The notion of user-generated content (UGC), is not new. In fact, it’s always been part of the standard ideal marketing handbook — earn organic love from actual consumers of your product? Yes please.
That being said, the topic of UGC content creators has been getting new buzz again with the emergence of new platforms like Kale (which launched in October of 2022). If you are a marketer or agency working for a brand you may be wondering:
- Should I be evaluating UGC content creators as an alternative or replacement for influencer content?
- If yes, how should I partner with UGC content creators and what ROI should I expect?
- If not, is there a way to integrate UGC content creators into my influencer program strategy?
Below I’ll answer those questions based on my experience in the influencer marketing industry — most of which was spent talking to some of the top beauty, fashion, and lifestyle brands about their influencer programs.
How UGC Content Creators Can Impact Your Influencer Program
If you’re an influencer marketer (or a lover of influencer marketing), never fear. This industry and the creator economy isn’t going anywhere. In fact, the resurgence of interest in UGC content creators may be a good thing. Here’s a run down of what to expect and my advice on how to adjust your influencer program:
1. UGC platforms aren’t a totally new concept.
UGC has been a power that marketers have been trying to harness for ages. In fact, its core principle is somewhat similar to the likes of long standing platforms like Bazaarvoice or Influenster. The main difference is that Kale offers consumers the ability to get paid, whereas Bazaarvoice and Influenster are more focused on a product seeding model, where consumers can join and get sent products to write a review.
2. UGC content creators won’t replace the traditional influencer.
The truth is the influencer marketing space can be prone to hyperbole, especially when evaluating the impact of new tools and platforms. UGC content creators won’t replace traditional influencers, just like Meta’s Threads won’t “kill” Twitter. Instead, the truth is often somewhere in the middle. UGC content creators and traditional influencers are powerful and useful in different ways. If anything, the emergence of new platforms like Kale indicates an expansion of the influencer marketing space. One won’t replace the other, the two will coexist.
3. UGC content creators and influencer marketing will likely coexist.
On the brand side, platforms like Kale offer a relatively inexpensive way to get some brand awareness through authentic mentions. It can also serve as a discovery tool to help them find their “superfans” and can be good for helping them find micro influencers. This will be especially poignant for brands that don’t have access to influencer marketing platforms like Traackr, which provide the easiest and most thorough way to find and vet influencers.
Obviously for UGC content creators, platforms like Kale give them a way to get paid to promote the brands they love. It could also serve as an entryway into the world of influencer marketing for the “average” consumer.
However, it’s likely that brands will not rely on UGC content creators to drive the type of results and goals they expect to get from campaigns with professional creators with larger reach. For example, while UGC can help ensure that a brand is securing a share of conversation, influencers play a critical role by spreading largely on-brand messaging. Part of the beauty (and pain) of UGC posts is that they do not come with any guarantee that the content will be positive or stay “on message”.
Remember Flip, the UGC social review app specifically for beauty? It made a big splash, but certainly didn’t replace traditional strategies or campaigns for influencer programs.
4. UGC is proof that community is continuing to be a key area of focus for brands.
If anything the emergence of more UGC platforms like Kale is an indication that brands are leaning more into trying to create community. They will want to build customer advocates and communities alongside their regular influencer programs. The other possibility (that I mentioned in bullet three) is that these UGC platforms could become a way for brands to feed their influencer programs. In some ways you could think of customers as nanoinfluencers, or even influencers at the start of their career. These UGC platforms give brands a way to harness niche nano/micro influencers before they become big, locking in loyalty early and growing long term relationships from authentic love.
5. The importance of UGC content creators will depend on the brand.
Most brands invest in something like Kale because it is perceived as a “low hanging fruit” opportunity to increase brand awareness and lift. That being said, it will mean different things for different brand types. For mid-to-large brands this type of thing will be a small part of a bigger strategy, but for small brands this could be a big focus.