It’s time to embrace the rough-and-readiness of UGC

Attention brands: It’s time to embrace the rough-and-readiness of User Generated Content (UGC).  Utilising the user of your product/service, or even your own employees as the face of your brand in your social media content is nothing new. But not enough brands are fully embracing this, instead investing more into highly produced content that rarely lands with as much impact. 
Seeing people just like us on social media garners a human interaction as opposed to the cold, carefully curated content that brands continue to fall victim to. The magic word that differentiates the two? Authenticity.

In fact, social media users are making it even more obvious that they’re hungry for more ‘real life, in the moment, unfiltered’ content, from people just like them. 58% of Instagram users agree that brands shouldn’t be afraid of posting raw, unpolished content.  

Look at the rise of TikTok. Even if you've never opened the app before, you'll instantly be served with an endless feed of content, 90% of which has been created in-app. Not in a studio, or on location. And if you do see anything in that vein, chances are you'll scroll right past it, in desperate bid to see more in-the-moment content from real users. 


Employees as influencers

There are several brands that are leading the way in how UGC is embraced as the primary content format on social media. Marks and Spencer, often attributed with words such as 'British institution, knickers and Percy Pigs', is a real pioneer in prioritising UGC. In fact it's EGC (Employee Generated Content) that makes them stand well above their competitors in the social space. Many brands no doubt faced a conundrum when TikTok emerged, scrambling together and pondering 'What on earth do we do on this app?', all whilst in the middle of a pandemic when big budget shoots came to a grinding halt. 
M&S embraced their own employees, who had been taking it upon themselves to create content on behalf of their branch. Instead of shutting down the channels in favour of a centrally managed account, M&S gave them full trust. These are employees who work day-in, day-out in store, serving customers and gaining endless gold nuggets of feedback from customers that Head Office employees could only dream of. 

The TikTok account @mandsromford has been the true runaway success of the bunch. The infectious personalities of the team comes through in abundance in their wholesome, humorous content. They naturally take to trends in a seemingly more authentic way than if the brand meticulously planned each video. They pick up their phones, capture the content and most importantly, clearly have fun doing it.  
This only creates an even more positive sentiment towards the brand and is a powerful tool at acquiring new customers to the store (who doesn't want to be served by staff dancing their way down the aisles?), and potentially even attracting new recruits to a career with M&S. Having your employees front and centre of your content, perfectly embodying your brand values and ethos is a sure-fire way to inspire someone to submit a job application.


Something for everyone

In addition to this, they lead the way with their brand ambassador programme on Instagram. Their employees have become nano and micro influencers for the brand, with an account for every target customer persona: the 40-something-year-old dad, the female style magpie in her early twenties, the fitness fanatic mum. Their content then gets used across the central brand social accounts, the website and in ad campaigns to inspire customers in lieu of traditional, unrelatable models. 


Trusting the creator

Of course, behind the smoke and mirrors there will be an element of light control and guidance from central support teams. A top-level brief such as “it's Valentine’s Day coming up and we want to highlight our fantastic new range. How can you support?” is as far as you need to go to ensure teams aren't going too off piste. After all, it's them, the content creators, who are the experts here. They've proven they can engage an audience, so make use of that expertise to amplify your message. Ultimately, it's about trust and accepting that when it comes to social media, it doesn't have to be perfect as it's these slightly unpolished pieces of content that we connect with far better as human beings. 


The Royal Navy and EGC

We've supported the Royal Navy by harnessing their employees to recruit the future generation of sailors. From day-in-the-life takeovers to Q&As, the Navy's recruiting audience laps up any opportunity where they get to see people, just like them, fulfilling a career and a lifestyle that they aspire to. Our 10-week HMS Raleigh takeover last summer, offering a glimpse into the first phase of recruit training, reached 2.2M users. This cyclical, recurring takeover offered more realistic insight and support, with recruits openly sharing their experiences, than any glossy video or informative landing page ever could.


The time is now

Our words of encouragement? Embrace the users of your brand and embrace your employees as the storytellers of your business. They create more meaningful human interactions and act as genuine advocates for your business, making your offering even more appealing. The next time you think about a new creative for your brand, remind yourself of who your customer is and consider whether instead they can help tell your story. 

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