In the era of authenticity, consumers crave genuine connections with brands, fuelling the surge in influencer marketing. However, harnessing the power of user-generated content (UGC) carries both promise and peril for brand image. To successfully navigate these challenges, specialised tools that grasp the nuances and context of UGC are essential.
In the age of authenticity, consumers seek the 'true you,' posing both a great opportunity and a significant challenge for brands. While authenticity is in high demand, brands are expected to maintain a flawless image. Meanwhile, users and influencers must embody authenticity. Is there a way for brands to protect their image while also collaborating with genuine ambassadors? The answer is a resounding yes.
Influencer Marketing started with blogging platforms in the 1990s and is now a multi-billion dollar industry. In 2023, brands worldwide allocate substantial budgets to influencer marketing. It's a phenomenon born from the ‘creator economy,’ – a software-mediated economy enabling digital creators to earn revenue from their content.
The creator economy grants a voice to the common entity and “everyman”, fostering niche communities and connecting like-minded individuals. Creators influence their communities and its interconnected ecosystem. They are innately trusted as 'community experts' who understand their audience because they are a part of it.
This relatability, approachability, and above all, trustworthiness, are why brands seek partnerships with influencers. Ultimately, word-of-mouth recommendations have always been the gold standard for lead generation, and influencer marketing is just a modern day extension of this concept, operating on a massive scale.
User-generated content (UGC) holds immense potential as it unlocks true engagement. Initiatives like National Geographic’s #WanderlustContest photo contest or #AerieReal's donation campaign based on unedited pictures by followers, are great examples. Such campaigns engage users voluntarily, bridging the gap between brands and consumers.
Influencers invest great time and effort in curating their content, making it appear effortless but it is often the result of multiple attempts at being ‘perfect.’ However, we are all humans and at the end of the day influencers commit to a personal brand, meaning that they must – to some extent – embody their own brand day-in and day-out and this is a tiresome task. As humans we are de-facto fallible creatures and posting content that doesn’t completely resonate with specific brands may happen – and that is OK. What's crucial is that the brand is aware of it, allowing prevention rather than damage control.
Consider a successful vegan skincare brand partnering with a macro influencer who used to engage in hunting as a teenager, with a collection of nostalgic hunting photos on her social profiles. Now, human nature is perverse and trolling is a thing. A vegaphobic community, who hates these types of brands, may publicly attack both influencer and brand, resulting in a PR crisis. Weird scenario, I know. But welcome to the unpredictable world of user-generated content, where such scenarios are not far-fetched.
With the right tools in place, influencer marketing platforms can ensure both brands and influencers stay on track. This is especially crucial during the discovery phase when potential influencers are vetted to ensure their content aligns with specific brand values.
During this phase, understanding nuance, cultural cues, and the context of an influencer's posts is essential. At Unitary, we specialise in precisely this - understanding UGC. We analyse the meaning of comments, captions, background music, audio, voice-overs, and all forms of video content. A swimsuit influencer posting semi-exposed content may resonate well with European brands but not with Middle Eastern ones. We consider these cultural differences, ensuring accuracy at scale and minimising false positives and negatives.
By helping you ensure brand safety via compliance-based understanding of creators’ content, the right moderation tool helps you assist brands in the best way possible. Brands are becoming increasingly daring, open-minded and willing to be disruptive by tapping into specific niches, and influencers are a powerful tool to connect with those communities. As the demand for brand-consumer connections grows, adopting tools that maximise safety without compromising authenticity becomes paramount. As someone dealing with the beauty and perils of UGC, are you best prepared to be successful?