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What We Learned From UGC in 2020 and How To Plan for 2021

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To say this year has tested brands is an understatement. 

The pandemic has forced businesses in every industry to reframe the way they market themselves due to mandatory closures and a surge in online competition. 

Empathic marketing has never been more important, and the lack of resources to create full-scale marketing campaigns has affected both big and small brands. Not to mention the cutbacks that have rippled through every in-house department and the fragmented teams that are the result of work-from-home orders.  

Brands have had to find alternative ways to connect with their audience without studio setups and huge budgets bolstering their efforts. 

But, with 42% of people around the world spending more time on social media since the start of the pandemic, there’s never been a better time to connect with customers online. 

Why User Generated Content (UGC) Has Been a Pivotal Part of 2020

UGC has always been one of the most compelling forms of content. It’s more trusted than brand-led campaigns and it instills a sense of trust in a digital landscape. 

This year, it’s been more important than ever. Here’s why:

  • UGC taps into a desire for human connection in the wake of months of isolation and quarantining
  • UGC builds and strengthens community
  • UGC is relatable – people look for uplifting content that acknowledges the difficult situation we’re all in
  • UGC allows brands to meet customers where they’re already spending a lot of their time
  • UGC helps brands generate remote, great content without having to setup photoshoots 

What We Learned From UGC in 2020

2020 has taught us a lot about life and business. In terms of UGC, it’s shown us how important connectivity is in times of need and how a sense of community is crucial for getting through tough situations. 

1. Bringing together brands and buyers

As a powerful storytelling tool, UGC is able to bring together brands and their customers and create a deeper sense of belonging. 

Take Facebook’s pivotal “We’re Never Lost If We Can Find Each Other” campaign that highlights how people are staying connected during the pandemic and how they are coping during quarantine and multiple lockdowns. 

It uses videos and photos captured by Facebook users and stitches them together in a documentary-style video that’s both moving and informative. 

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2. Relatability is key in times of need

No one likes to feel alone, especially with a global pandemic raging all around. The fluidity of UGC as a marketing strategy means it has the potential to be far more relatable than brand-driven campaigns. 

Made.com quickly realized this. Their marketing has always centered around the notion of “home”, but during the pandemic this became even more prominent. 

They created product pages packed full of customer images that served as inspiration. 

3. Everything changes so quickly

No one could have predicted how 2020 would turn out – in fact, it’s hard to plan ahead even a few weeks in advance at the moment as things are changing so quickly. 

UGC saves brands time and allows them to jump on trends in a matter of days. This is key for keeping up with evolving consumer needs. 

Buffalo Wild Wings took this theory and ran with it – they created an ad made purely from UGC that shows real people creating made-up sports in their homes. This was to reflect the fact that sports fans could no longer gather and watch their favorite teams in public places. 

The ad actually went from conception to completion in less than a week, and allowed customers to stay connected with the brand virtually when they were unable to in-person. 

4. Events were thrown into disarray

The events industry has been one of the hardest hit. Brands that once delivered in-person ceremonies, seminars, and conferences have had to be resilient and pivot to meet ever-changing guidelines. 

edX did a great job of this. When they were faced with the challenge of celebrating graduates after thousands of graduations were canceled, they utilized TINT to pull together achievements, messages, and celebrations that graduates had shared all in one digital place. 

5. Hope is important

It’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, especially when millions of people are in pandemic-related turmoil. UGC gives people hope and encourages individuals to feel connected. In many ways, it nurtures a sense of “we’re all in this together”. 

The Gulf County Tourist Development Council leveraged UGC to create travel guides people could use to plan future trips. Even if they weren’t able to travel in that moment, they could browse photos and videos taken by real people as something to look forward to. 

6. Existing customers need connection too

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Stats show that it’s cheaper to market to existing customers than attracting new ones, and returning buyers spend more than first-time shoppers. UGC is the perfect way to solidify relationships with long-term customers and create deeper connections with them.

This is exactly what KFC did with their UGC campaign that welcomed customers back after mandatory closures. They created an ad featuring customer photos and videos pulled from the #RateMyKFC social media campaign which encouraged customers to recreate the brand’s famous fried chicken recipe.  

