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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. 

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

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. 

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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Stand Out in a Crowded Market By Focusing on Organic Growth

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Stand Out in a Crowded Market By Focusing on Organic Growth

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

My partner and I have seen the power of organic growth, even in a significantly competitive market like fashion. Our company, named BJ Positive Wear, was able to create something captivating to our customers within the last two years. I saw a complete transformation of our business in that time, all due to organic growth and the philosophies that we used to succeed.

Even though we had no idea what to expect, we decided from the very start to go in with organic growth being the ultimate goal. We did not benefit from outside help, so we chose to do this. We knew it would take longer, but in the end, every action brought us one step closer to where we are today.

I believe everybody could benefit from focusing on organic growth in a competitive market. If you’re unsure where to start, I will share with you what we did to achieve our success today.

Related: How Thinking Like a Designer Can Unlock Organic Growth

Why organic growth matters

You might not think much of it, but organic growth is the ultimate powerhouse for success. Organic growth is an important area of focus because it encompasses various areas of outreach and focuses on genuinely connecting with the audience you want to reach with your business.

Back in the days before the internet, organic growth was increasingly difficult. People had to do traditional marketing, create posters, billboards and more. Today, my partner goes on social media and shares content.

Social media has so much power, and many people I see and talk to in the business world don’t even grasp the full potential of it. For our firm, social media was what ultimately made us powerful and gave us the organic growth we wanted. You can have the same, and it comes with a few specific steps that we took as we embarked on our journey to success.

Create conversation

One of the essential tips is to create conversation. Organic growth is about engaging with the audience and making them feel a part of what you are doing. Your customer is the ultimate source of direction as a business. Even if you start with an idea for a specific product, you need to listen to the customer and see if what you have to offer is going to benefit them or not.

Create these conversations, and focus on what they say. Even if it is entirely different than what you might have expected, your customer is the ultimate tool for you to spearhead any decision to allow you to further expand and experience growth as a business.

Present value and transparency

Transparency is one of the most valuable tools in any business. If you want to succeed and capture any audience demographic’s attention, you need clarity in your messaging. You must lay out the value for your specific product or service to the audience. Customers like honesty. This is something that I have come to appreciate as a co-founder.

People want to hear exactly what you have to offer. So, don’t leave a mystery. Instead, present your value and be transparent in your messaging. This is what ultimately creates organic growth, but it also leads to another essential aspect of how we were able to achieve our success.

Related: How Transparency In Business Leads to Customer Growth and Loyalty

Differentiate and remain competitive

One of the ultimate tools people often do not tap into is the potential for every social media user today to understand their competition. Everything is publicly available, and there are no surprises. If you find yourself in a position where you are genuinely struggling to remain competitive, point out where you think you can defeat your competition.

When we were focusing on creating our clothing business, we wanted to create something meaningful. Additionally, we wanted to create something that would ultimately stand out compared with every other company we’d seen in the industry. This eventually led me to differentiate and focus on innovating what was already in our market. If you want to succeed, take it from us: You need to determine and figure out what your competitor offers that you can beat and defeat.

Organic growth accelerates when you become a creator

Organic growth is ultimately the most meaningful because it allows you to create conversation and value while remaining competitive with your competition. But there’s something else that many people often forget.

There are multiple kinds of organic growth facilitators in this world. Some people stick to diversification, while others focus on offering something of value that is a necessary product to people. Finally, some people, like our business and myself, become creators.

Why creators stand out and defeat the competition

You can choose any path you’d like to accelerate organic growth, but ultimately, I see the most value in becoming a creator. As a creator, our business built something that truly did stand out compared to other competitors. We focused on innovation first, then differentiated and ensured that there would be immense value offered in whatever we did in the industry. As a startup, I can offer you so much advice, but this is ultimately one of the most important: If you want to see success, inspire people, and become a creator of your own.

You have the power to create value

Creators are essential and stand out because we build value with our products. We value each service we offer, and new business models will be created. We create a massive following and see our company take off in ways we never thought possible. Organic growth accelerates when you are a creator, and this is because you find a way to inspire people.

Be an underdog and stand out

People like a success story. Everybody wants to root for the underdog, and quite honestly, my business was the underdog, but we were also extreme innovators in what we were able to do. If you want to see success in the industry you are part of, then I urge you to consider what you can create to stand out.

