Why nailing UGC is crucial for brands looking to target Gen Z

Key takeaways:

  • UGC doesn’t equal low-quality content (when done correctly)
  • Social media platforms are pushing out UGC over hi-fi content
  • Youth audiences want content from creators who resonate with them, not brands
  • Prioritise a creator’s engagement rate rather than their follower count

What do you think of when you hear the term ‘user-generated content’, or ‘UGC’ as we say in the biz? Lo-fi selfie videos that break all your brand guidelines may come to mind. Clients often worry that going for this style of content will inevitably end up tarnishing their brand’s image. And if we’re being honest here, we don’t blame them—but that’s because they’ve probably only ever come across UGC done badly.

For quite some time now, user-generated content has been getting a bad rap in the industry for being low-quality and not always aligning with brand visuals, but we’re here to debunk myths surrounding UGC and prove that it’s in fact the most effective way to authentically engage with Gen Z users.

1. UGC isn’t synonymous with poor quality

Lo-fi doesn’t equal low quality. In fact, lo-fi is a whole aesthetic which conjures up images of nostalgia that inevitably resonate with every generation, particularly Gen Z. If you’ve got individuals making UGC around your brand that’s so raw it can successfully tap into that nostalgic sensibility, that’s gold dust. Don’t blow it.

The very fact that user-generated content may not adhere to your meticulously crafted brand guidelines can also be a helpful tool. Sure, you probably want your above-the-line advertising to stay as true as possible to your key campaign messaging and/or top product USPs, but the whole point of UGC is that it’s supposed to look and feel real.

2. Social media platforms prioritise creator-led content

TikTok, Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube are all currently putting creator-led content as their priority, meaning that distribution for UGC will ultimately always be better than hi-fi brand or publisher content that doesn’t have that authentic look and feel.

For brands, this means leveraging talents in their ads, day-to-day content and truly understanding how to centre your brand or product through creators that are entertaining, engaging and relatable.

TikTok has created an ecosystem that is purely built off of creator-led content because it knows just how successful it is to approach short-form content in this manner. That’s why many other social media platforms are following suit and shifting their focus onto short-from but more specifically, creator-led. Higher impacting ads, better conversions and more authentic delivery to younger audiences are just a few of the benefits as to why brands should be jumping on the UGC bandwagon. 

With the race to dominate the short-form content space on, we’ve already seen the likes of YouTube Shorts, Instagram and Facebook Reels crop up to attempt to shift algorithm focus to more creator-led and original content.

Betting on content that is inherently native to the platforms will result in smashed KPIs and happy clients. Unlike what most people will have you think, UGC doesn’t have to be raw and unedited in its final state. At SCREENSHOT Media’s agency arm, we have a global network of creators who provide UGC as the bedrock for many of our agency projects. We then edit this in-house to ensure everything is brand-safe and in line with our client’s campaign messaging. It’s not uncommon for us to go a step further and have our DOPs actually film creators at their homes to make sure we’re nailing those shots.

A UGC creator campaign across socials can be the perfect tool to amplify your brand’s message in a way that feels authentic and natural, in turn enhancing and bringing to life your above-the-line advertising activity.

3. Youth audiences want content from the right creators, not brands

A successful UGC campaign is achieved through a delicate balancing act of allowing the right creators to do what comes naturally to them while also guiding them with the right guidelines for your brand. It goes without saying that providing talents with some guidelines is almost always necessary, but remember one thing: if you’ve gone to a specific creator to produce UGC that they’ll then share on their own channels, remember that they know their audience best, so trust them. When the content is complete, their personalised expertise will show.

Digital natives will trust the opinions and experiences of their peers over company marketing, and user-generated content conveys genuine emotions and personal stories, creating an emotional connection between the brand and its target customers.

4. Follower numbers versus engagement rate

If you’re looking to go down the route of getting creators to provide you with UGC to use on your own channels, don’t fall into the trap of obsessing around their social media following. Newsflash: that’s really not a relevant metric to consider anymore. What you want to look at is their engagement and how deeply they engage in different #cores (stay tuned for more on that in a future post). Some of the best talents out there are yet to be discovered, so taking a punt on commissioning up-and-coming creators with low follow counts can be a super cost-effective way of producing content.

Long story short

When done correctly (by working with the perfect creators and providing them with the necessary guidelines for authentic but high-quality content), UGC can be incredibly effective because it taps into the power of authentic experiences and stories—something that Gen Z value way more than pristine-looking ads.

This in turn helps brands build trust, engagement, and a sense of community with their target demographic. Social media apps have already caught on to this, which is why they’re all pushing for creator-led content. So what’s stopping you from making the most of these major industry shifts?


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