Is User-Generated Content A Bubble That’s About To Burst?
May 2, 2022
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User-generated content (UGC) consists of videos, images, text and audio that has been created and posted by users. This content is typically placed on “big digital” platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube. As short-form video is a fast-growing segment of UGC, this article will focus on it. Advantages Of UGC
Big digital’s platforms often feature both UGC and professionally generated content (PGC), the latter of which is mainly produced by brands. That said, most of the discussion on promoting brands is now focused on UGC and the advantages it provides, including:
• Cost-effectiveness: UGC is cheap for users to make—and even cheaper for big digital to feature—because these mega-platforms pay next to nothing to produce it. • Fun: Short-form UGC is often fun and can be addictive—in a “pinball machine” kind of way. Once you start watching UGC, it can be difficult stop. But can this popularity last? Or will this become a passing fad and be seen as a time-waster? Recommended For You
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• Trust and authenticity: UGC is often seen to be more authentic than the PGC produced by brands, which recently have lost some consumer trust. • Democratization of content creation: UGC can be created and posted by almost anyone, anywhere, so it can present spontaneous and different points of view. Disadvantages Of UGC
As UGC grows, there are also disadvantages to brands and users, including:
• Crowding out of other news: The battle for supremacy among the big digital platforms, especially since the rise of TikTok—and the subsequent response of Facebook, Instagram and YouTube—is drawing attention from most other media issues. What happened to “fake news”? • Content Shock : There is just so much UGC today that it’s almost overwhelming. Further, the content is also often very unidimensional, featuring crazy dances, cute animals and slapstick humor. Some of this is well produced, but much of it is still of poor quality. • Quality: The production values of UGC are inferior to professionally generated content (PGC) , which means they need to make up for the “lack” of value with interesting visuals and storytelling strength. • Brand safety: UGC is not generally well scripted or vetted and can present serious safety issues for brands whose marketing folks risk their ads being placed next to unsavory content, which big digital can never completely screen out. • Legality and rights: One should be careful that all rights are secured when dealing with UGC, particularly in litigious markets. Trends
• Migration to quality: While big digital promotes UGC, there is a general migration among consumers to quality videos. Young viewers increasingly prefer PGC and higher-quality UGC. • Segmentation within UGC: There is an entire industry dedicated to identifying, compiling, and securing rights and monetizing to the top UGC. This is done through companies such as GoPro, Group Nine Media and Viral Hog. • Brands are changing: Companies have responded to declining trust levels and are increasingly answering to a quadruple bottom line of purpose, planet, people and profit. They are being more responsive to cultural and social pressures, and the move by many big brands to pull out of Russia because of the invasion of Ukraine is a clear sign of this. This proactive response will almost certainly help improve the trust in these brands and close the “credibility gap” with influencers. While some really believe in the power of this form of persuasion, there is also growing influencer fatigue, where influencers are less able to influence. Consumers increasingly see the financial connection between influencers and brands, which undermines credibility, and they understand the fake statistics related to followers. Moreover, the content is often cliché and repetitive. So Is UGC A Bubble? UGC resembles a bubble in that its perceived value really does seem to exceed its fundamental value—and perhaps by a large margin. Big digital companies, and the media supporting its efforts, have focused attention on UGC, which is widely presented as everything that young viewers do during their leisure. This is far from the truth. Young viewers still spend one-third of their days working or going to school, one-third of their day sleeping and the other third of their day doing many leisurely activities. Friends are most important to them, family matters more than they let on, they still play sports and games, and they have many hobbies and interests. TikTok may be entertaining, but it is not taking over people’s entire lives in a way that the media Cassandras would have you believe. While brands see the benefits of “fishing where the fish are,” they too can see beyond UGC’s hype and will present ads beyond the big digital platforms. Brands have also relied on influencers who sometimes have more trust than the companies that pay them to wield their pulling power. At the same time, many influencers are losing their touch. Finally, brands themselves are working hard to regain the trust they have lost with consumers. By action with purpose and answering to a quadruple bottom line of people, planet and profit, they will build trust, making influencers and UGC less important. The bubble will either stop inflating or it could potentially burst. All Or Nothing? The reality is that brands do not have to make a choice between advertising in front of or during professionally generated content, creating their own content and supporting top UGC. They can do all three and adjust weights as the market evolves. UGC still plays a big role, but it might have already reached its zenith. Brands are coming back stronger and more relevant than ever. And they will be looking for platforms that don’t only focus on UGC.