In recent years, the proliferation of smartphones and social media has had a profound effect on how we communicate; with a camera in every pocket, and the ability to distribute our photos around the world in an instant, everyone has become a creator, a curator and a publisher of images.
Our lives are played out on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, in snapped selfies, carefully-composed food shots, reaction GIFs and memes. Over 80 million photos are shared on Instagram every day, while Facebook racks up an astonishing 300 million photo uploads a day.
This plethora of imagery means that – for the first time – brands no longer control the conversation; in the time it takes a brand to create one glossy, highly-polished promotional image, the wider public has shared hundreds of thousands of pieces of content. And with studies showing that as much as 66% of UK consumers place more trust in customer photos than in brand creative, it's clear that they value authenticity over the hard sell.
User-generated content creates a huge opportunity – consumers have opened the floodgates on their own creativity, with brands at the centre of it all. Among the millions of pictures taken every day, brands figure heavily whether as an incidental detail in a casually-snapped image, or at the heart of an artfully-composed shot. Crucially, they also appear organically - as an authentic element in the consumer's day-to-day life. That's value that can't be bought – and in harnessing their customers' creativity, brands can also turn passive consumers into active advocates for their product.
We live in a non-linear world – from the devices we use to the customer journey – and creating a cohesive brand story has never been more important. What better way to do that than by inviting consumers to become creative contributors and influencers? That's how you win loyalty and stand out in an oversaturated media environment.
Five ways to make the most of user-generated content
Increase brand assets
Turn user-generated content into meaningful brand assets by creating simple hashtags, distributing it across all channels – including offline – and collecting and tagging content. And don't forget to request permission to use it – it can avoid headaches down the line.
Open a two-way dialogue
User-generated content is the currency you need to open up a conversation with consumers. Seize this opportunity to spark creativity among the community – and explore how they're actually using your product.
Turn bystanders into buyers
By connecting user-generated content with specific experiences, you can increase conversion rates. For example, someone researching a holiday is far more likely to respond to user-generated photos than to a resort's stock photos when planning their dream destination.
Turn customers into advocates
Through user-generated content, you can identify your most enthusiastic consumers – and make the most of their creativity and loyalty. Long-tail influencers – those whose opinions carry weight within a niche of consumers – are more valuable than social-media stars with massive followings.
Go on a journey with your customers
User-generated content isn't a fire-and-forget solution – it's best deployed along the whole consumer journey. All marketing channels become more effective when earned content is used – and it helps creates a consistent experience for your customers.
The sheer amount of user-generated content available to you presents a unique challenge – and that's where Olapic comes in. It allows you to unleash your consumers' creativity – bringing their experiences to a wider audience while showcasing brands in an organic, authentic way. To find out more, join Olapic at Cannes – where you'll find the best content from Cannes delegates, collected and curated on the hashtag #MyCannesLions. And if you're not attending, you can experience Cannes Lions through the eyes of delegates at www.olapic.com/cannes from 19 June.