It’s Time to Change How We Think About UGC

May 5, 2022 • Written by Catherine Kulke

It’s Time to Change How We Think About UGC

Most digital marketers today are familiar with the concept of user-generated content, or UGC. In case you need a refresher, UGC refers to any piece of original, digital content created by an individual—whether that’s a selfie shared to Instagram, a TikTok dance video, or even a product review on Amazon. Over the past few years, brands have doubled down on inspiring and engaging with UGC across social platforms in order to drive awareness, boost credibility, and foster a sense of community among their fans. In fact, 42% of marketers say that UGC is vital to their strategy.

There’s no denying that UGC is a compelling marketing tool, and massively so. An overwhelming 79% of consumers say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions, and 90% feel it influences their choices more than promotional emails and search engine results. But UGC’s efficacy isn’t new news. Now that amplifying the voices of everyday fans is part of any digitally savvy brand’s playbook, forward-thinking marketers may be wondering: what comes next? 

Today’s consumers don’t just expect companies to meet their needs—they want to relate to, and identify with, their favorite brands. Co-creation facilitates this process of identification: by participating in UGC campaigns, users become a part of brands’ stories. However, social AR effects invite consumers to co-create with brands more immediately, and at a greater scale, than other established UGC strategies. In this post, we’ll explore the key ingredients that make UGC so impactful for marketers, and why AR experiences are the next frontier for UGC-focused brands. 

UGC Data Graphic

UGC Is Word-Of-Mouth Marketing for the Digital Age

At a time when 96% of consumers distrust traditional advertising, authenticity is more than a buzzword for marketers—it’s a guiding beacon for brand strategists. In order to win over consumers, it’s absolutely critical that brands present themselves as credible and relatable in their messaging. Earning consumers’ trust is only becoming more important: 90% of buyers today consider authenticity a key factor in determining which brands to support, up from 86% in 2017. 

In light of consumers’ widespread skepticism towards ads, it’s no surprise word-of-mouth endorsements remain valuable to brands. According to McKinsey, word-of-mouth marketing generates over twice the sales of traditional advertising. Additionally, a Camera IQ survey found that 60% of consumers find brands through recommendations from friends and family.

TikTok UGC

But in 2022, word-of-mouth marketing looks different than it did a decade ago. Social media platforms are now our primary hubs for connection and conversation—and UGC is how we share our favorite brands and products with our communities. Whether it’s your stylish aunt flaunting her new handbag on Instagram or your best friend joking about his go-to food delivery app on TikTok, UGC can be just as compelling as an IRL recommendation. Consumers are 2.4x times more likely to say UGC is authentic compared to brand-created posts, and over half (60%) of consumers think it’s the most authentic marketing content. 

UGC Data Graphic

User-Generated AR Experiences Are the Next Evolution of UGC 

UGC is the bedrock of any successful marketing strategy in 2022. But as more companies move to satisfy consumers’ longing for connection on social media, standard UGC campaigns—like contests and hashtag challenges—no longer set brands apart. 

Social AR experiences offer brands an opportunity to take their UGC efforts a step further, providing immediate opportunities for co-creation and collaborative play. The immersive nature of social AR experiences puts users at the center of a brand’s narrative, removing any barriers to identifying with a product. Additionally, social AR is more democratic, and scalable, than other forms of UGC marketing. AR effects are easy to use, and individuals don’t need to make a purchase in order to participate in the unfolding of a brand’s story.

UGC Randomizer gif

Anyone who questions AR’s genuine appeal need only look at consumers’ eagerness to interact with experiences from brands. When surveyed by Camera IQ, 82% of consumers who were familiar with AR said they felt positively towards brands who use the technology, and 39% said they prefer AR effects to all other types of branded content. Even more telling, AR effects created with Camera IQ see an average play rate of 60%, while traditional video ads see an average engagement rate of 15-30% (International Advertising Bureau). 

And audiences are just as excited to share AR effects as they are to try them. Our research found that 78% of consumers would share an AR experience with their social networks, and 53% have already done so. From a UGC marketing perspective, AR is a gift that keeps on giving. 

UGC Data Graphic

It’s a tough pill to swallow as a marketer, but consumers trust their friends far more than they trust brands. UGC isn’t the future of marketing—it’s the present reality, and the foundation of any strategy that inspires meaningful connections with consumers. With UGC now a fixture of brands’ messaging, AR effects empower brands to stand out by forging even deeper, co-creative relationships with their audiences on an unparalleled scale.

And beyond AR, it’s time for brands to start thinking broadly about the types of experiences they can co-create with users, from immersive IRL pop-ups to virtual events in video games. As UGC campaigns become routine, forward-thinking brands need to embrace the age of UGE: user-generated experiences. 

For more data and insights on how AR is impacting consumer preferences, download our complete report, The Gateway to the Metaverse: AR Marketing and Consumer Behavior in 2022.

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