Every business should know looking out for trends and following the market is a worthy pursuit. The trend for most audiences on social media? TikTok. As the leading platform for short-form video content, TikTok is extremely popular among younger generations. If brands want to expand to a potentially untapped market, they need to pay attention to the benefits of user-generated content (UGC) on this fast-growing platform.
User-generated content is nothing new in social media marketing. Brands know how to use UGC to show the public how a product is used and to build consumer trust. Consumers making content about products or services become social proof for other potential consumers. Content-driven advertising has been around for as long as influencers, but the rise of TikTok has given a new definition and extended the parameters of what UCG can truly do for brands.
Eight Reasons You Should Invest in TikTok UGC
Here are eight insightful reasons your brand should consider TikTok UCG to up your marketing game in 2023.
1. Changes in social media advertising
As social media thrives on trends, the landscape of social media advertising is always subject to change. While celebrity influencers have captured the formula for endorsing products by displaying glimpses into a lifestyle that followers can aspire to, the rise of niche and micro-influencers have the relatability factor and therefore allow a more accessible way of attaining that lifestyle. They’re also more likely to have bought the products on their own and give honest opinions about them Marketing studies today show consumers prefer hearing about products from other consumers rather than engaging directly with a brand’s advertisements.
Worldwide events are also instrumental in shifting public attitudes toward consumption behaviors. The notoriously fickle Gen Z’s consumption habits can be credited to an issue of trust with internet content exacerbated by the influx of fake news during the height of the global pandemic. Everyone is now more wary of believing information from mass media, which affects how consumers see marketers and advertisers. This is where UGC is extremely important — marketers agree that content created by fellow consumers will gain more trust than brand-created content.
During the COVID lockdown, the younger demographic gravitated toward content that was more intimate, authentic and in their words, “chaotic.” TikTok was the best platform suited to the collective attention span of Gen Z: a vast variety of content, short formats and quick resharing options. Thus, the best way to advertise to the demographic that used TikTok was by imitating the types of content they responded positively to. This strategy works for a variety of businesses — even educational and cultural institutions created their own accounts and began making short and light-hearted content.
When it comes to differences between social media platforms, studies show that UGC on TikTok performed 22% better than on other platforms. Even branded videos on TikTok outperform Facebook ads. According to the study by Real Eyes, TikTok users have a stronger emotional response to UGC on the platform because of its algorithm. The platform tailors specific content according to a user’s history and preferences, so they’re more likely to watch UGC that appeals to their interests.
2. It allows you to get to know your consumers better
UGC is done from a consumer’s perspective and performs best when the brand doesn’t script the content too much. People can smell branded content coming from a mile away, but will generally react positively to sponsored promotions so long as they’re done subtly and remain true to the creator’s established content style. With UGC, it’s less about how the brand wants the product to be seen and more of a reflection of how the user views the product.
This should be seen as information gold from a marketer’s perspective. TikTok has become an irreplaceable resource for brand awareness efforts because it’s where you can reach the target market most effectively. Essentially, it’s both a marketing tactic and market research at the same time. While brands can generate buzz around their products through UGC, it’s also an opportunity to understand consumers’ wants and needs. Businesses should pay attention to similar themes and trends within user-made videos. What are their occupations? What kind of media do they consume? What kind of content do they interact with? What types of creators do they follow? What ages are they in? It’s an opportunity for brands to check if their consumers match their projected target market.
Other than getting to know their market, UGC also provides direct insight to how their users interact with the product. What problems do they usually encounter? Is there a specific population with certain characteristics that the product works best for? Do they follow the product’s instructions? Do they find the product information easily? Businesses can look at UGC not only as a way to promote the product, but as a survey where the creators are informal participants.
3. UGC can come from your side of the divide
UGC does not always have to come from customers. There are other ways to humanize your brand by looking at your own internal resources. The quickest and most effective way to do this is with your employees. People don’t want to keep hearing about the product from the company itself, but if employees have something to say, people are likely to pay attention. Employees are the heart of a business; if a business doesn’t want to sound too corporate or opportunistic in its promotions, making use of the employee talent pool is their best bet.
Employee-generated content falls under UGC because they can make videos similar to the format of UGC — think unboxing, try-ons and reviews. Small businesses often make therapeutic and visually pleasing “pack an order with me” videos that big corporations try to imitate with an industrial warehouse twist. With these types of content, employees share behind-the-scenes glimpses, positive experiences and heartwarming workplace dynamics. Audiences are more likely to engage with these kinds of videos because workers are human representatives of a brand’s advocacy and integrity.
