User generated content (UGC) is one of the biggest trends in marketing in 2022. UGC is content created by your customers/users about your brand or your products.
UGC is making waves because, for decades, we’ve been stuck in a repetitive marketing paradigm where brands relentlessly promote themselves and their products to consumers.
UGC disrupts this paradigm by focusing on the opinions and experiences of unbiased customers, who are seen as more trustworthy than brands themselves.
(Although customers are not always as unbiased as they seem… more on this later.)
UGC is so effective because potential consumers view it as more authentic, trustworthy, clickable, engaging, and memorable than content and advertising created directly by brands, which is often viewed with suspicion. This suspicion is justified, as brands are financially incentivized to always present their products in the best possible light.
When it comes to UGC, brands instead step into the role of curator and amplifier: encouraging and then curating the kinds of UGC they want, and amplifying that UGC using their own platform to extend its reach and impact.
To bring this concept to life, here are two examples of famous UGC campaigns.
Burberry’s "Art of the Trench" UGC Campaign
Burberry’s Art of the Trench campaign encouraged customers to submit images of themselves wearing an iconic Burberry trench-coat. The brand then curated these submissions, selecting only those that reflected Burberry’s brand values of luxury and style. Next, they amplified the best submissions on a dedicated mini-site which quickly went viral.
Coke’s “Share a Coke” UGC Campaign
The “Share a Coke” campaign is arguably the world’s most successful UGC campaign, netting Coke an estimated 25 million new Facebook followers.
Making its debut in Australia, the campaign saw Coke print the top 150 most common names in the country on Coke cans and bottles and encouraged customers to share photos of themselves “sharing a coke” with someone important to them. Coke then curated and amplified the best submissions on the company’s social media accounts. The campaign was extremely effective not just because of its viral nature, but because it strengthened the company’s brand by associating drinking Coke with meaningful social connections.
While both these campaigns are famous examples of UGC, they’re also several years old now. So why is UGC still a hot topic in marketing in 2022?
2022: The year of UGC videos and GIFs
Both the previously mentioned campaigns focus on static images. But UGC is truly brought to life when presented in a video-style format. Brands are only just starting to realise the power of UGC presented as a video or GIF.
In 2022, Meta announced that users spend half their time on Instagram and Facebook watching videos. This is remarkable for two platforms that got their start specialising in static images and text updates.
As well as being an engaging form of content, video supercharges UGC by showing customers physically interacting with your products. This is especially powerful in the world of eCommerce, where customers often can’t touch, taste, or feel your products before they make a purchase.
Alongside videos, UGC GIFs are an excellent tool for making video-style UGC more portable and able to be displayed in contexts where video typically doesn’t work well, such as in marketing emails. UGC GIFs can also be used to extract key highlights from longer-form videos, making these shortened highlights extra shareable in a low-attention world.
From here, we’ll share examples of 7 types of UGC GIFs, and show you why each one is a great fit for the GIF format.
Showcase customer reviews and social media posts in GIF format
If your brand has reviews or social media posts from customers sharing their experiences with your products, then you’ve already got UGC GIF material to work with. A simple but highly effective form of UGC is to collate reviews, customer feedback, and positive social media posts into a UGC GIF.
As a bonus, showcasing positive UGC from many different customers in a single UGC GIF also creates the impression that there’s an upswell of momentum and hype behind your brand.
Use UGC GIFs to show happy customers with your product
Simple but effective, this type of UGC GIF focuses on showing customers who are visibly thrilled with your product. If the customer is similar to the person viewing the UGC GIF, then the viewer is more likely to imagine themselves being happy with the product too.
Now’s a good time to address the elephant in the room: it’s often difficult to separate a genuine UGC GIF from UGC-style content which is increasingly being generated by brands. While genuine UGC is effective, it’s organic and therefore difficult for companies to control - they may not get as much high quality UGC as they need to support their marketing campaigns.
