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Lessons from UGC in 2020 – and How it Can Help You in 2021



As consumers battled to get used to the “new normal” in 2020, brands were also faced with finding new ways to stay connected with their audience.

Not only that, but the last twelve months have completely destroyed the concept behind big advertising campaigns. Social distancing meant camera crews weren’t able to gather, while many brands faced content production limitations. 

But there was one type of content that was particularly pandemic-friendly: user-generated content (UGC). 

In 2020, we saw a dramatic surge in customer-created photos and videos, across all different industries. Brands were able to collect and share content under tight budgets, with short deadlines, and without going all out on production. 

More importantly, they were able to share content that tapped into a growing need for human connection – which will remain a key element to consider in your 2021 approach.

Why UGC Connected Consumers Around the World in 2020

‘Connection’ was the buzzword of 2020. 

People were forced to stay home under strict lockdowns, as part of the COVID-19 mitigation effort. We were separated from family and friends, and the whole ordeal left a lot of people searching for connection anywhere they could find it. 

The pandemic has brought a sense of “we’re all in this together” with it and brands, are able to use this to maximize their own connection. 

Take Michigan Medicine, for example. They encouraged people to share drawings, photos, and words that recognized the sacrifices that medical workers have made. 

Understandably, people didn’t want to feel alone, and the internet brought comfort in the form of UGC. It brought people together, and created communities around brands, while also giving people hope and uplifting stories to focus on. 

The Power of UGC – Why It Was the Most Needed Form of Content in 2020

UGC wasn’t just the easiest type of content to create in 2020 – it was needed. 

Here’s why: It facilitated a surge in ‘globally-focused’ content

Brands that attracted a local audience pre-pandemic found their doors blown wide open to a global customer base. As stay-at-home orders forced people to, well, stay at home, large numbers turned to online shopping. This enabled brands to focus on optimizing their online stores, and serving customers that weren’t just in the local vicinity of their brick-and-mortar store. 

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UGC helped bring all of this together, enabling brands to connect with customers wherever they were in the world. 

Essentially, UGC fostered human connection – and that connection is more important than ever during a global crisis.

As humans, we want to feel a part of something, and a pandemic is a scary time for everyone. UGC helps bring like-minded people together, inject a sense of community, and create more “human” campaigns instead of polished, branded offerings. 

Mastercard’s “Apart, but united” campaign is a great example of a brand doing this well – they pieced together real footage from customers into a short, docu-style video that was emotional and connective. 

Consumers were actively seeking inspiring, uplifting, and relatable content during the pandemic. In fact, one study showed that 70% of people wanted brands to share positive content.

They especially sought content that acknowledged the turbulent situation we were all in, but that did so in a sensitive way.

UGC bridges the gap between brands and buyers and increases the sense of belonging.

Oreo’s #stayhomestayplayful cross-platform campaign shows this in action. It reminded their audience that happiness can still be found, even in the hardest of times. 

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that anything can happen at any time. No one expected last year to turn out the way it did, and it shows that being able to successfully pivot is a must-have for brands. 

The fast-paced nature of UGC, and the rawness of content from real people, means that brands are able to be far more flexible. This was vital when the state of the world was changing so fast – the last thing brands wanted was to spend two months working on a campaign, only to find it completely out-of-date after a couple of weeks. 

UGC enables brands to gather and share content quickly, and create in-the-moment campaigns based on current needs and trends. 

Jack Daniel’s did this through their “With Love, Jack” campaign. Using real footage from their audience, they edited together a short video showing people at home.

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It increased trust at a particularly untrustworthy time 

People were hurt, confused, and skeptical in 2020. Many people had their livelihoods destroyed, millions lost their jobs, and even more had sick family members. There was a lot of bad news all round. 

As such, trust was absolutely crucial for brands wanting to attract and maintain their customer base during the pandemic, and UGC is key to building trust. In fact, 70% of consumers trust UGC more than branded content, while 75% think UGC makes content more authentic. 

What This Means for the Future

I think we can be pretty confident that many of the trends in 2020 will carry over to 2021, including the surge of UGC. Instead of waiting for the “new normal”, we should accept that we’re already experiencing it, and in this new normal, trust, community, and connection are absolutely crucial. 

Brands are now serving a much wider audience, and that audience is often sprinkled all over the world. To maintain these new customer bases, businesses will need to continue building trust, and cementing customer relationships. UGC is the perfect way to do this through social proof and community building. 

What UGC Will Look Like in 2021

The State of UGC Report states that UGC will still be huge in 2021. The effects of the pandemic continue to ripple throughout the world. That won’t change anytime soon.

