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The State of UGC: Partnership Marketing Strategies - Find High Quality UGC Partners

To start, when it comes to campaign creative, no surprise: Content is still king. From photography to video to reviews and other formats, virtually every brand and agency in our survey reaffirmed the centrality of content to their work: 68 percent said that it always formed the core of their advertising. Nearly 100 percent confirmed it as a critical factor to at least some segment of their output.

“Brands need more content today than at any other point in history,” said Tom Logan, co-founder and CEO at Cohley, and he pointed to recent reporting on the amount of content-led competition marketers are up against. 

“I always go back to this 11-x stat: ‘Facebook announced its top-performing direct-response accounts, and they all had one thing in common. They created and tested 11-x more creative than the majority of advertisers.’ That’s a mountain sized challenge to address for the average marketer: How can they compete at scale?” 

In a time of dramatic e-commerce expansion (the at-home consumer is mostly shopping online), brands and agencies need a lot of content. It’s a race to keep up: as the chart below shows, 48 percent said they’re only sometimes pacing with the volume of material needed to create campaigns, and 7 percent said they’re often falling behind. In total, that means more than half — 55 percent of our respondents — are struggling with volume when it comes to the content they need.

Marketers and content demand

When it comes to the kinds of content that marketers are deploying overall, product videos and lifestyle photography account for the majority of the assets — 55 percent and 54 percent, respectively, as the chart on the next page shows. And, within their content-led efforts, marketers know the types of UGC that work well for their campaigns. Our data shows that marketers have identified the UGC that works best for them — i.e., in the chart on the next page, effectiveness and what they use the most are closely aligned.

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UGC: Demand and effectiveness

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Furthermore, when it comes to the state of needed content and UGC’s role in meeting campaign demands — user-generated content is not only here to stay, it’s going to be increasingly critical in the year to come. In our survey, 70 percent predicted a moderate to a significant rise in their demand for user generated campaign assets. At present, just over one-third — 34 percent — said they work with some UGC to augment their in-house creative and 7 percent are creating the majority of their campaign assets with UGC partners. In full, nearly half, 41 percent, are turning to UGC already

Marketers’ in-house and UGC split

Despite the demand, however, more than half (59 percent) are still attempting to keep pace with the demand for campaign content as a primarily internal project. For those marketers, there is something different happening around the way they build content-driven campaigns. So, what’s keeping the drive for more UGC from kicking into higher gear? While the move to at-home work might seem like a likely answer, the challenge before marketers working with UGC is largely unrelated to in-house teams working remotely. Only 14 percent of our respondents said distanced colleagues were the driving factor in their content-related challenges. Instead, as they hunt for UGC partners, they are finding it challenging to discover partners who can generate it at scale and meet quality standards — all the while representing a good match for the brand and target audience.

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Challenge point: Marketers struggle to discover high quality UGC creators

In our survey, marketers highlighted factors that complicate their engagement with UGC.

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The quest for scale is certainly notable: among our respondents, 79 percent said they struggle to discover high-quality creators — but only 27 percent said there isn’t enough of it out there. In other words, the problem isn’t scarcity, it’s discoverability. With all of these factors in play, the question becomes: what are marketers doing to solve the challenges they cite?

Mapping solutions to UGC challenges

Successfully discovering high-quality UGC partners is a large part of what’s affecting 79 percent of our survey respondents, but another factor is at work, as well: 40 percent said workflows were a challenge. 

KMS Media Solutions helps brands that have struggled with discovering high-quality UGC creatives for their marketing campaigns, and the firm has also addressed how workflows can slow or interrupt a team’s path to adoption. 

“I think it comes down to knowing what you’re looking for and understanding that with all of these content creators, it’s not a product shoot,” said KMS Media Solutions president Kim Snell. “They have to have some sort of freedom to create content that is true to them. It’s getting them to understand that if we hold these creators inside a small box, we’re going to get lower quality content. It’s not going to be authentic to who they are. And it’s going to feel forced.” 

In other words, creative freedom fuels higher quality in the hands of talented UGC partners. And, as Snell has worked to address the workflow for brands, she’s come to understand their main disconnects as a two-pronged scenario. One prong is that of inefficient planning. Teams aren’t taking three months to plot out a campaign; they’re often working on a just-in-time basis. Another prong amounts to a recurring confidence gap around the very concept of including creators outside the in-house team. 

Success can boil down to a clear internal mandate, according to Snell: “Just getting them used to the fact that if we want content to show their product being used in different ways with different types of people,” she said, “we’re going to have to loosen up the reins a little bit.”

Solving for legacy thinking that might prevent that, Snell said, often comes down to the moment the team puts eyes on a fresh take from UGC talent. “They’re not having to spend so much of their time, and they’re getting different photos they couldn’t otherwise get — or it would cost thousands of dollars just to get those types of photos,” said Snell.

Strategy snapshot: Creators and social media

For many UGC creators, the social feed is sacrosanct, and they aren’t always willing to populate it with heavily branded material. Another way to access high-quality content from premium makers, then, is to not require them to post the campaign assets across their own social-media accounts, freeing them to follow brand guidelines without worrying about the material crossing over into the digital cornerstones of their personal brand messaging. One approach to loosening the reins, according to Davitha Ghiassi, executive vice president of social and integration at Red Havas U.S., is to identify in-house stakeholders who will stand up for new strategies that include UGC creators. 

“What I would say works across the board, whether it’s a smaller or a bigger organization, is to allocate advocates,” she said. “Be really clear on who are the advocates for content and for creativity across the different types of divisions, whether it’s marketing or sales or whatnot.” 

Especially for smaller companies, Ghiassi said, “They can’t do it all in house, clearly, because they don’t have that kind of scale and size. So, they need to tap into clever partnerships. “And it takes having someone internally who is invested in understanding the content space,” Ghiassi continued, “the social, the mobile space, the influencer space, and really can identify the right tools and partners to engage and also the level of investment that should be allocated.”

Read more about creating user generated content here.

Finding UGC Creators is all about leveraging the tools you have

By leveraging tools like social media and social listening applications, UGC creators can be spotted and contacted in an instant. With Cohley, you’ll be able to manage and maintain UGC campaigns without having to open thousands of spreadsheets. Get in touch with one of our awesome salespeople today!