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User generated content in the changing marketing landscape

, August 11, 2023, 0 Comments

user-generated-content-ugc-the-social-media-marketexpress-inThe marketing landscape has evolved over a while and traditional one-way marketing has transformed into interactive marketing. Brand-generated content marketing (BGC) is complemented by user-generated content marketing. In the last three decades, due to rapid technological advancement, Web 2.0 and Social media proliferation, active customer connection and engagement fuelled bi-directional marketing and the value co-creation by both marketer and user. Video, likes, content, blogs, vlogs, images, testimonials, and podcasts are created and shared on social media by users or consumers at no cost and are generally referred to as User Generated Content (UGC). Researchers say UGC has a much higher influential power than Brand created content, as 85% of the time consumers have more trust in UGC(User-generated content).

What is User Generated Content (UGC)?
People often like to talk about the products/ brands they like or dislike. Word-of-mouth marketing is a very popular and effective marketing strategy working for decades. Word-of-mouth marketing is one form of User-generated content marketing. Then why has there been so much discussion on UGC marketing very recently, and what is so new about it? Is it the same old wine in a new bottle? The shifting focus toward UGC marketing among marketing researchers and practitioners is primarily for two reasons- the proliferation of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest and the rapid advancement of technology in AR, VR, AI and IOT areas. User-generated contents are also available at e-commerce sites, where a happy consumer shares his/her picture wearing new apparel or displaying a fancy item recently bought or sharing her favourite song with comments with his/her peer on social media. UGC is not controlled by the brand directly and the user-initiated recommendations, like, shares or content in social media not controlled by the brand is termed earned media (Colicev et al., 2018).

User/consumer shares static images or photo narrative elements in social media that act as a catalyst to strengthen consumer-brand relationships through branded storytelling (LaMotte, 2014). Live streaming to mobile, interactive short videos, voice-activated content, and simulation through AR and VR, enhance the shopping experience and encourage sharing of tailored content in social media and virtually connect with known and unknown circles. Generating a playlist of music or videos or recommending a salon service or branded watch to a friend or a bigger community in virtual media can be done seamlessly using all applying big data and a social recommender system. Fan followers and brand evangelists often engage with a brand in brand co-creation, message and content design and development and market expansion. This has become much easier with the proliferation of Web 2.0 and SNS(Social networking sites). Not only early innovators but active social media users who have a higher presence in social media often act as Opinion leaders and influence a larger audience to adopt a product or brand.

Broader Framework of UGC
UGC collaborates with both the consumers and the marketers, promotes mutual communication and foster relationship marketing in four ways-

  1. Personal Branding- Social media provides the opportunity for a customer to identify and differentiate from others and create his image and personal brand. Through his social media profile, views, messages, and recommendations of the brands used by him, he can reach his peers, friends and larger audience and acts as a brand ambassador. Companies are benefited from the direct promotion by the users as UGC has a higher level of trust than brand-generated messages. Many times users act as influencer and opinion leader and their brand persona influences other users and users get involved in social selling.
  2. Networking- The user-generated content delivered through social media influences people, involves other customers, and extends customer contact to other customers as well as to everyone interested in the company/brand. Attractive user-generated content enables the customer to build a strong network and firms can use that network to reach the right prospects and expand the network further.
  3. Social Listening- Companies can capture what customers say about their products or brands by following the user-generated content available on social media and learning what is important to the customer. UGC elevates social listening and eventually enables a company to deliver content and meet customer expectations.
  4. Information exchange- Users can share relevant information and two-way communication elevates companies to resolve customer inquiries. On the other hand, customers are not solely dependent on salespeople and get critical information from numerous sources to make a better buying decision. Ultimately customers feel more empowered and generate more satisfaction.

Due to the exponential and rapid growth of social media a significant percentage of the marketing budget is allocated by marketers towards social media marketing. Users’ need for social identity influences their engagement with social media and their online behaviour. The effort from users to share their reviews and feedback depends on their engagement with the brand. Though brands or marketers encourage users to provide positive feedback, and comments by offering tangible benefits like coupons, discounts or gamification, mostly they don’t produce the expected result. Multiple factors like the user’s intrinsic motivation, the innovativeness of the content created by the brand, the customer’s loyalty to a brand, social aspect of social media influence users to engage customers with the brand and express personal opinions based on their usage and experience about the product/service.

User generated Content (UGC) are more influential as the recipients believe that there is no personal interest of the user to that particular brand. Managers should focus on how to build user identification with the brand as well as with the social platform to generate a high level of content from them and get the brand endorsed by the users.