What is the difference between UGC creators vs. influencers?
When it comes to social media marketing, nearly every social media user is familiar with the concept of an “influencer” someone who uses their large following and online status to “influence” their audience, whether it be talking about popular products, services, or lifestyle trends. But since 2014, which was deemed the “year of the influencer,” the use of influencing online has changed significantly. The market is highly saturated, and social media users are starting to regard influencers as fake, out of touch, and shameless (even cringy) salespeople.
This isn’t to say that influencers are obsolete – they’re definitely not, and there’s a place for influencing in social media marketing. But lately, a new trend has risen that could be even more effective than the typical TikTok “influencer.” UGC, or user-generated content, is on the rise due to a focus on transparency, honesty, and “realness,” which is one of the surprising keys to successful social media marketing.
Keep up with the Fundamental Shift in Marketing from IGC to UGC
UGC is on the rise, but what is it? Essentially, content can be considered “user-generated” if it’s been created by a real user of a product or service. This is very different than an influencer who’s been paid to promote something with an online #ad, which can seem disingenuous.
No, instead, UGC Creators are real users, normal people, or someone who is not a representative of a company – usually on TikTok or Instagram. UGC is particularly effective because it’s like reading Google reviews: Those are where you go to seek the truth about a product or service. And not just the truth that companies want to broadcast, but real users who are giving their honest opinions.
If an influencer is getting paid to promote a product or service, there’s little trust from viewers because most influencers make their living with “influencer marketing” and promotion. So how do we find out the truth about a product or service? Hearing from a real person, a real user, or someone who isn’t being compensated for their analysis is a great start.
Social media has become a very sales-y platform, and it seems like everyone is trying to sell a product or a service. We’re constantly being inundated by ads for skincare, haircare, clothing, sporting equipment, and more on TikTok and Instagram. It seems like every single brand claims to be the best, the most effective, and the must-have.
All too often when social media users purchase the mentioned product or service, it’s not always what they expected it to be – or it’s downright disappointing. As a result, there’s been significant damage done to the trust of our social media audience on TikTok and Instagram.
Users want more transparency and honesty.
People are more skeptical.
And they have a right to be!
Marketing and advertising, if done wrong, can feel manipulative and pushy. And therein lies the appeal of UGC – not only does it seem genuine and trustworthy, but it bodes very well for a product. If a customer loves something enough to talk about it and post video or pictures just because they want to, this will speak volumes to their audiences – no matter how small they are. Even just sharing something you love with a few hundred people can have a ripple effect for the company’s sales and visibility.
Marketers on social media have taken to using UGC creators as part of their advertising campaigns to showcase how much real people love their products.
The difference between UGC creators and influencers
There are two types of user-generated content. The first one is the most straightforward – real users film content featuring a product or service they really loved, and then they post it.
The second way is that companies may ask normal people to review something in exchange for a discount, or free products. This is technically considered influencing, but it’s still more trustworthy to the general public because the testimonial is coming from a person who is perceived to be real and normal, not a huge influencer with an unattainable lifestyle.
Companies can also hire dedicated UGC Creators to film content – which is, again, technically still in the “influencing” space, but the content seems genuine because it’s seeming to come from someone who appears relatable – an everyday person, just like most viewers. This relatability is the key to differentiating UGC Creators from influencers.
Many large influencers are seen as being untrustworthy because they are so far removed from the reality of most social media users. An influencer who travels the globe, posts about her lavish lifestyle, and then posts ads for companies is not going to seem as though they actually use the product or can relate to it. It’s no secret that these personalities are being paid handsomely by companies to promote products, which feels dishonest, and not at all like a “real review.”
Many viewers are disillusioned by content like this, ignoring it as though it were a downright sales pitch.
While a UGC creator might technically do what an influencer does, usually they have much smaller audiences and could be considered “micro influencers,” or normal people who have a smaller number of followers and review products. They often appear much more relatable, honest, and transparent with their audience. A UGC content creator could actually be anyone who’s used a product or service and wants to share it.
UGC is often more creative, more honest, more relatable, and doesn’t feel “salesy” or pushy. Social media users don’t like being sold to – but if their favorite small blogger is raving about her new favorite brand of cookies in her IG story, it seems more trustworthy to actually try them out.
How to use UGC content vs. Influencer content
While it’s true that certain elements of “influencing” aren’t working as well as they used to, people with massive followings online still do have a certain type of power in the social-spheres. Influencing marketing typically is more polished, more aligned with a brand, as the brand may actually have some say in what’s posted. UGC is often more raw and real, which is its appeal, but this means that it may not align with brand aesthetics ,language, or mentino key features that brands would have wanted to publicize.
A large part of sales and forming relationships with new customers is trust – so no matter which approach you go with, make sure that integrity and trust are at the forefront of your marketing strategy.
When to use UGC
A UGC approach might be right for you if you are a smaller company with less budget and really want to share the wonderful impact that your product or service is having for real people. UGC can help you share testimonials and advertise in a way that seems genuine- without breaking the bank. If you’re still in the startup phase or getting your company off the ground and trying to build your brand, UGC can certainly help build trust and a positive reputation. UGC comes across as more authentic and genuine, and testimonial is a very powerful form of marketing. If your company has been struggling with sales from influencer marketing, it may be a sign that something needs to change – and you should give UGC a try.
The drawbacks of UGC are that you can’t control the quality, and it may not align with your brand’s image or strategic marketing goals.
When to use influencer marketing
Influencer marketing is a great choice for you if your brand is already off the ground and growing in size, but you’re ready to take it to the next level and reach hundreds of thousands of people using someone else’s sizable audience. Influencer marketing is also a great option for you if your company has a very specific niche, like health and wellness supplements, and you choose to work with an influencer who exclusively posts about health and wellness.
This is built-in market segmentation, because it’s likely that the influencer’s audience is exactly who you’d like to target. Similarly, if you sell beauty products, it may be helpful for you to work with a beauty influence with a large following, because this gets your product in front of thousands of beauty enthusiasts.
The drawbacks of influencer marketing, of course, is that it may be more costly, and that customers may find the ads to be insincere if not done right.
A focus on UGC Creators
UGC has become more popular in the last year than ever before. Why? Because companies are noticing that people’s behavior is changing. Influencer marketing is not as highly-influential as it used to be, and this means that the scope of marketing itself is changing on social media.
Social media is a very powerful place to advertise, because thousands of users spend time online – and they’re right at your fingertips. But if your marketing seems insincere or out of touch, it won’t make much of an impact.
The truth is, in 2022, customers struggle to trust brands.
Building trust with social media users today demands a certain level of openness, transparency. UGC creation can be a lot more cost-effective and resonate more strongly with your viewers than influencer marketing.
Times have changed, and they will continue to change. Brands who use UGC are building trust, a better reputation, and giving their products and services a substantial leg up over their competitors.
If you’re interested in getting started with UGC, reach out to us for a friendly conversation and free advice