Creating diverse, authentic content is no small task for brands. While studio-produced content remains a critical part of the content mix, brands are increasingly seeking new ways to scale and source organic content. The influencer, the brand ambassador and, more recently, the user-generated content creator offer new avenues for creating content—feeding into the model known as the creator economy.
As the lines between the different members of the creator economy become increasingly blurred, so do marketing organizations’ roles, titles and ROI measurement. With influencers, marketers can expect a premium—you’re investing in the content and the community the influencer has worked to build. But with the growth of short-form videos via platforms like Instagram and TikTok, more brands are looking to decouple content from reach.
Enter the UGC creator—the community-driven marketer’s best friend and emerging content professional that straddles the line between customer and influencer.
UGC creator versus influencer—what’s the difference?
A UGC creator specializes in creating engaging content for brands to leverage across the customer journey to build authentic consumer interactions. UGC creators are experienced creatives crafting conversion-optimized content that brands can distribute at will.
Often compared to influencers, UGC creators’ value lies less in their personal brand and more in the inherent power of their content. UGC creators don’t always share the content they’re paid to make; instead, brands often buy the content and promote it on their own channels.
The typical flow with a UGC creator might look different than the typical influencer collaboration. Oftentimes, brands will provide a product to the creator to create content for. This can involve a campaign brief that outlines deliverables, brand guidelines, demographic information for the brand’s audience (or target persona), channels the content is being created for and anything else pertinent to the campaign or partnership.
Once the content has been created, that content is shared directly with the brand through their preferred method. From there, the content is leveraged by the brand to build authenticity in the channels the content is designed for.
This differs from influencer relationships in a few ways, but the distinction is still somewhat minute as the lines between the influencer and the prolific UGC creator aren’t set in stone. Many influencer campaigns are one-off collaborations that showcase a one-time endorsement for a brand’s product. While influencer relationships can be ongoing, UGC creator partnerships often are by default.
Regardless of the approach, this doesn’t mean that brands can’t and shouldn’t work with UGC creators alongside influencers—many successful brands leverage both to build a full-funnel mix of authentic content. This usually comes down to who owns each program: UGC creators may work with the ecommerce, performance marketing or social teams to create content for those channels, whereas influencers might work more closely with public relations or the brand team.
This usually reflects the goals of each part of the organization: PR and brand may be looking for a trusted endorsement, whereas ecommerce and social are looking for informational and authentic content to supplement the existing content mix.
Where marketers should leverage UGC creators
UGC creators have the power to transform targeted use cases dramatically.
Launching a new product
The latency between an initial product launch and the capture of social proof is an irritating dissonance for marketers. New products lack the reviews and use cases necessary for them to gain serious traction.
UGC creators can bridge this gap and enable new products to launch with a flood of consumer-facing social proof. Unboxing videos, organic storytelling and even dog endorsements are easily obtainable.
Boosting social proof for underrepresented products
Not all of your products will automatically generate organic UGC. When this happens, UGC creators can provide fresh material to fuel renewed traction online.
For instance, if you’re struggling with a product that lacks real-world use cases, you could pay a UGC creator to create a before and after video, showcasing the transformation from a consumer’s perspective.
Scaling content needs
UGC can be costly, but its ability to satisfy targeted content needs makes up for it.
Consider a brand expanding into new demographics but struggling to gather UGC from groups outside its primary market. That brand should hire creators from those communities for UGC designed to help them expand into new audiences. This diversity of UGC smooths expansion into the new group and helps build an inclusive brand image overall.
Is it really authentic?
The name “UGC content creator” raises an interesting point—is content truly “authentic” if a brand paid for it?
Some might argue that authenticity is an inherent quality that cannot be achieved through paid collaborations. On the flip side, consumers expect brand content to relate to them on a personal level in a way that some professionally produced content simply can’t.
Even if the name changes, the role is likely here to stay. Democratizing content creation while rewarding talented creators for their work validates the premise of the creator economy. Decoupling reach from content-producing capabilities likely increases the quantity and diversity of content creators that brands can partner with.