RateMyKFC

7. Don’t forget employee-generated content

Employees are a goldmine of content, and during 2020, work-at-home orders and mandatory guidelines made them far more relatable to the average consumer than ever before, and there were plenty of brands that tapped into this.

Take Cisco, for example, they won gold for ‘Best User-Generated Content’ in the Corporate Content Awards for the employee-focused campaign “We Are Cisco”, which highlighted employee stories and brought behind-the-scenes activities to the forefront. 

How to Plan Your UGC Strategy in 2021

2020 has changed the world. 

eCcommerce orders are up 108%, daily usage of Facebook is up 27%, and 42% of consumers plan on changing the way they shop moving forward. 

This has opened up opportunities for brands to take advantage of new online narratives, and going forward, UGC will be a key consideration for social commerce and eCommerce strategies across the board. 

The key elements of your UGC strategy in 2021

  • Build trust – Brands will have to work harder than ever to recapture the trust and loyalty of customers in 2021. A precedent has been set this year, and this will continue to play a huge part in strategies moving forward
  • Provide social proof – When things start to return to normal, consumers will want validation that others are buying from you or are at the very least re-engaging in shopping and purchasing 

Planning Your 2021 UGC Strategy

1. Design the Concept

The concept of your campaign is what it’s about or what it aims to do, promote, or say. 

Think about what your UGC campaign will center around. Use data from 2020 and your customers’ input to decide on a campaign topic that will resonate with them. Consider outside inputs too, like what’s going on in the world and global trends. 

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It doesn’t have to be complicated – take Made.com’s example above. They simply replaced product photos on their website with customer photos to tap into the growing need for a safe and secure home space. 

2. Engage and Amplify

This is the part where you encourage your customers to get involved. 

Use incentives and create a buzz around your brand. Make people want to get involved. 

A great way to do this is through UGC contests and campaigns. Offering a reward in exchange for a customer photo is a compelling incentive and will quickly spread your campaign far and wide. 

3. Curate and Display

Choose the best customer contributions and decide how you’re going to display them.

Will you create a dedicated landing page to host the UGC on like EdX, or will you simply re-share contributions across your social media channels? 

Get creative here and consider all the options you have. Maybe you share UGC in your email campaigns, maybe you incorporate it into your product pages, or maybe you do what Facebook and Buffalo Wild Wings and turn it into a video. 

4. Plan, But Let Customers Drive the Story

Planning is key for ensuring you get the most out of your UGC campaign – but, as 2020 has shown us, anything can happen. Keep an eye on trends and pivot to meet the changing needs of your customers. 

Track patterns in your campaigns and be prepared to switch things up to align better with what’s going on in the world. 

2021 will be the year of UGC

UGC should be a core part of every marketing strategy in 2021. New competition means brands are fighting to stand out, and the changing needs of customers will require a more sensitive, empathic approach to marketing.

Through the tactical use of UGC, brands will be able to nurture a sense of community, connect better with existing customers, and keep up with the ever-changing events in the world.  

Socialmediatoday.com

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Meta Plans to Establish an NFT Marketplace, Expanding Beyond Profile Pictures

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Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps


If it’s happening on social media, Meta wants to own it, so it comes as no surprise that the company is currently working on ways to tap into the popularity of NFTs. But Meta actually envisions a bigger future for digital goods, beyond cartoonish profile pictures, which will eventually expand the core functionality of the NFT transaction process to facilitate the transfer of various kinds of digital goods within its planned metaverse.

Sorry, I should say the metaverse, as Meta is keen to underline that it won’t own it, as such (antitrust lawyers take note).

As reported by The Financial Times:

“Teams at Facebook and Instagram are readying a feature that will allow users to display their NFTs on their social media profiles, as well as working on a prototype to help users create – or mint – the collectible tokens, according to several people familiar with the matter. Two of the people said that Meta has also discussed launching a marketplace for users to buy and sell NFTs.”

The first element noted here is already in progress – last June, we reported on Instagram’s initial test of a new ‘Collectibles’ option which would facilitate the display of NFTs in the app (as discovered by app researcher Alessandro Paluzzi).

That test also pointed to facilitating the sale of NFTs in the app, with a process for bidding and buying NFT images.

The latest element in this process includes attaching a digital wallet to your account, much like you would on OpenSea or other NFT transaction platforms, so the experiment seems fairly well advanced in this respect.