Brands are now looking to their employees to engage Gen Z on TikTok. Even the most mundane businesses can garner lots of engagement and get a large following simply by combining glimpses of the tedious work with meme formats. Ricky Federici, a Wendy’s employee, set the stage for “employee influencer” status when he started posting clips of himself at work. His step-by-step tutorial of how to use the Baconator has earned more than three million views on TikTok.
4. TikTok’s unique features allow for more creative opportunities and social commerce
TikTok’s features make video editing easier for a lot of people. Constant updates have made it a social media platform and a video editing application in one, saving users a lot of time from having to edit on one app and export it to another. Users can also directly stitch or duet other related videos, gaining more attention for both. Brands often capitalize on the duet and stitch features by creating video prompts to encourage more UGC. Usually, these kinds of videos perform extremely well because they’re presented in a humorous meme format. People respond positively to this type of content because products are presented in familiar environments and relatable formats.
TikTok’s algorithms also work differently from other social media platforms. Unlike Instagram, TikTok is more content-based, meaning your account doesn’t need a lot of followers for your content to reach a lot of people. One simple video uploaded at the right time can go viral in a matter of hours.
TikTok has also recently added a social commerce section within the platform, allowing users to shop directly on the app instead of going off-application to complete a purchase. This creates a seamless shopping experience — users will see an interesting product via UGC on their feed, look it up on the TikTok shop and complete the transaction, all within the app.
5. There are unlimited formats available
The best thing about UGC is that the user, unless they’re affiliated with the brand, is under no responsibility to comply with any script or format. In a similar vein as the last point, TikTok users can indirectly promote branded content or contribute to a brand’s UGC by using several video formats, including ones that are intended to just be funny. Either way, a popular video will pique people’s interest about the things seen in the video.
TikTok content has several ways to attract attention. Artists use process videos, lifestyle influencers use “a day in the life” videos and stylists use before-and-after formats. Content gets passed around and recycled, and a lot of people also get engagement from posting reaction videos. Well-known accounts in niche communities post educational “three reasons why” videos that can sometimes be categorized as subtle promotion of a specific product. Depending on what product or service a brand is trying to promote, they can find the right community with a familiar format. Makeup, skincare and hair care products benefit the most from before-and-after formats, and arts and crafts products do well with how-to videos.
Additionally, reviews are the most direct UGC. Everyone wants a good review video, especially if it tackles several products at once. A mention alone from one viral review video and positive engagement in the comments can increase website and account traffic. This format works best with influencers who have considerable expertise in a specific niche or field, but can also work with regular accounts.
A product does not have to be tied to one format; its versatility can be tested depending on how it thrives across several formats. Think of it this way: one specific format can address a problem a particular consumer might be looking for. How-to videos can be used as a formal response to questions buyers have about the product. Vlog-type videos are best used in showing how a product can be used in a day-to-day routine and can contribute to how a certain lifestyle looks via its visual elements. “Do/buy these instead” types of videos come from a particular place of empathy and expertise on the part of the creator where they call out certain things as overrated and suggest alternatives that are just as good for half the price. This could do very well for products considered to be dupes for a similar and more extravagant product.
This is how a brand gains social proof. Consumers will always be interested in seeing other consumers interacting with a product in a nonproduced setting. Authentic experience trumps any kind of advertisement.
6. Market research for brand expression
Remember when we said UGC can be used for market research purposes? Once the UGC starts coming in, brands are in a position to study how their users present the product in contrast to how they do it in their advertisements. The best way to do this is to look at engagement with the UGC and observe how the creator’s audience reacts to it. Your business gets free promotion, and on top of it, you get to learn new ways to advertise to your current market.
A worthy example for this is the National Basketball Association’s TikTok account. While they already have a massive presence on other social media platforms, the NBA gives more substance to its TikTok by going beyond cross posting the usual content from their other accounts. Because they know what appeals to people on TikTok, they use the account for comedy and post meme edits of several basketball clips. The Washington Post also has a TikTok account that humanizes the newspaper by making funny and engaging behind-the-scenes content run by a “dorky dad” type of character who strongly appeals to the younger demographic.
User-generated TikTok content provides several opportunities for brands to rethink their expression. They get direct feedback on which parts of their identity have a positive or negative impact. TikTok user-generated videos also offer a lot of insight into newer and more authentic ways of storytelling and techniques. Who knows? Maybe you can start doing branded content with a similar vibe to UGC and see how it performs with your market.