In response to this supply challenge many brands have started creating their own GIF content which looks like UGC, but isn’t. This content may use real customers who are incentivised to share positive experiences, or paid actors and models who look like ordinary people. This article most likely includes a mix of genuine UGC and UGC-style content created by brands. Regardless, both types of content are valuable sources of inspiration for marketers who want to do more with the GIF format.
Use UGC GIFs to show different use cases for your products
You can use UGC GIFs to introduce potential customers of your business to the different use cases for your product, or the different problems it can be used to solve. The aim of this kind of UGC GIF is to encourage the viewer to see how the product might fit into their own daily life.
Mitigate potential concerns about your product
Mitigating potential concerns about your product is an essential part of your sales process. This is more important for some products rather than others - for example, new products that consumers don’t quite understand yet, or categories of products that may have negative stereotypes associated with them.
This UGC GIF from Biutest helps to mitigate a likely concern about laser hair removal: that it’s very painful. It’s clear that after some initial discomfort, the customer eventually adjusts to the feeling of the laser and is even able to smile. In just a few seconds of GIF animation, one of the core concerns about laser hair removal has been mitigated. How powerful is that?
If you’re not sure what kinds of concerns potential customers might have about your product, start with the basic concern behind most buying decisions: What if it doesn’t work? What if this perfume smells bad, what if these hiking boots aren’t comfortable, what if this cleaning product doesn’t clean? Almost every product you can imagine has a “What if it doesn’t work?” concern that you can address with UGC GIFs.
The below example from a salon called CurlPop addresses the “What if it doesn’t work?” concern - the salon promises to make your curls pop, and this UGC GIF of a real customer shows springy, healthy-looking curls at the end of a hair treatment. This form of UGC GIF is so simple, yet so effective.
Use UGC GIFs to help potential customers virtually touch, taste, smell, and feel your product
Most marketers have heard of famous studies showing that customers are much more likely to buy a product after they’ve held it in their hands. But what does this mean for our increasingly online world, where most eCommerce purchasing decisions must be made without the opportunity to touch, taste, smell or feel the product? We can use UGC GIFs to give viewers the next best experience.
UGC GIFs that shows customers using their senses to engage with products are highly valuable for brands. When the viewer sees a customer touching and interacting with a product, it makes it easier for them to imagine what it’d feel like to touch and interact with that product themselves.
Show off the unboxing experience in a UGC GIF
For customers purchasing physical products online it’s important that the unboxing experience is a key moment of delight. UGC GIFs based around the unboxing experience give viewers a quick sense of what it’d be like to unbox their purchase from you. This can be especially effective when your packaging or unboxing experience is unique or remarkable.
Turn key moments from influencer marketing into shareable UGC GIFs
Despite its power, UGC suffers from the chicken and egg problem - how can you get UGC if you don’t have any customers or users yet? One solution to start generating UGC for a new brand is to leverage influencer marketing, either by paying social media influencers to create UGC for your brand, or giving them free product in return for UGC. While this kind of UGC is arguably less authentic than organic UGC, it still typically outperforms brand-generated content.
While more brands than ever before are exploring influencer marketing, the practice of repurposing influencer generated content into short, easily shareable GIFs is still in its infancy. Imagine the power of being able to share key moments from an influencer’s Instagram Reel about your brand in your latest email campaign - GIFs make this possible.
One trailblazer in this area is Très She, a brand selling instant acrylic nails. Très She are constantly squeezing extra value out of their influencer marketing campaigns by creating short ‘highlight’ GIFs cut from longer social media posts from influencers. We believe this clever repurposing of existing content into GIFs is an example that many other brands should, and will, follow in 2022.
But remember… make it quick!
Although UGC GIFs are an incredibly powerful tool to have in your marketing toolbox, it’s critical that your marketing GIFs load quickly - especially in a world where a load time over 2 seconds can make or break your click-through or conversion rates.
While we can’t generate creative, authentic, heartwarming, and fun UGC for you (only your customers can do that!) we can make your GIFs load faster.
What did we miss?
Let us know in the comments which brands you think are killing it with UGC. Bonus points if they’re using GIFs to take their UGC strategy to the next level.