However, we can expect brands’ use of UGC to develop and evolve as they settle into this new groove of customer-focused marketing. 

In 2021, brands will:

Use UGC to provide deeper social proof

Instead of sharing UGC as and when it becomes available, it will become an integral part of every marketing campaign. Positive customer reviews will be critical for brand success, and social proof will expand to include real-life customer stories told through different content formats. 

Encourage employee content creation

Employees have been stuck at home too. In 2021, more brands will loop their staff members into content creation to bring together dispersed teams.

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Personalize UGC campaigns

Most consumers today expect personalized campaigns. In fact, they’re happy to hand over their data in exchange for personalized product recommendations and individual journeys based on their needs. 

Tap into nostalgia

According to one study, nostalgic feelings make customers more willing to spend their money. As people strive for “things to go back to normal”, we’ll see more brands tapping into the past. 

Weave UGC into other marketing campaigns

UGC has proven to be an integral part of marketing in 2020. Next year, we’ll see it popping up in other types of campaigns, too.

Take White Plains’ ‘Virtual Oktoberfest’ event, for example. The main campaign is a virtual event, but the organizers turned to UGC to generate increased buzz around it. 

Share more live-streams

Live-streams were incredibly popular during 2020 – which is not surprising really, given consumers were stuck at home and craving connection. 

2021 is likely to propel video-based UGC campaigns into the limelight. Sephora started to increase their IGTV output during quarantine, and it looks like they’ll be doubling down on that over the next few months. 

Integrate UGC into Your 2021 Marketing Plans

At this point, you’ve probably mapped out your marketing plans for the next few months, maybe even the next year if you’re particularly organized. But have you included enough UGC in the mix? 

We can’t predict what will happen in 2021 (and we wouldn’t want to, if 2020 is anything to go by), but we can learn from things that worked in the past. And UGC was definitely one thing that worked well in 2020. 

In fact, it was the perfect marketing tactic during the pandemic. It brought people together, instilled a sense of “we’re all in this”, and helped brands cement trust with an increasingly skeptical consumer base.

So, if you haven’t already, it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll inject a hearty dose of UGC into your marketing campaigns.

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Snapchat Publishes New Report into the Importance of Privacy Tools in Facilitating Online Sharing



Snapchat Publishes New Report into the Importance of Privacy Tools in Facilitating Online Sharing

Snapchat has published a new report which provides some deeper insight into the importance of online privacy, and the key concerns that users have in regards to the content that they share online.

The report, based on a survey of over 13,500 people in 11 markets, uncovers some valuable considerations for both platforms and marketers, and reinforces the logic behind some of the latest social app developments, in regards to increased user control, encryption, and more. It also sheds light on how such controls – or the lack of them – can influence people’s behavior online.

It’s an interesting overview – you can download Snap’s full, 28-page report here, but in this post, we’ll take a look at some of the key points.

First off, Snap notes that both Snapchatters and non-Snap users are concerned about online privacy, with 81% of respondents noting that online privacy is important. At the same time, only 65% indicated that they’re satisfied with their current privacy options.

That’s a key gap in the current digital connection process which underlines the need for increased control measures on this front, and more options, like private messaging and audience controls, to help reassure users.

Which is the next key point – the report highlights the three key benefits of digital privacy, based on responses.

Snapchat privacy report

Each aspect facilitates more open communication, and without relevant measures in place, social platforms are not able to cater to these needs.

Self-expression is one of the most important elements, with users feeling more free to communicate when they’re comfortable with the available privacy tools and options.

Snapchat privacy report

Indeed, the majority of respondents indicated that privacy concerns impact what they share online, and how they communicate.

Snapchat privacy report

It’s an interesting consideration – originally, with the arrival of MySpace, Twitter and Facebook, there was a new sense of freedom and capacity to share your voice, and connect with like-minded people around the world, based on shared interests. Over time, that’s gradually shifted, as more controversies and concerns have arisen from over-sharing or past post insights, which has seen more people become more enclosed once again, and shy away from public sharing.

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Which makes sense, but it also means that what we see online is often not representative of the breadth of views out there, because many people are concerned about what sharing their thoughts and opinions could mean, and how it could potentially be used against them. Which is why more privacy controls can open up greater levels of expression and engagement, and why more people are looking to advanced tools, like messaging encryption, to gain that extra level of assurance.

Which is also why Snapchat has been able to maintain and grow its audience, despite rising competition in the space.

Snapchat privacy report

Snapchat has always presented itself as a key alternative for more intimate, private discussion, a place for friends to connect, not to broadcast your life to the world. And while that is also more restrictive, in a content sense, Snap’s approach has clearly resonated with a lot of people, and enabled it to carve a niche in the broader social and messaging space.

