What Brands Can Learn From How Generations Consume UGC

It’s hard to scroll through any social media feed without stumbling across a raving-but more often than not, ranting-review of a brand. Be honest: Who doesn’t like to Instagram a picture of their food from a new restaurant with a quick praise or jab about the overall experience? Whatever your passion-food, fashion, technology, or something entirely different-user-generated content in this age of mobility has become a way for people to share and connect about brands, products, and the user experience. But not every generation shares and consumes UGC the same way, and brands are starting to take notice.

A Difference of Opinions

According to a survey done by Olapic, baby boomers and Millennials view UGC differently. While both generations have similar views regarding content brands create themselves, Millennials are more likely to trust UGC than boomers. Why? The answer could be as simple as a hashtag. Olapic’s data shows over half of Millennials use hashtags to specifically let their friends and brands know their preferences, while half of Boomers don’t even use hashtags at all. #cray.

With so many social media platforms fingertip-accessible, personal preference dictates where consumers spend their time. Not surprisingly, those preferences demonstrate how different generations consume and react to brand content. Millennials, for example, largely prefer photos in their UGC, which would easily explain Instagram’s rise in popularity among what is now, according to Pew Research Center, America’s largest generation. In contrast, 90 percent of Boomers prefer Facebook, coinciding with their desire for written content and videos. (See the infographic from Olapic in Figure 1 for a thorough breakdown of the survey findings.) Even though Millennials and Boomers may have different tendencies online, both generations do agree about something very important concerning UGC: Authenticity matters.

Figure 1. Source: Olapic

Click here to see larger image.

The Common Denominator

In news that is no surprise to anyone, people aren’t looking for branded content. Both generations trust photos shared by real people more than photos and ads created by brands themselves. If your mother or grandma (because they’re all on The Facebook) shares a picture on Facebook of her new “hip sunglasses,” prospective consumers are more likely to trust this user-generated image more than an ad for the same product lingering on the side of their news feed.

Why the trend toward UGC trust? Olapic’s research found consumers see UGC, more specifically photos and images, as a more honest depiction of brands and products. In fact, more than one in four people are now turning to UGC rather than conventional forms of advertising before making a purchase.

That sunglasses picture, then, might just be more useful than it looks. All in all, despite a difference in tendencies and preferences online, Millennials and Boomers alike are changing the culture surrounding UGC. Brands can capitalize by taking a page from the UGC playbook when it comes to advertising: Go for relatable, authentic content that encourages conversation. Better yet, use trusted influencers, with the right kinds of audiences, who can help create the kind of real messaging you seek, compensate them well, and results will follow. Need help with that, holler. We’d love to help.

Photo Credit: Rjbeltranena Flickr via Compfight cc

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