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That likely points to Instagram making a move on this soon, and where Instagram goes, Facebook tends to follow, so that part is no real revelation versus what we already know.

But what is interesting is how this process could be built into Meta’s broader metaverse plans, and the sale of digital goods, beyond just profile pictures (PFPs). Because really, that’s just the starting point, and there’ll likely be far more value in buying other digital products and services in the next stage of connection.

Which is where much of the confusion about the current state of NFTs lies. Yes, there is major potential in the purchase and ownership of digital goods, as we’ve seen in various game worlds, where users can buy add-on features like skins, weapons, abilities, etc. For many young consumers, this is already second nature – but while much of the value in these items is aesthetic, providing an opportunity to ‘flex’ your latest purchase in each app, there is also a practical value and usage, which is different to PFP projects, the main focal point for current Web3 early adopters and those keen to be at the forefront of the next digital shift.

Overall, PFPs don’t provide much value, and likely won’t remain a key focus for digital ownership. Many of these projects hilariously claim to be ‘metaverse ready’, which is not possible, because not even the metaverse is metaverse ready at this stage, with the schemas and parameters yet to be established that would enable cross-platform transfers and usage of digital goods in the broader space.

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Some PFP projects are working to build out broader community benefits and usage options for owners, which will extend the value beyond their images alone. But really, the true value of NFTs will come in other digital goods and items, which looks to be the true focus of Meta’s NFT push.

Indeed, back in October, Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted that NFTs could eventually be used to support a new market for digital goods in the metaverse, not just profile images, while Meta’s Head of Metaverse Products Vishal Shah has also noted that the underlying NFT transaction process will eventually make it easier to sell digital products in its apps.

In this sense, PFPs are only the beginning of what could be possible with digital items more broadly, and with Meta also continuing to work on its own cryptocurrency , it does seem likely that, eventually, it will be able to facilitate broader digital transactions through the NFT process.

But those NFTs won’t be limited to PFP images, which is the main criticism of the current NFT market. Why would you pay to own an image that you can view for free? Why would you pay to only own the receipt of a digital image, and not the full copyright and commercial re-use rights (for most projects)?

Legally, there are still some issues to be worked out in this respect, but if you view NFTs as a gateway, of sorts, to broader transactions of all kinds of digital goods, from avatar clothing to skins, to in-game weapons, items, spells, etc. When you consider that NFTs don’t have to just be images of smiling monkeys and cats, you can start to see the broader potential of NFTs as real value items, especially as we increasingly spend more and more time in these digital environments.

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Essentially, early NFT adopters are indeed early, and many are putting far too much stock in PFPs, and getting ripped off as a result. But the broader view is that these digital items will have more use and expanded application in the next stage.

Which is why Meta is looking to move in, and build more tools to capitalize on this initial interest. So while you may view those NFT bros as being a little overzealous, and overexcited about buying JPGs, consider that there will be more to the scope of NFTs in future.

That doesn’t mean that you should care about what image you use for your profile picture, or that you should be looking to buy up a ‘VeeFriends’ NFT drawing (please don’t). But those images are just the start of a new online marketplace.





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Instagram Expands Video Remix Option to All Videos, Not Just Reels Clips

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Instagram Expands Video Remix Option to All Videos, Not Just Reels Clips


Instagram is expanding on its TikTok-like toolset by adding the capacity to remix all videos that people post in the app, not just Reels, increasing your options for creative response and engagement.

As you can see here, now, when you’re viewing any video on Instagram, you’ll be able to tap on the ‘Remix this video’ option to create your own take on it, facilitating more participatory consumption of video content in the app.

Users can also choose to switch off remixes in their video settings.

Instagram video remix

As explained by Instagram:

“Remix gives you ways to respond to and reinvent the creative videos shared on Instagram every day, collaborate with others and get discovered by new audiences. We’re excited about how our community has embraced Remix on Reels and we hope this new feature gives people new ways to collaborate, showcase their creativity and find inspiration in the vibrant diversity of videos shared to Instagram every day.

Instagram added its Reels remix option last March, and this new functionality will greatly expand on the amount of video content that people can use to build upon with their own responses and creative takes, which, again, leans into the core use case of TikTok.

