Best for Business: The Rise of User-Generated Content

From the days of flyers and telephone calls to the evolving world of social media content and tailored online advertising, brands and businesses are constantly thinking of new ways to gain exposure and sell their products to customers. 

Thanks to the power of social media, almost every company includes platforms like Facebook and YouTube. From TikTok to Instagram, it’s all part of a strategy to reach new audiences and increase sales. 

You’ll already know that “influencer marketing” has been the way forward for many marketing professionals. Tapping into the success of everyday people who’ve taken the internet by storm has been seen as the logical way to go about it. 

But, with high follower counts comes the high price you’ll have to pay to get social media users—who are bombarded by brand deals—to pay attention. Even if you opt for an influencer with fewer followers, you can never guarantee a return on investment.

Today, we look at how new tactics are being used to corner the social media market, including User-Generated Content and the phenomenon of “unboxing”. 

The personal touch over fake presence

The traditional use of influencer marketing, where you pay a social celebrity to post your product on their platform, is a dying art. The facts and figures certainly back this up, especially around the use of fake followers. 

According to a report in 2019, fake followers cost advertisers $1.9 billion, with companies “ripped off” for the price they paid for sponsored posts. It’s no small cost for a market said to be worth $8.5 million in the same year—based on advertising spend. 

But it’s not just fake followers that point to influencer marketing being less effective than it once was. In the same year, American internet sensation Ariana Renee had to cancel her own clothing range after failing to sell the minimum 36 T-shirts required to start her first shipment, despite having a following of 2.6 million on Instagram.  

Examples like this has got brands thinking. How can they promote their products in a way that people on social media will share it, without having to be paid a small fortune for the pleasure? 

The answer in a nutshell—User-Generated Content (UGC). In simple terms, UGC is any content, whether it be videos, text, or audio, that’s shared by social media users. For brands, it’s a means to get creative and add personal touches to their products and packaging. This will have people reaching for their phones to post about it without hesitation. 

Personalisation has boomed in recent times, with everything from personalised wrapping paper to personalised candle holders available online. It’s a trend that even celebrities are on board with. David Beckham’s 45th birthday celebrations saw Victoria give him his presents wrapped in paper printed with his own face! 

It’s more than plausible to say that people want more unique, personal items these days, with the world of social media playing a key role in the desire for personalisation. If you think about it for a second, what is more likely to be shared on social media, a shopping bag with a brand name on it, or one that’s been designed to feel like it’s special to a specific individual and nobody else? 

To quantify this from a financial point of view, it’s estimated that the global market for personalised gifts will rise to $38 billion by 2021. This provides a closer look at what direction things are heading in. 

Unboxing–the never-ending phenomenon 

With a continuous conveyor belt of products to choose from, there comes the opportunity for trends to emerge on social media. One of the most popular ones right now is known as unboxing. 

Recognised in the Oxford Dictionary, ‘unboxing’ is defined as: 

‘An act or instance of removing a newly purchased product from its packaging and examining its features, typically when filmed and shared on a social media site.’

Search for ‘unboxing’ on YouTube and you instantly get a sense of how popular it’s become. A channel known as ‘Unbox Therapy’ has amassed 17.1 million subscribers since its creation in 2010, with over 3.7 billion views in that time, with viewers tuning in for the excitement of unboxing the latest products. 

Not only do unboxing videos fuel anticipation of what’s inside, but it always gives key information on the product itself. This is a big deal for consumers, and a recipe for success when brands think of new ways to present their latest craze. 

Unboxing is not some sort of look into the future, it’s an established way to present and digest content right now. As of 2019, YouTube channel Ryan’s Toy Reviews, where youngster Ryan unboxes the latest toys and reviews them with his parents, was worth a whopping $26 million

Personal reviews, not just views

It’s clear to see that the days of brands relying on social media megastars to post about how much they love the product they’ve just been paid handsomely to share are over. It just doesn’t yield the same results that it used to. 

Now people want to see more personalised branding and opinions from the people in the position to blog, vlog and talk about. Not only that, but the everyday person also wants to share what they buy on social media. Making simple changes to packaging, adding unique touches, and even handwriting a note to fit inside the box are all ways for companies to up their UGC game. 


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