UGC

UGC Trends in 2022

Daniel Cruz

By Daniel Cruz
10 min READ | Jan 23 2022

User-generated content has been here for a long time. You’ve probably done it, too, each time you recommended a product, service, or company you trusted.

But if UGC is so prevalent, why are we still talking about emerging UGC trends each year?

The type of content that appeals to regular people changes because our society changes too. Thus, although the big picture stays the same, your content utilization strategy will alter.

And the first thing they teach you in marketing school is that you need a strategy that works.

Let’s look at some prominent user-generated content trends for 2022. But first:

User-Generated Content vs Branded Content

Why is UGC so hyped up compared to branded content? Let’s look at some stats:

  • 90% of potential customers trust UGC more than traditional advertising.
  • Ads based on UGC have a click-through rate that’s 400% higher than traditional ads.
  • UGC brings in more conversions. One example is Toyota’s “Feeling the Streets” campaign that increased ad engagement by 440%.
  • 97% of people in the 18-29 category admit UGC has a great influence on their purchase decisions
  • 73% of people have more confidence in their purchases if a particular brand employs user-generated content

As you can see, everyday people crave authentic content, and rightly so. That’s why your social media content marketing strategy should leverage UGC.

Warning: Don’t try to trick your way into winning customer trust with fake content campaigns.

For instance, Cornell University shows that 1-6% of online customer reviews for hotels are fake. The problem is that people know when something’s fishy about your reviews.

So, don’t use bots or have your content marketing team write up these false reviews to increase customer engagement because:

When people take part in a UGC campaign, they brag about it.

For instance, a UGC strategy that works is asking for customer photos within a contest/campaign. These photos depict an authentic experience related to your brand, like #DoverDiversity, a hashtag campaign from Dover Saddlery. It was a booming success because it motivated people with the chance of being the featured horse rider of the week.

An Instagram screenshot of the Dover UGC campaign with the featured rider of the week.
An example of the Dover UGC campaign.

Users who post photos on your campaign will use specific hashtags so that their Instagram friends will see them as well. Participants may also share, repost, or even DM these pictures to their loved ones.

All those actions snowball into higher click-through rates, awareness, recognition and, evidently, conversions for your brand.

On the other hand, using bots gets you nothing.

But there’s more:

Your contest’s winners get some explicit incentives you agreed on before the competition. Depending on your business, these incentives can be products, discounts, trips, or even money.

Winners also gain social recognition, which increases your UGC campaign’s success.

But if your campaign runs on bots, you lose that social proof.

Now that we’ve settled the importance of UGC marketing and discussed some dos and don’ts, let’s see some emerging social media trends.

1. Social Sharing as a Top Priority

Your content campaigns should be based on social sharing because UGC statistics show people love to share:

  • 49% want to tell their loved ones what they like
  • 68% of consumers perceive themselves in relation to their favourite brands (hint: it’s about shared values)
  • 78% share brand-related content to keep up their relationships
  • 69% perceive sharing as doing something that matters for the world/society they live in
  • 84% share matters they’re passionate about
A picture showing five reasons why people love to share on social media, such as self-definition and self-fulfillment.
There are many reasons why users like to share on social media. Source

Besides, social sharing brings you numerous advantages:

  • Awareness
  • Recognition
  • Popularity
  • Desire
  • And even FOMO

Here’s probably the most important thing, though:

Real customers who share their positive experiences about your brand are the cornerstones of your community.

This brand community:

  • Creates a connection with other real customers
  • Makes potential customers want to become part of this family
  • Excludes non-customers, thus deepening users’ pride in belonging to a group
  • Develops inside jokes, shared experience, everyday language, fundamental values, and legendary figures

With each such new trait or insight, your community becomes tighter.

Because here’s another secret.

A social incentive will motivate 60% of your potential customers, while explicit incentives motivate only 32%. And we get back to that #itsfromdovercampaign.

Implicit incentives that will work for your UGC campaign include:

  • Mentioning the customers who created content for your brand
  • Making them part of your company’s journey
  • Taking them out to (virtual) parties
  • Putting their content in ads
  • And so forth

One famous example of using implicit incentives wisely is Lay’s Do Us a Flavour campaign. The famous snack brand asked the general public to create innovative chip flavours for the chance to win a big money prize.

How about asking customers to create a new flavor? That’s what Lay’s did, and it worked.

This idea can mobilize everyday people because their creativity makes them feel included in the brand’s essential making-of process.

Important lesson: Give your customers a voice.


2. Using UGC for Effective Visual Content

A few decades ago, magazines, print ads, and TV represented visual marketing. Nowadays, visual marketing is on social platforms like Instagram and TikTok: even the news talk about it.

The Gen-Z consumer will spend hours watching TikTok clips and IG photos, so you need to explore that niche. Millennial consumers aren’t that far off from this either.

You must leverage this new reality for your industry.

Let’s discuss some examples.

Travel industries need visual content to survive. How else will they popularize exotic holiday spots, luxury hotels or restaurants that sell local food?

An excellent study on the matter shows effective UGC tactics for travel companies:

  • Nine out of ten messages depict landscapes
  • The best photos come from bloggers and contain calls to action. That means you have to engage people to elicit a reaction to get higher engagement rates.
  • The least impressive photos for the audience are agency-owned and have commercial messages. It’s what we’ve been telling you about branded content.
  • And, surprisingly, the number of hashtags doesn’t influence success.

