With more Gen Z’ers entering creative marketing, how brands target their audience is beginning to change. Companies are looking to target younger adults by meeting them where they are. It is estimated that 7 in 10 Americans use social media platforms for entertainment, connection and information. For many brands, the usual ads and commercials are accompanied by content on social media, specifically user-generated content (UGC).
User-generated content is any form of brand-related content created directly by the consumer. Content created is generally in social media posts, including short-form videos, photos, or reviews. UGC is intended to reach audience members through relatability, which makes the review or showcase of the product or service more authentic and trustworthy.
This newer form of marketing strategy has recently become more popular. Social media sites and brands have incorporated it into their plan to reach a broader audience. As younger generations flock to social media for entertainment and education, brands discover marketing tactics and use them to their advantage.
Media multi-hyphenate Tiffany Knighten shares that brands are moving toward UGC creation because it is more straightforward. Hiring content creators is much more cost-efficient, whereas an all-inclusive brand campaign can cost upward of $60,000 or more for larger businesses.
Similarly, the old content created by brands can become tiresome to consumers. Working with content creators allows brands to diversify the content shown on their web pages and social media platforms. “We really see a better impact when brands are doing more off the cuff content,” Knighten tells GU. “Content that looks like something their friends would post, things that feel familiar.
According to a Nielsen study, 92 percent of consumers say they trust earned content like recommendations from a friend or honest reviews through word-of-mouth more than other forms of advertising. With this newer form of marketing arising, it is an excellent chance to gain education on maneuvering this industry.
One of the misconceptions about creating UGC is that you have to have a large following to begin. However, unlike influencer marketing and programs like Amazon affiliates or Target Creator, UGC is used directly by the brand itself. As a creator, you don’t have to post the content on your own social media platforms. Instead, the content is sold to the brand for usage. This means the amount of money earned by the creator is not directly associated with the amount of people who buy the product. This takes the sales pressure off the creator, allowing for more creative content.
According to UGC creator and owner of Jadah Glam, Jadah Alexa, those interested in creating UGC can begin without much. To build her portfolio, Alexa recalled creating videos of products she already had in her environment and editing them on apps like Capcut or iMovie. Content can be made on an iPhone or professional camera, but the quality truly matters.
If you’re unsure what content to create, look around you. Searching through social media to see current trends and what people are resonating with can spark inspiration. Reaching out to brands with the content curated into a portfolio is an important step in gaining visibility from businesses. When pitching, Knighten explained that brands most often work with creators who align with their audience. This should be kept in mind when deciding on the company to contact.
Pitching doesn’t have to be complicated. According to Alexa, a successful pitch can include a formal greeting, a small expression of why the brand aligns with your values, and samples of your work. Even if you don’t initially get picked to work with them, it may open the door for a working relationship as a content creator that can lead to future gigs.
Like any career, time and effort must be put in to see the desired result. If you’re interested in becoming a UGC creator, running your brand as a business is important — even if it is just a side hustle. Since this industry is newer, many brands are still forming marketing plans that cater to UGC. This can leave many creators open to being scammed or taken advantage of.
Attorney and founder of The Legal Tea, Kameron Buckner, warns new creators to beware of scams from people posing as brands. Buckner recommends making an initial pitch on social media but following up with an email to discuss important information like contracts, payment schedule and the project’s scope. Also, when receiving emails, research the domain name to ensure it is accurate and aligns with the brand you’re working with.
Buckner also suggests creators review their contracts and ask questions. You can ask the brand for clarification or a licensed attorney if something is unfamiliar to you. This can minimize the risk of being stuck in a difficult contract, making moving on from the brand difficult. Though user-generated content creation is an ever-growing industry, there is still so much potential to make additional money here.