When it comes to marketing, the shift in media use and the growth of new channels over the past few years has been extraordinary.
It's exciting times for digital media agencies who are on top of trends and undoubtedly overwhelming for brands dipping their toes into these often-muddy waters.
The paradigm has shifted from traditional advertising to a more interactive and authentic approach where creators play a pivotal role in shaping a brand's narrative, and UGC is seeing enormous growth and potential.
UGC is the antidote to curation hype. Online content is now created daily by 'ordinary' people (some of whom have monetised their streams), who flight their brand-focussed material on a variety of channels, including:
- YouTube, and
- Twitter / X.
From beauty and lifestyle bloggers who share their tips and how-tos to would-be comedians in the business of creating skits or 'momfluencers' trying and testing new products from their shopping hauls, UGC creators create content based on their interests and aren't afraid to say how they feel about a brand either.
Unlike brand-created content, UGC exudes authenticity that is often born out of genuine experiences and personal narratives. Its unique format, ranging from unfiltered testimonials to creative collaborations has the ability to capture an audience's attention by fostering relatable connections.
In essence, UGC can set new standards for organic and, importantly, peer-driven engagement. Edelman's Trust Barometer reveals that 76% of consumers consider content shared by average people to be more honest than content shared by brands.
This shift in perception has forced marketers to reassess their strategies, recognising the authenticity and relatability that UGC injects into campaigns. We see more and more — especially on TikTok — that content doesn't have to be over-polished and curated for audiences to engage.
Clients want real and relatable content that sparks conversation, and we work hard to source content creators who are dynamic and brave with their content — it's an exciting time for us.
The South African context is particularly alive. A semi-manual process is the only way we can truly vouch for creators. Try not to be too prescriptive on campaigns and often leave the content totally up to the creator. We know they have good relationships with their audiences, and authenticity is what's most important to us.
For local brands, especially in the FMCG space, UGC can have incredible results. Getting products into people's hands who have a genuine affinity for it, or who we know will be excited by it, can translate into important amplification and market penetration for any brand — but it's a fine line.
Giving products to content creators in exchange for content can definitely work in terms of perception management, but it can also devalue a brand, so work hard to find a happy balance. Don't believe in seeding products to hundreds of people at a time so that content creator feeds are filled with the same type of content all at the same time.
In a world where hyper-curated social media feeds were once the norm, UGC is a delightful and welcome counter-offering.
From a brand perspective, partnering with people who represent you in an authentic light is gold, and so thoroughly enjoy exploring this essential marketing approach with clients.
Clients get so much more bang for their buck. Glossy photo shoots are expensive and heavy on resources, the content all looks the same and the brand tires of it quickly. Content creators can lighten that load while expanding brand awareness to niches they may not have been able to access traditionally.
With more than 20 million South Africans having access to a smartphone, UGC is an ideal playground for brands wanting to meaningfully engage with them. UGC starts a conversation, and that is half the battle won.
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