The report also goes into depth on the full reasons that influence how and why people share on social, and the tools that people rely on to enhance their experience.

Snapchat privacy report

There are some interesting insights and considerations here, which, as noted, largely reflect the latest social media innovations in improved audience controls, evolving private messaging tools, safety functions, reporting and more.

Without these elements, people simply won’t share, and won’t engage online at the same rate. And as we move into the next stage of digital connection, where we’re likely to spend even more time online, and potentially expose even more of ourselves, such measures will remain critically important in order to keep people safe.

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You can read Snapchat’s full ‘Global Perceptions of Privacy’ report here.

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New Report Underlines the Importance of Social Media in Connecting with Gen Z Consumers



New Report Underlines the Importance of Social Media in Connecting with Gen Z Consumers

Consumer expectations are rising, as is the importance of shared brand values, according to the latest data from market research provider Qualtrics.

To glean some insight into the shifting state of customer expectations, Qualtrics surveyed 9,000 consumers, across a breadth of age brackets, to measure the variance in importance on a range of measures between Gen Z, Baby Boomers and everything in between.

The findings highlight some key considerations for all brands – first off, the data indicates that Gen Z is the most likely to be upset by a negative interaction with a company.

Gen Z is the generation least likely to report being happy with their customer experience (on a scale of upset to delighted). Gen Z was the most upset by their interactions with federal agencies (only 13% gave a positive rating), followed by investment firms and airlines. Gen Z gave the highest ratings to social media and retail stores.

Gen Z consumers have grown up with social media and eCommerce, and they increasingly expect brands to cater to their specific needs, while they also know that they have both the means to publicly criticize a company due to negative interactions, and the capacity to easily switch, with a simple online search providing a range of competitor brands.

That’s increased their expectations around customer service and response, and it’s important for brands to consider this in their engagement and actions.

Younger consumers also value public health response, with Gen Z respondents twice as likely as Baby Boomers to stop purchasing from a brand because they felt their safety measures were insufficient. Which also works the opposite way too.

Gen Z consumers also put more emphasis on brand values – potentially a side effect of the social media era – with younger shoppers almost three times as likely as Baby Boomers to say that they were very familiar with the brand values of the products they choose.

Qualtrics consumer survey

With brands now able to communicate more about their business online, that’s opened up more capacity for consumers to also get an understanding of their stances and approach, and that expanded capability to connect with a brand on a deeper level can be a very powerful draw to generate stronger bonds and business.

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Indeed, for Gen Z consumers, maintaining a social media presence was the second-highest ranked way for brands to maintain relevance. No other generation ranked social media presence in the top three.

If that insight doesn’t underline the importance of building and maintaining a social media presence, I’m not sure what will – younger consumers want to feel more connected with every business that they buy from, and social media is the key linkage that facilitates such for this group.

There’s a range of additional insights in the full report from Qualtrics, which you can check out here. Some key considerations for marketers, especially those looking to connect with younger audiences.

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Instagram Adds New Stickers and AR Features to Celebrate Lunar New Year



Instagram Adds New Stickers and AR Features to Celebrate Chinese New Year

Instagram has added some new features to help users celebrate Lunar New Year, including new, themed stickers and a custom AR effect.

As you can see here, the new stickers commemorate the Year of the Tiger, with art by Hong Kong-based Ophelia Pang. The stickers provide a simple way to mark the event, which will be celebrated from January 31st to February 15th.

In addition, Instagram’s also added a #MyLNY2022 AR effect, which provides another way to engage with the celebration.

There’s actually a range of Lunar New Year effects available in the app, which you can find by using the search option at the end of the effects carousel.

Instagram released a similar set of Lunar New Year tools last year, which is part of its broader focus on maximizing engagement around cultural events.

 As explained by Instagram chief Adam Mosseri:

“When it comes to celebrating cultural moments, we want to be a platform where creators showcase their work.

Showcasing creativity is where Instagram is increasingly looking to align itself, as it works to differentiate the app from TikTok, which is more based on communal expression and meme-based sharing. If Instagram can put more focus on creative output, specifically, that could be a way to lean into the rising Web3 movement, in which, theoretically, creators could be better rewarded and celebrated for their work.

These Lunar New Year tools showcase the art of some creators, but the larger vision for Instagram is that it may be better placed to provide a platform for more artists in the same way, which could help it regain its momentum in the face of the TikTok challenge.

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You can check out Instagram’s Lunar New Year tools in the app.

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