One of the biggest elements of success for TikTok has been participatory content, and essentially letting users contribute to memes, as opposed to merely consuming them.

Memes have become a key communication tool for the younger generation, providing a simple, engaging way to give their take on the various issues of the day. But till TikTok came around, meme usage was limited, as you couldn’t easily remix or re-share a meme for different purpose.

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But TikTok changed that dynamic, essentially making memes participatory, enabling all users to not only consume, but to also iterate each based on the trend. It’s the logical extension of meme culture, though no platform has been able to tap into it the way that TikTok has.

Which is why Instagram’s looking to get into the same. And while providing TikTok-like options is likely helping Instagram to retain some of its audience, and stop them migrating to TikTok instead, it’s still not the best way for the platform to regain its leadership in the space, and re-connect with younger audiences, as per Meta’s stated ambition moving forward.

Because copying features invariably means that you’re a step behind – you can’t copy something unless another platform is already doing it, and if another platform is already doing it, then you’re already missing the trend.

Young users will gravitate to the platforms that lead the latest trends. Snapchat, for example, lead the way on ephemeral content, Instagram was once the place to be for the latest visual tools and displays. TikTok is now the leader on short-form, interactive clips, and if Meta truly wants to win them over once again, it will need to get more original with its additions, providing new, must-see, and must-use ways to interact and engage.

Much of that focus likely comes back to its coming metaverse push, but I’d still prefer to see Instagram zigging when other platforms are zagging, and introducing at least some new tools and options that haven’t been ripped off from another trending app.

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But as noted, it must be working, at least to some degree, because it keeps doing it, with TikTok basically the product development department for Instagram right now.

Maybe its coming NFT display options will change this, or maybe IG has something else in the works for video content. Till then, we have more replicant functions, which may help improve overall engagement, but likely don’t give it much of a boost in terms of credibility and leadership.  





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Instagram Will Now Reduce the Reach of Posts That are ‘Likely’ to Contain Bullying of Hate Speech

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Instagram Will Now Reduce the Reach of Posts That are 'Likely' to Contain Bullying of Hate Speech


Instagram is implementing new measures that will proactively limit the reach of feed posts and stories which ‘likely’ violate its rules around hate speech, bullying and the incitement of violence, as part of its expanding efforts to reduce game and user risk in the app.

As explained by Instagram:

“Previously, we’ve focused on showing posts lower on Feed and Stories if they contain misinformation as identified by independent fact-checkers, or if they are shared from accounts that have repeatedly shared misinformation in the past. Today, we’re announcing some changes to take this effort even further. If our systems detect that a post may contain bullying, hate speech or may incite violence, we’ll show it lower on Feeds and Stories of that person’s followers.”

So how will Instagram determine whether non-reported posts might contain these elements?

“To understand if something may break our rules, we’ll look at things like if a caption is similar to a caption that previously broke our rules.”

Instagram further notes that if its systems predict that an individual user is likely to report a post, based on their past history of reporting content, it will also show that post lower in their personal feed.

Which seems pretty foolproof, right? There’ll be no new influx of ‘shadow ban’ reports or similar as a result of IG putting more reliance on machine learning to determine post reach.

Right?

Yeah, it could be somewhat problematic, and considering the efforts Instagram has gone to in the past to explain away shadow bans, it’s seems inevitable that this will lead to more accusations of censorship, bias and other criticisms of the platform as a result of this shift.

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Which is probably not such a bad payoff, if it works. In theory, this could be another key step towards limiting the spread of bullying and hate speech, both of which have no place in any public forum, and no right to amplification and broadcast via social apps. Instagram is also under pressure to improve its efforts in protecting young users from bullying and abuse, after the Facebook Files leak last year suggested that parent company Meta had ignored research which showed that Instagram can have harmful mental health impacts for teens.

Anything that can be done to stop the spread of such is, at the least, worth an experiment, while Instagram also notes that it has previously avoided implementing automated systems of this type because it wanted to ensure that its technology ‘could be as accurate as possible’ in detection.

Which suggests that it now has the required level of confidence in its processes to ensure good results. So while there will undoubtedly be more reports of mistakes, and more accusations of overreach, invoking some amendment in the constitution (always incorrect), if it works, and reduces instances of harm and mental anguish due to bullying and hate speech, it will be entirely worth it.





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