Related: 4 Surprisingly Simple Ways To Stand Out From Your Competition

Revisit your ideas and improve them

If you have already begun a product, differentiate yourself and re-envision what you’ve already done. I guarantee you that when you think of something impactful and creative, others will see it and flock to you and your business. They will believe in your mission and see you as inspirational.

Focus your success on your organic growth

No matter your path, you need to consider certain factors if you are a startup. Remaining competitive and finding a way to differentiate yourself honestly is the ultimate goal of organic growth.

For us, especially with how significantly our business grew in such a short time, we don’t owe anybody anything, and it’s a risk we took. We chose to put everything into creating something nobody had ever done, and even in the end, it was far more tiring and more prolonged than we ever envisioned. Still, I promise you that the journey will be worth it in the end.

Hopefully, I provided you with the insight and inspiration needed to take that leap and take a risk. No matter what business you run, I hope you present something nobody has ever seen before, but also attempt to inspire people to follow you, no matter where your journey takes you.



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Elon Musk Says That Twitter Will Continue to Offer Free API Access to Good Bot Accounts

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Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

It’s honestly difficult to make any assessment of Elon Musk’s time in charge of Twitter as yet, because while he has made some bad decisions, he’s also reversed course on most of them, and while he continues to try things that seemingly have no chance of working out, he’s also not taking past precedent as definitive.

Which is maybe a good thing?

In the latest example of Musk’s shoot first, ask questions later management style, Elon has seemingly reversed the unpopular decision to charge for all usage of Twitter’s API, at least in some applications

As per Elon’s tweet, Twitter will continue to allow ‘bots providing good content’ to access Twitter’s API for free, which looked set to be one of the key losses of Twitter’s recent decision to paywall all API access.

Though much of the angst in this case came down to poor communication – last week, Twitter announced that, starting February 9th, it would be cutting off free access to its API, which is the key connector that many third party apps and Twitter’s bots use to function.

That triggered a strong response from the developer community, though a day later, Elon further explained that:

This wasn’t an official announcement, nor was it communicated via the Twitter Developers account. This was Elon, in an exchange with another user, randomly providing valuable context that would have avoided much of the angst and concern that came with the original Twitter Dev statement.

Now, the bigger question is whether $100 is any disincentive to spammers, who likely make way more than that from bot activity. But regardless, $100 is likely affordable for most of the third-party apps which looked set to lose the most from this update in policy, so it’s actually nowhere near as bad as the first announcement seemed.

It’s just bad communication, and given that Twitter no longer has a comms department, that makes sense.

But it’s also the perfect microcosm of the Elon experience, which he both benefits and suffers from, though maybe not in equal measure.

The key thing to note is that Elon loves attention. His one undisputable skill is that he knows how to make headlines, how to get people looking his way, which is why his main money maker, Tesla, has never needed a comms department either. They just let Elon say whatever he likes, good or bad, and the press comes running – and in this respect, you can see how his approach to such announcements at Twitter actually helps them get wider coverage and awareness, as opposed to them being outlined through regular channels.

But is that a good thing? Getting the developer community offside seems like unnecessary collateral damage, while the negativity this creates also seems less conducive to functional working arrangements with external partners and suppliers.

It seems like that could be harmful for his companies, long term – but then again, the more transparent nature of such, and his willingness to change course in a responsive way, could also be beneficial. Maybe?

Essentially, what we’re getting with Twitter 2.0 is a window into Elon Musk’s ‘hardcore’ management style, which is not entirely reliant on internal debate and decision-making, and also takes into account audience response, and factors that into its process.

Which is actually, probably, better, at least in some ways. I mean, Twitter, in times past, took months, even years to gain any traction on updates, before rolling them out, then it was forced to stick with them, even if they were unpopular, due to the amount of time invested.

With 70% fewer staff, Musk doesn’t have that luxury, but he has repeatedly shown a willingness to listen to the case for and against each update, and shift tack accordingly.

So while he has made some bad decisions, and will continue to do so, Twitter is moving fast. It’s breaking things too, but it’s still running, and Musk seems confident that he can convert it into a revenue positive business sometime soon.

And now, your weather bots, your system updates, your automated accounts that let you know what you want via tweet, will continue to operate. Unless Elon changes his mind again.



