views per video on average. These videos not only lower production costs on YouTube, but require minimal media spend as well.
Brands have used various tactics for overcoming the challenge of collecting and incentivizing high-quality UGC. Anastasia Beverly Hills partnered with approximately 600 influencers for product launches, sending sample products up to three weeks before the launch to seed content creation. Four Seasons regularly solicits UGC through contests offering attractive incentives, such as a free trip, while encouraging continuous user engagement.
Brands interested in UGC can curate content themselves or partner with a vendor – like Olapic or Chute – which will assist in finding content, obtaining rights permissions, and manage the posting of images throughout company pages.