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The marketing world’s a funny place.

Every so often a new trend rears its head and is quickly prophesied to be the next big thing, spawning countless pieces detailing “the new trend every marketer needs to adopt in 20XX”.

However, it’s often hit or miss with these trends. Some, like content marketing, prove their worth and stand the test of time. Others, like QR codes, see a fall from grace almost as rapid as their rise to fame.

So what is it that makes some trends thrive whilst others die? It’s difficult to say, there appears to be no solid correlation between those that last or those that don’t. What is apparent however, is something that seems to escape the notice of the majority of people who cover the marketing industry.

Most Trends Aren’t New

That may be a little all-encompassing, so let us explain using our two aforementioned marketing trends.

Content marketing as a concept isn’t new. For years brands have endeavoured to produce collateral which helps establish their brand as the most trustworthy, valuable purchase in their sector.

One of the earliest examples is from 1732, when Benjamin Franklin published Poor Richard’s Almanack to help promote his printing business. All that changed for content marketing was the medium.

user generated content

Source

Thanks to digital developments everyone from the small solopreneur to the multinational can now produce content establishing themselves as trustworthy authorities.

So what about QR codes? Surely they’re new as they require mobile devices to work.

True, but again, it was just the method that changed. The underlying concept and strategy has remained the same since advertisements were first run.

The goal of a QR code is to simplify the journey from one form of media to a potential conversion channel.

For example, print ads including QR codes redirecting you to an online store. How is this any different from listing an address on the ad? Or including a phone number to call to purchase a product?

user generated content

Check the address at the bottom of the page (source)

It’s not, it’s simply a shift in focus that takes advantage of new technology.  

One of the new marketing trends gaining traction is that of User Generated Content (UGC). Marketers are going crazy over the potential of bringing your users into your content cycle through digital channels.

Everyone is talking about it like it’s the next big thing, but once again, it’s nothing new.

UGC Dates Back as Far as the 1700s

Open any modern newspaper and you’ll find some form of UGC. Some feature the thoughts of readers sent via text message, a development of opinion pieces which stem from traditional letters to the editor.

These letters to the editor are one of the first instances of UGC. From as far back as the 18th century newspapers have been soliciting the thoughts of readers and publishing them for the masses to read.

User generated content

Source

It is the quintessential example of using an audience to produce content that will appeal to other members of that audience.

The Introduction of the Internet

UGC remained largely unchanged for a very long time. It was only with the introduction of the internet that things really started to take off.

Throughout the 90s various eBulletin boards became quite popular. They were around before the introduction of popular web browsers, this meant they were only really available to tech experts of the time.

The format they took were generally discussion boards, and so are a prime example of gathering content from a group of interested users.

One of the most notable examples is the site now ubiquitous with the movie industry, IMDB. The site started in 1990 as rec.arts.movies, a year before the mass introduction of the first web browser. During that period it was simply a collection of scripts which allowed you to search movie credits collected by USENET members.

From collecting, collating, and organising user generated content, IMDB has grown to become one of the most trafficked sites in the world today.

user generated contentuser generated content

There aren’t any images of IMDB in 1990, however, you can still check the archive of the site as it was back then. On the bottom is how the site looks today.

Through the 2000s

Thanks to development in tech, it was the 2000s which really saw UGC take off.

The BBC was one of the companies leading the charge from a journalistic standpoint in UGC. After the Indian Ocean tsunami, they received thousands of emails from worried relatives of those holidaying in Thailand, along with eyewitness accounts.

Noticing the potential, the BBC ran a three month trial with three of their journalists tasked to gather user content. During this trial, the 7/7 terrorist attacks took place and the UGC team were pivotal in the collection, sorting, and publication of data that led to the BBC identifying all attack locations within one hour.

After this, the BBC’s UGC team were there to stay.

Within the same year, a collection of tech entrepreneurs in California launched Youtube. A site which relied entirely on video content generated by its users.

user generated content

A look at Youtube just after it launched in 2005 (source)

Youtube really opened things up for UGC. Not only was it taking full advantage of tech developments, but it would go on to become one of the world’s most profitable businesses despite creating very little content of their own.

UGC Today

Thanks to the success of UGC teams in businesses like the BBC and Youtube, an increasing number of brands are experimenting with collecting their own versions of UGC.

It’s something that’s been made much easier thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices and social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Users are forever snapping selfies, sharing opinions, and publishing their own content on everything from restaurant meals to events and holidays to TV shows.

Social media offers a more honest look into the workings of the world and opinions of the average person. There’s no regulatory body or board of directors skewing the message or pushing an agenda, and users know this.

They know social media provides access to a far greater breadth of knowledge, and gives direct, unfiltered access to many public figures they’ve always wanted to speak to.

With the increased focus on social media, there has of course been a growth in it’s own user base and the creation of its very own celebrities.

Users who consistently generate content with high engagement grow to become influencers. They amass a following of millions of users and have a huge amount of impact on their decisions.

Smart brands are not only looking to solicit new content from the average user, but are soliciting help from these influencers to tap into their huge networks.

user generated content

An example of influencer marketing on Instagram (Source)

UGC is a Powerful Tool Brands Need to Leverage

Like many marketing trends UGC isn’t really anything new. The concept has been around for a few centuries at this point, the only thing that’s changed is how we collect, curate, and publish the content users create.

Thanks to the average user’s always connected mentality, there’s a continuously updated plethora of content out there for brands to collect. Content which is going to speak directly to the wants, needs, and desires of a target audience because it is created by them.

It’s made researching key messaging easy for brands, often giving them the opportunity to simply swipe the message, images, and content that resonate with their audience.

If you’d like to find out how UGC can impact your brand’s loyalty, engagement and conversions, contact one of our Customer Success Consultants today.

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