Instead of creating content, we should be creating opportunities for content creation: instagrammable moments, inspiring experiences.

And instead of broadcasting, we should create opportunities for conversation.

Audiences are in control of their own digital story. Businesses are no longer in the driving seat but instead must adopt the role of navigator, cleverly guiding the user’s journey, but ultimately remaining vulnerable to the whimsy of the consumer.

The expression ‘content is king’ has become something of an industry cliche and, like all good cliches, it’s true as a blue sky is blue.

For years content marketing has been gaining traction - according to Content Marketing Institute’s 2015 Benchmark, Budgets and Trends report, 86% of businesses now use content marketing and of those, 70% are creating more content than they did a year ago.

But the definition of content marketing is evolving. It’s no longer just about “creation and distribution” but focuses on value, relevance and consistency to “attract and retain a clearly defined audience - and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

What drives content is also changing. The CMI report found that 78% of B2C companies are planning to use user generated content (UGC) in their marketing strategies this year - last year, the practise wasn’t even included in the report.

UGC is not a new concept, but it is snowballing to become the most powerful tool digital marketers have at their disposal. UGC is the modern version of talking over the garden fence - nothing brands can create themselves can even compare to the basic human love of gossip, and themselves.

Don’t believe me?

Let’s have a look at the facts:   

Peer recommendations above sales spiel

A recent study by Reevoo found that 70% of consumers place peer recommendations and reviews above professionally written content. This is a pretty sweet deal for many brands - all you have to do is be good at what you do, create a space for your customers to talk about you, engage with them back, and the rest will follow.

The psychology of social proof is also a pivotal part of content marketing - people are automatically drawn to a product or service that they know others already engage with and trust.

Airbnb reviews have increased by 140% over the past year, showing the alternative hotel company’s explosive popularity, and proving that even a stranger’s opinion is more valuable than a company’s sales messaging.  

Mass takeover

According to Mary Meeker’s 2015 internet trends report, UGC is exploding across all media platforms. Facebook users watch more than four billion videos a day, up 33% from last year.

Youtube gaming also means huge business - Youtube gamer, PewDiePie, who publishes himself playing video games, makes $7.4 million a year and has more than 37.7 million subscribers.

Users are increasingly the first source for news via social media platforms such as Twitter, considerably changing the role of the intrepid reporter.


Gaming companies are really embracing UGC, with fantastic results. Players can create their own content, expressing their creativity while keeping the game fresh. Nintendo’s Mario Maker does this particularly well, allowing players to create 2D Mario levels, indulging fan fantasy and creating more engagement around the game.


Because social says so

A third of young British folk felt social media would influence their vote in the past General Election, not because the political parties had become more savvy with their social presence (although of course they had), but because young people are more likely to be influenced by what their friends are doing.

More than 1 million people clicked the ‘I voted’ button on Facebook, of them, the majority were aged between 25 and 35.

Studies found people were more likely to click the button if their peers had, regardless of whether they actually voted. UGC takes advantage of the power of the collective, and smart marketers will react to trends by creating opportunities for users to tell their own version of the story.

So why is UGC so powerful?

Because it’s centred around you.

We can see it in the rise and rise of Instagram and the self-made stars it creates. In the 75% year on year increase in Pinterest pin creation, and the fact that over 65% of Snapchat’s 100 million daily users are taking photos and creating ‘stories’ of their lives.

As marketers, instead of creating content, we should be creating opportunities for content creation - instagrammable moments, inspiring experiences. And instead of broadcasting, we should create opportunities for conversation - live communities of digitally-savvy warriors, engaging with your brand from various corners of the globe.

Sophie Turton

Published 24 July, 2015 by Sophie Turton

Sophie Turton is a Content Marketing Specialist at Bozboz and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow Sophie on Twitter and LinkedIn


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Comments (12)

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Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

Here's an interesting counter-view, making the point that social content can *appear* to influence people, e.g. because they like or share, but they are really only doing this to look good to their friends.

about 3 years ago


Bil Flynn, SVP at Vivoom

Amen Sophie!

about 3 years ago


Iain Moss, Product Marketing Executive at Amplience

Great piece, Sophie. It's crucial for marketers and ecommerce professionals to engage with customers. Have you seen that some retailers are even going beyond ratings and reviews and starting to collate content directly from users on social channels like Instagram and Twitter? Take a look at Very for instance:

about 3 years ago


Mark Harris, MD at Promereo Ltd

That's clever Iain - the way the UGC ties to the product!

about 3 years ago

Ana Jesus

Ana Jesus, Senior Marketing Manager, EMEA at Olapic

User Generated Content is definitely becoming more relevant for brands as 66% of UK consumers trust customer photos more than they trust brand or retailer photos. Other relevant statistics on the growth of UGC and visual e-commerce here

about 3 years ago


Paula Counsell, Content Marketing Executive at ekmPowershop

Hi Sophie, great article :) I especially agree with the part about the power of peer influencing- and this is also important because it helps to spread brand awareness. I have recently written an article about how to generate user gen content for online businesses and wonder if you would find this interesting?


about 3 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

@Ana Not sure I'd place much faith in that stat, as it doesn't include the number of people who don't care or think there's negligible difference, so the real percentage trusting customer photos will be less than 66%.

Also (and this surprised me) numbers strongly agreeing and disagreeing are about equally balanced, with the majority due to people who don't care much about the issue. Customers *really* value customer opinions, but it seems the related effect for photographs is weaker.

The research seems not linked from the URL that you include, so Google for the quote.

about 3 years ago

Amanda Rosenblatt

Amanda Rosenblatt, Media Relations at VA Home Loan Centers

Awesome piece! Very helpful.

about 3 years ago

Sophie Turton

Sophie Turton, Digital Marketing Specialist at BozBoz

Hi guys! Thanks for all your feedback, some really great stuff here. It'll be very interesting to see how this trend develops over the next year.

almost 3 years ago

Alan Cassinelli

Alan Cassinelli, Marketing Specialist at Postano

Nice article Sophie! As the world gets more social I believe more and more of marketing budgets are going to be shifting towards promoting UGC. In the near future I bet we will see brands that spend their entire year's marketing budget just promoting UGC instead of staged photo shoots, TV ads, or taglines. I can't think of a more authentic marketing campaign!

You might like this UGC-focused blog post I wrote last year:

almost 3 years ago


Greg Ralph, CEO at Social-Vue

Really good article Sophie and I hope your right "Alan" about marketing budgets shifting towards promoting UGC. I have recently finished development of a social media plug-in that aggregates product specific UGC and displays the most engaging directly onto the product pages of the brands and their retailers websites. I've integrated social-vue into the tourism and consumer electronics sectors and now looking to expand. Any feed back or advise would be welcomed. Link to live demo below.

almost 3 years ago


Marcus Norrving, CMO at Sparkle

Great article Sophie! I also believe strongly in the power of user generated content, and we've seen more and more examples over in the Nordics where it's been an essential component of many campaigns. In particular, we've seen strong effects when used correctly at events. If you're interested you can read more about some of our experiences on

over 2 years ago

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