[Aspire Higher] The power of community-generated content

Thu Oct 15 2020
Jenn Kim

In our digital world, good content is everything. The average American adult spends more than 11 hours per day consuming media, which is more than ⅔ of waking hours. This surge in screen time leaves brands fighting for consumers’ attention, whether it be through ads or organic social posts. 

Enter community-generated content — the genuine social posts, unboxing videos, customer reviews, and more created by a brand’s community that compel consumers to think, feel, act, and share. When utilized strategically, this powerful tool can create an ecosystem of community stories amplified by your brand. 

This was the hot topic of discussion at our latest Aspire Higher event, a speaker series where we bring together top marketers from leading brands to get their perspectives on marketing trends and best practices. In this session, our very own Senior Marketing Strategist, Madison Smith, moderated a discussion about how to repurpose community-generated content to inject authenticity into campaigns, connect with target audiences, and drive organic growth. Among the panelists were: 

  • Lauren Hurt, former Senior Manager of Influencer Marketing at Home Chef
  • Kristina Aviles, Influencer Marketing Sr. Specialist at VENUS Fashion Inc.
  • Lindsay McClelland, Head of Influencer Marketing and Social Media at FitGrid (formerly the Director of Marketing at YogaClub)

If you missed it, watch the recording here or read on for the highlights of their conversation.

Community-generated content performs better than brand-directed content. 

Kristina, Lauren, and Lindsay all agreed that practically anyone can be a part of your brand community. Whether they be influencers, customers, employees, or industry professionals, they advised finding those who are passionate about your brand and align with your goals. That way, the branded content they create fits organically with their lifestyles, which leads to more trust and higher engagement. 

For instance, Lauren shared that Home Chef encourages its community to bring the brand into their content as naturally as possible. Because of this, the brand’s community-generated content consistently performs 10-15% more efficiently than its in-house creative, especially when the content comes from an influencer’s handle rather than Home Chef’s account. She reported, “We’ve been amazed not only by the performance but by the longevity of the content, some that we’ve been able to run efficiently for 6+ months with little fatigue.”

Community-generated content is diverse. 

Lindsay and Kristina both explained that one of the biggest benefits of community-generated content is the ease of sourcing diverse content.

At her previous role at YogaClub, Lindsay recalled being able to launch a plus-size line without having to hire any plus-size models. Instead, the brand leveraged influencers and real customers to showcase its new product line and its wide range of sizes, and repurposed their images and unboxings in the brand’s ads, emails, and social channels. 

Similarly, Kristina says that reposting images from VENUS Fashion’s influencers and customers allows the brand to source unique content that is relatable and authentic. She explained, “As a fashion brand, people like seeing what our clothes and swimwear look like on real people who look like them and they like seeing how other people style our products and create different outfits. With our community creating branded content for their own channels in addition to us repurposing their content, we’re able appeal to a larger audience.”

Video content is king.

Video content is incredibly impactful. Videos are not only more entertaining, but also easier for a brand (or influencer) to get a clear message across to its audience. Consumers resonate with videos because they’re able to fully understand the benefits of a product, promotions that a brand is offering, and the like. 

For instance, Home Chef’s audience enjoys seeing the variety of meals that the brand offers, the type of packaging the food arrives in, and the online experience of shopping at HomeChef.com. That being said, the brand has seen the most success when an influencer creates video content via Instagram Stories and YouTube. 

Lindsay agreed that video resonates most with FitGrid’s audience as well, and added that it’s especially powerful when an influencer speaks directly to their audience. 

From Kristina’s experience, VENUS’ customers engage deeply with unboxing videos and try-on hauls because they showcase how certain clothing items look on a real person and equips VENUS’ followers with styling tips and outfit ideas.

Repurpose community-generated content to meet customers where they are.

All 3 marketers agreed that repurposing content on Instagram is a must, but Kristina and Lauren both said that their brands are reposting content across many different channels, including social platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube, as well as more traditional channels like email and TV. 

VENUS also plans to incorporate community-generated content onto its website. Kristina explained, “We’re looking into incorporating them on the product display pages, so that when a customer is shopping, she can see the product on the model and also see how someone else styled the product.”

At Home Chef, Lauren is experimenting with TikTok. So far, the brand is seeing influencer content that incorporates TikTok trends resonates the most with users on the short-form video platform. She praised the influencers for their creative content, saying, “We anticipate our ‘influencer content engine’ will help the larger team to keep innovating as new content is created.”

Passionate brand fans create the best content. 

One of the biggest challenges in influencer marketing is finding brand partners who are truly excited about their products and company — not those who treat it as a transactional partnership. However, when brands do find those passionate advocates, they create content that organically boosts brand awareness, regardless of if they have a huge following or not. 

Kristina explained, “When our community shares content — whether they’re influencers or customers — they’re reaching their audience. Even if that’s to their 20 friends on Facebook or their 200K followers on Instagram, it’s still a win.”

Shift your content strategies in a way that is authentic to your brand.

It’s no secret that 2020 has thrown marketers some major curveballs, making it necessary to shift their content strategies. Each of the marketing leaders shared their experiences navigating COVID-19 and evolving their content strategies to fit with the current times. 

Lauren shared that Home Chef was lucky enough to be in a category that has skyrocketed during the pandemic. As people started social distancing, many new customers turned to Home Chef to avoid the grocery store. The brand saw it as a chance to get creative with its content and pass the mic to its community. 

Lauren stated, “During the early days of the pandemic, we asked several of our customers to explain to us via video what ‘home’ meant to them. We had customers film themselves at home interacting with our product and compiled footage together for streaming and social ads. Working with our customers to garner authentic testimonials and footage of how Home Chef had helped them during the pandemic was a great way to keep our message relevant during a tough time.” In addition, the brand leveraged the expertise of its chefs. “We recently did a spotlight series on organic social showcasing each of the Home Chef chefs at their makeshift ‘in home’ test kitchens as they recipe tested in a WFH environment.”

For VENUS, it was about being empathetic and sensitive to its community. The brand was first mindful of its influencers and shifted its campaigns to fit the stay-at-home lifestyle. Instead of summer vacations, it was all about staycations; instead of date night out, it was date night in. And so on. 

Additionally, the brand found new ways to keep customers engaged while encouraging them to stay at home. Kristina explained,  “We’ve had a lot of influencers do Instagram takeovers sharing at-home workouts while wearing our activewear, sharing Zoom Happy Hour looks and cocktail recipes, and date-night-in ideas and outfits.”

Lastly, Lindsay shared that FitGrid kept in close contact with its studio owners, who were massively impacted by the pandemic. The brand used those learnings to create relevant content, such as blog posts and downloadable workout guides, to help people navigate through such an unprecedented time. 

The bottom line is that there’s no right way to navigate future uncertainties. When it comes time to shift, marketers need to focus on what feels authentic for their brand and for their community. 


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