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Marketing to Millennials: Why User-Generated Content Is King

Samuel Hum
Samuel Hum
May 15, 2014
2 min read
Marketing to Millennials: Why User-Generated Content Is King
user generated content

An infographic by Crowdtap and Ipsos showed how much millennials (individuals born in the 1980s or later) use and trust user-generated content (UGC).

Here are some interesting facts:

  • Millennials trust UGC 50% more than other media. This doesn't surprise us in the least, and we'll explore why below.
  • More millennials trust peer reviews (68%) than professional reviews (64%!). Think Wikipedia vs Encyclopædia Britannica. Just because something is 'professional' doesn't mean it's accurate.
  • UGC influences millennials' purchasing decisions 20% more than other media. After all, would you still readily buy something after reading a bad review?

But why do millennials trust UGC more?

1. We all trust peers more than ads.

This has been proven over and over again in multiple studies– Nielsen, Forrester, Bazaarvoice, the list goes on. Why is this the case?

We all know that advertising exists for the primary purpose of selling things to us. It wasn't too long ago that tobacco companies used doctors in their advertising. Lucky Strikes were even advertised as "your protection against irritation against cough."

"Trust me, I'm a doctor!"

Advertising today may not be as brazenly false and damaging, but it's easy to understand why people are skeptical of it.

In contrast, we expect our peers to look out for us. Our friends and families don't get paid for telling us how they feel about that new movie that just came out. They share information with us so that we might enjoy what they enjoyed, and avoid bad experiences that they encountered. Helping us makes them feel good, and makes it likely that we'll reciprocate in turn.

We're social creatures, after all.

2. Millennials grew up producing and publishing UGC.

Image courtesy of Check it out!

In the past, the only way for someone to get her book published was through a publisher. And getting it approved was one heck of a challenge! Today, however, anybody can publish and distribute an ebook without the need for a distributor, editor or printer.

This is a new phenomenon. The democratization of publishing has resulted in more good stuff and more crappy stuff, and navigating that can involve a complex system of curation, voting and sharing. Generally, most of the good stuff rises to the top.

Pre-millennials used to 'verified' content may be predisposed to shun 'unverified' UGC. It's pretty understandable why; they grew up in a time where the best content was provided reputable publishers. Anything without that assurance of quality was automatically suspect.

It's not hard to figure out why. The means of production were relatively limited then, and it was hard if not impossible for hobbyists without publishing deals to create great work that could compete with established artists, writers, etc.

In contrast, millennials are comfortable navigating the murky space of UGC- because they're the ones producing the content! Also, people are much more tied to their social profiles than ever before. It's easier to couchsurf at a stranger's place when you can see pictures and reviews from other strangers, relevant Facebook profiles, etc.

User Generated Content is not a fad.

If you think about it, people have always been generating content.

We've always been singing songs, making mixtapes (on cassettes, then CDs, and now Spotify) and sharing stories. We've always been taking pictures and showing them to anybody who'd look. The only difference is that now we have the ability to share all of our creations with a much, much wider audience.

Given the way millennials grew up with the internet and UGC, it represents a core part of who they are, and how they operate.

While a small group of people might make a show of turning away from technology ("Put Down Your Phone!"... shared on social media), the majority of people will adopt these new technologies just as our predecessors adopted the printing press and the telephone.

What does all this mean for marketing?

At the end of the day, effective marketing is about speaking to consumers in their language. This means adopting new technologies and diversifying your arsenal of communication. Brands that do this are able to access their audience's hearts and minds much more easily.

Samuel Hum
Samuel Hum

As a finalist in Esquire's Best Dressed Real Man contest, Samuel is ReferralCandy's fashion eCommerce expert and resident sartorialist. He is obsessed with human behavior, social psychology, and handstands. He is also the lead calisthenics trainer at Weightless.

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