7. UGC builds your brand’s community
While UGC marketing looks similar to influencer and affiliate marketing, they’re not quite the same. One edge UGC has is that it’s all organic, spontaneous and free. Most, if not all, UGC is out of the user’s own initiative and intent, whether the purpose is for entertainment or education. All of it is usable by businesses and customers — businesses now have direct feedback about their product’s performance, and customers have an unsponsored review they can refer to. Needless to say, having market strategies centered around crowd participation and UGC is more cost-effective than affiliate marketing. There is also no need to hire a creative agency to get all technical. It’s all about the brand and how it connects with its audience. It’s perfect for businesses just starting out.
But how do marketers look for brand-specific content? Certainly there can’t be any if your brand doesn’t already have a presence beforehand. It all comes down to the brand’s social media marketing campaigns that generate engagement. Giveaways, for example, incentivize customers to participate, contribute content and spread the word to their own private audiences.TikTok challenges can range from testing a product’s range of uses, durability and capacity to adapt or be used in unfamiliar environments or situations. It can also be a way to make consumers associate the product with fun and positive energy. Take Chipotle, for example. An employee started the #ChipotleLidFlip Challenge, which produced hundreds of thousands of videos replicating the stunt and participating in the challenge.
Brands don’t have to look far to see if they have any UGC. Makeup brands can look toward beauty gurus, craft products can refer to cosplayers, special effects artists and DIY content creators and home and kitchenware have lots of food-focused content creators to take notes from. They don’t have to immediately turn into influencer-brand partnerships (in fact, some situations have proven that this can have a negative impact on the creator’s audience in fear of overly-sponsored content), but it’s an opportunity for brands to create meaningful relationships with these creators and show their appreciation.
Once a business has solid social media strategies to grow their audience, it creates a community. Having a community makes it possible for customers to establish brand loyalty because they are given opportunities to participate in a brand’s growth instead of simply being a consumer and a spectator. Interaction is what makes a community thrive, and the best thing a business can do is interact with their UGC. Brands should repost, reply and comment on brand-positive videos to show their audience they pay attention to what users have to say. It also gives a more humorous and good-natured appeal to your brand identity; you know how to take a joke and you can jest around with your customers.
8. UGC has great repost value
Sometimes a brand needs to take a step back and give their campaigns time to grow and expand. Posting prompt after prompt or challenge after challenge can turn some of your customers off. You do, however, need to retain a posting streak to keep up with account engagement.
When you can’t post new content and need something to fill up the page, it’s the best time to leverage UGC by reposting or resharing. Some businesses do a bit more by dueting these videos to show their reaction or to provide more information about what’s being addressed in the video. Scour the sea of reviews and tutorials, pick out the best ones in terms of quality and reach and share them with your audience. This shows the scope of your brand-positive UGC, gives your loyal consumers proper recognition and encourages potential consumers to try your products out.
Fabletics, a company selling activewear, regularly reposts UGC from their audience. These range from vlog content by fitness influencers to motivational posts from fitness instructors. They also post reviews from actual customers, which perform well in establishing consumer trust.
Aside from sharing your UGC, why not go the extra step and incorporate them into your advertisements? UGC is more powerful than brand videos because it’s less aggressive but can still be thought of as a form of advertising. It gives a more authentic spin to branded promotion because most of the content comes from actual users. UGC is a gold-mine for making newer and fresher advertisements for your product.
Nontraditional ads are currently the best ads, the subtlest promotions are currently the best performing promotions and non-sponsored videos are the ones that sell products the best. Brands have to understand and adapt to the new logic of the current advertising landscape: less is more.
Less, however, does not mean fewer actions on your part. It just means letting go of outdated advertising techniques that people no longer respond positively to. What’s needed more for consumers these days is a sense of community where they can have consumer-to-consumer conversations. In turn, brands can create, cultivate and enrich these communities by involving their market in the creation of their brand identity. With a platform like TikTok that has the power to boost this kind of content as an effective marketing technique, businesses can enter a new era of boosted sales, market impact and auspicious brand identity.
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Elevate your brand’s credibility and strengthen customer loyalty by utilizing user-generated content. Contact Three Girls Media to learn how to seamlessly integrate user-generated content into your marketing strategy and create a winning plan that resonates with your target audience.