Here’s an example you can use: Scotland’s National Tourism Board opened the #ScotSpirit Instagram Travel Agency. As you can see, this is a digital advertising agency.

The campaign worked–and it’s still working today with close to 900k posts already.

Pro tip: When starting a user-generated content marketing campaign, try understanding your customers.

Scotland’s National Tourism Board Instagram campaign worked because it understood millennials’ need for inspiration before choosing holiday destinations.

So, how do you understand your customers?

Insights don’t strike from heaven; they come from heavy research. That’s why you need an effective tool that will research social media for you to:

  • Find common themes between users’ posts
  • Discover the most used keywords
  • Identify influencers that can address broader and diverse audiences
  • Find people’s posts about your company and products

Consider a UGC platform if you’re unsure where to go from here or if you just want to save time.

3. Blurred Lines Between Influencers and Genuine UGC

The average consumer posts specific UGC, but guess what? Brands are trying their hardest to mimic that content. As we stated before, using bots might look like an easy solution, but it is an ineffective and even damaging strategy as it takes away your credibility.

Still, companies want to be in control as much as possible because:

  • Regular people produce less quality content (think about lights, music, etc.)
  • That content is more difficult to control. Even if you give some directions, there’s no contract, so users may always surprise you will negative pieces.
  • It’s more challenging to gather all that content and ensure it’s enough. What if your campaign only gets 10 or 100 posts instead of a thousand?

Social media influencers are, therefore, a worthy choice to consider.

The music industry is a great example. Marketers know that TikTok music marketing has enormous potential, and they’re harnessing it.

TikTok music marketing stats: 72% of TikTokers associate certain songs with TikTok.
TikTok music stats

Micro – influencers on TikTok can popularize dance choreographies, music clips, song duets, and artists. It’s no wonder that more and more music agencies are turning to TikTok creators.

4. AI and UGC Working Together

You can get the entire influencer community working by your side, but it still would be nothing without AI.

Studies show that 3.2 billion new images are shared each day.

And we didn’t even count the posts that don’t contain pictures. Imagine having to keep track of all that.

Regardless of your industry, you need technology that keeps up with this ever-growing library of user-generated content.

The bad news is that your marketing team will have to adapt.

The good news is that you have a myriad of tools at your fingertips, some of them free and some paid.

Marketing platforms like inBeat constantly get new software, tools, and people to leverage machine learning technology for user-generated content marketing.

Our platform can tag images and videos automatically, find keywords, explore content, and match you with the right influencers. Using the power of AI allows you to focus your time and energy on other matters.

5. UGC for Email Marketing

UGC is widespread on all social media platforms. You see it on YouTube when you search for customer reviews for a new camera. You see it on Instagram every time you wish to try a new recipe or buy food.

That’s why brands like GoPro and Bluehouse Salmon have created such extensive UGC campaigns. Bluehouse Salmon, one of inBeat’s clients, has a mouth-watering IG feed thanks to UGC.

A screenshot of Bluehouse Salmon's Instagram feed, with nine colorful pictures showcasing salmon recipes.
A beautiful Instagram feed, powered by user-generated visual content.

Side-note: We take a lot of pride in working with Bluehouse Salmon’s because they power their content calendar almost solely with UGC.

Imagine the money you can save if you manage to do that.

But back to email campaigns.

Few content marketers think to include UGC in their emails, and that’s a mistake. Think how many people open an email from you.

If you’re like most other brands, the open rate is 17-18% across email subscribers and days of the week.

That’s not good.

However, UGC stats show that using user-generated content in your emails will:

  • Increase open rates by up to 70%
  • Satisfy 75% of your current customer base’s need for personalized emails
  • Improve customer journey by giving your email subscribers what they want: customization, discounts, and specific offers targeted at them.

Kickstagram is an excellent example of a company using UGC in its email marketing.

We discussed this campaign at length in our UGC marketing guide if you want to take a peek.

In Conclusion: How Brands Can Use UGC in Their Digital Marketing Strategy Post-COVID

The observations above are closely tied to the whole COVID experience that’s been going on for two years. In 2020, people found themselves locked inside their homes with precious little human contact.

That’s when they massively turned to social media.

  • Annual Facebook user growth rate in 2020: 8.7%
  • Annual TikTok user growth rate in 2020: 85.3%
  • Share of adults who socialize virtually in the US: 42%
  • Growth in Hangouts Meet: 30%
  • Share of Gen-Z and millennials watching more videos on social media: 61%

Brands had to learn how to leverage this need for connection and increased social media consumption. And just like most companies, you will have to focus on creating those digital experiences for your potential customers.

UGC, on Instagram or TikTok, is the right strategy to adopt–whether you create challenges/contests for your audience or use influencers because:

  • Your brand is perceived as trustworthy.
  • You can convey your values and connect to the audience.
  • You engage more people and, in doing all that, create a loyal brand community.

Remember: Even if you’re using influencers to power up your UGC campaign, those content creators will have to stay true to their values and connect to their audience at a deep level. People–and especially Gen Z–can easily sniff out fakes.

Besides, there have been too many spoofs to count because Instagram influencers post the company’s instructions next to endorsement messages.

That’s why you need to choose a reliable partner.

inBeat can help with many tools, such as a free influencer database. We have a user-generated content platform specifically created to find, curate, and post UGC. And lastly, we can talk strategy with you, no strings attached, to find the best plan for your needs.

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