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The Drum | What Does The Growth Of Little Red Book Mean For Post-pandemic China?

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The Drum | What Does The Growth Of Little Red Book Mean For Post-pandemic China?

The shopping app proves that consumer confidence and community are key to a thriving business post-Covid, writes Michaela Zhu of Emerging Communications.

Little Red Book, aka Xiaohongshu, or more simply ‘Red’, is a leading Chinese social shopping app. With over 300 million users (and counting), western brands are taking notice – and with good reason.

Little Red Book first appeared in 2013. From modest beginnings focussing on female beauty products, the app expanded to help all kinds of global brands connect with Chinese consumers. Whether it’s holiday inspiration, university choices or luxury fashion, Little Red Book is now the go-to app for lifestyle content and shopping.

With a unique mix of social sharing, long-form articles, live-streaming and e-commerce, it’s a vital part of the Chinese social media landscape. What’s more: Little Red Book is the place for interacting with Chinese gen Z and millennial audiences. In July 2022, nearly 30% of Little Red Book’s active users were under 24 years. Another 40% of users fall into the 25-35 age bracket.

Discover how Little Red Book has transformed over the last few years, key trends, and how to integrate them into your China digital strategy.

How Little Red Book is changing post-Covid China

By 2019, Little Red Book attracted over 200 million users. Fast forward nearly four years, and the platform has maintained its grip on affluent Chinese consumers. It’s one of the few social media platforms where growth still exceeds 30% year-on-year. Little Red Book is here to stay, and in a big way.

This user growth has brought significant changes in content, especially as Chinese consumers adapt to post-pandemic life. Gone are the days when Little Red Book catered exclusively to beauty and fashion niches. Instead, people use the platform to make significant life decisions as well as day-to-day purchases. With content on entering high school, getting married and buying property (to name just a few), you’ll find almost every aspect of daily life up for discussion.

While the relaxing of Covid restrictions has brought drastic changes alongside feelings of liberation, there’s understandable uncertainty among Chinese Gen Z. Long-term lockdown life caused younger generations to pay close attention to their immediate environment. There’s a focus on simplifying their lives and recycling items, as well as yearning for distant places and global cuisines.

A related trend for Little Red Book is the growing Chinese travel industry. Unsurprisingly, the recent easing of travel restrictions resulted in a travel bonanza. For example, two billion trips are expected during this Lunar New Year period. These figures are nearly double the previous year’s and represent a 70% recovery on 2019 levels.

China branding: two essential trends

For content marketing in China, there are two major Little Red Book trends that any marketer needs to know. These are the recent surge in travel-related content and the shift toward new minimalism and ‘rational consumption’.

1. Exploring opportunities for the travel sector

With China’s international borders reopening, travel is no longer a far-away dream. Many Chinese visited their nation’s most popular cities during the pandemic years. Others opted for secluded opulence, spawning the growth of glamping as a trend. Indeed, this luxury camping culture saw ‘glamping’ searches on Little Red book increase by 746% during 2022.

In 2023, foreign countries are also a possibility. As a result, nearby destinations such as Tibet and Southeast Asia predict a strong rebound in the coming months.

Global brands such as Marriott Bonvoy are already capitalizing on these trends, hitting the mark with their China marketing campaigns. For instance, the 2021 Power of Travel campaign used 10 Chinese key opinion leaders to show how travel inspired their lives.

With influencers including Chinese gen Z creatives, families and business executives – the brand showed their relevance to the China market as well as inspiration for rediscovering ourselves through post-Covid travel.

2. Embracing minimalist and rational consumption

In the aftermath of an unprecedented pandemic and global economic downturns, people all over the world are simplifying and streamlining their daily lives.

China is no different, and its younger population has particularly embraced a minimalist mindset. This doesn’t mean stopping purchases completely, but instead shows a shift towards ‘rational consumption’.

Young people are especially shunning impulse purchase decisions, resulting in a decline in ‘hard selling’ and live broadcast sales events. This trend has worked in Little Red Book’s favor due to the platform’s focus on in-depth consumer reviews and trusted user-generated content. Put simply, it’s all about building confidence and community before purchases take place.

For more in-depth insights into Chinese social media trends, download our guide to getting started with Little Red Book.

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