Image by Maks Karochkin under CC BY 2.0

Why You Need Both UGC and Branded Marketing Content

User-generated content is one of the most powerful tools in today’s marketing arsenal: It’s proof that you have dedicated fans, products worth talking about, and a social network that will appreciate great content. As more and more brands turn to user-generated content, it begs the question as to whether you can get by solely with content from your fans and followers.

Despite the incredible power of UGC, all businesses need branded marketing materials. Regardless of budget or team size, spending time, money and effort on the creation of high-quality, branded content is core to your marketing success. In fact, UGC is actually more powerful if it works in tandem with your own content.

Below we explore three reasons why you should keep making branded marketing materials. Take a look.

1. They work together

There’s no denying the might of UGC; user-generated content is 20 percent more influential on purchasing decisions than any other kind of media. But it’s also helpful as a way to bolster branded content. According to a study conducted by Comscore, branded content is 28 percent more effective when partnered with UGC. Branded content will be more effective for you than it ever was before once you integrate UGC into your marketing portfolio.

Abandoning branded content now is like leaving a wedding before they cut the cake. Don’t do it. You don’t have to produce as much branded content as you did before, and it will be more effective. The UGC that your fans create should give you a good idea of what kind of marketing imagery they want to see.

How people engage with social media depends a lot on their age, as we’ve written about before. Generally, we’ve found that Millennials and Generation Zers are the ones who are effusively creating user-generated content, while Generation X and the Baby Boomers tend to favor text-centric social networks like Twitter and Facebook. If you’ve got a multi-generational fanbase, respect that UGC is going to represent a more youthful experience of your brand. Let your own marketing materials represent the brand as it stands in the minds of the elder half of your audience.

2.  You (and your fans) need backup

Your fans can and do create beautiful pieces of UGC. But not all UGC is created equal. For every photo of cosmetics as applied by a professional makeup artist, there’s going to be four taken in a poorly-lit nightclub bathroom. You can try to request the ideal circumstances for the UGC on the landing pages of campaigns, and you can filter out the photos and videos that don’t represent your brand the way you’d like, but depending on the age and stature of your brand, that might not leave you with enough UGC for your promotional materials. Posting the same photographs over and over again is going to dull their impact on social media. Supporting your UGC with a steady stream of original branded content means you’ll always have one spare photo or video to spice up your Tweets and statuses.

These pieces of branded content can also work to inspire those of your fans who would like to see their UGC featured on your website and social channels. The best way you can support your fans in their pursuit of your approval is to show them exactly what you want. And what you want is the best of both worlds; sincere user-generated content with the production values of a professional.

3. UGC Won’t Reach Everyone

Sometimes the best way for your user-generated content to seem sincere is for it to be just a little flawed. Think of photographs taken while white-water rafting, out an airplane window, or from the middle of a dance floor. The blurry focus and crooked shots give UGC its signature spontaneity.

While your fans want you to use and share your photos, they also want to take photos that they enjoy taking. No matter what your marketing gallery needs, a staid, well-lit shot of your product just isn’t something your fans are going to be excited about contributing. These are, however, the shots that you’re going to need.

Why? Social commerce can turn Instagram shots into an immersive, convincing catalog—for anyone who’s likely to do their shopping online. But only about half the U.S. population has shopped online, leaving over a hundred million people who only do brick-and-mortar shopping.

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They’re not abstaining from online shopping because they don’t have Internet access. Eighty-nine percent of Americans do have access to the Internet, and 71 percent use the Internet everyday. They are choosing not to shop online. Maintaining a pipeline of branded marketing content means you will still have materials that are designed to reach your more traditional fans.

User-generated content should be a part of your marketing toolkit. It’s the most trusted form of media by Millennials and the results it can produce are unrivaled. But until 100 percent of shoppers are online or your fans consent to take enough practical images, there are still reasons to continue producing your own branded media.

What do you think about the relationship between branded content and UGC? Tell us in the comments. If you’re ready to collect some user-generated content for your brand, start designing your first UGC campaign today.