Laura Petrolino (here she is on Twitter) and I have been friends online for five years but never actually spoke face to face (via video conference) until when we were putting together this post!
It’s a miracle we were able to coordinate a time, given our mutual inability to tell what day it is. Case in point from a 2016 Facebook message exchange:
How Does Our Experience of the World Compare?
As communications professionals, Laura and I are both interested in user-generated content (UGC) — messages and images created by consumers rather than brands — that help tell a brand’s story. In fact, Laura wrote a post, The Magic of User-Generated Content, for Spin Sucks on the topic back in 2014.
For the #BridgingTheGap Campaign, in which 100 Millennial and 100 Midlife Influencers are coming together to blur boundaries, we each decided to share examples of favorite pieces of UGC, and let you see how the perspectives of millennials and fifty-somethings compare.
We needed some kind of structure, so I chose to use the four categories described in this analysis by Kantar Added Value: discovery, fun, status and wellbeing.
Meet my canine friend, Rocky. Rocky has quite an active life on Instagram, and watching him since he was a tiny puppy has been a discovery adventure. What matters for an image like this as UGC is that it clearly shows the brand of bed he is using, but it doesn’t scream “YOU SHOULD BUY THIS PET BED.” It’s more of the kind of thing that would be in the back of my mind if I were in the market for a pet product.
And because I know Rocky, I feel a connection. It’s not the brand saying “you need a Snoozzy bed because your dog will like it.” It’s Rocky’s family saying “here’s a day in Rocky’s life and he’s on Snoozzy because he clearly deserves the best.”
What would you wear to spend a day at the park with your toddler (or, given my generation, perhaps your grandchild)? You would want to be comfortable, prepared for changes in temperature, and look decent enough that it wouldn’t be embarrassing to run into a friend.
This post from MommaInFlipFlops accomplishes all that in its display of a Prana product. (Note: I participated in the same campaign, but her toddler is way cuter than the jar of catnip I held up in my UGC!).
Here’s why this works as UGC for me. The main thing I am drawn to is the relationship between the mom and the toddler, and the beautiful setting. When I scroll through the hashtags, I can see that she’s wearing prAna and can choose to pursue it.
Is there anything more affirming that the start of a new married life? Although my niece Olivia had a fantastic photographer at her wedding, this shot is one I grabbed with my iPhone from my perfectly positioned seat as her sisters toasted her and her new groom.
Why is this effective UGC for Hayley Paige? It showcases a bridal gown and two bridesmaids’ gowns in a genuine moment, not an artificial pose. It could appeal to a potential bride OR a mother-of-the bride, all depending on the consumer’s perspective.
This is just a simple selfie (and it sort of bleeds over into the bonus category I’ll be adding…) but it’s so much more as UGC goes. The Charity Miles app is used by runners, walkers and cyclists to generate donations to favorite charities.
The app is designed so that the user can add a picture of himself or herself that can then be shared on social media.
From a UGC standpoint, it makes me say, “gosh, if Bart Yasso is staying healthy and helping a great cause at he same time, maybe I can too.”
It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t add a “causes” category. I adore advocating on behalf of causes, and hopefully my UGC shows it.
Team RWB is one of my favorite causes. It’s an organization that supports veterans in various ways.
This image of a Team RWB supporter doing the Old Glory Relay evokes the sense of the journey, the walker’s purpose, and the unifying point of the organization.
It works for me as UGC because it makes me say, “hey! I could do this and help veterans like this guy,” rather than “you should care about this and sign up now.” It’s a subtle but powerful difference.
Bridging the Gap
Are Laura and I totally different from each other when it comes to how we view UGC?
The New Jersey American Marketing Association writes:
There are clear differences in how millennials and baby boomers consume and trust branded content. Millennials enjoy images of real people using a product, whereas baby boomers care more about the quality of the product or service. Boomers also enjoy written and video content just as much as images.
Judging by the images I chose, maybe the difference isn’t actually that big after all.
Take a look at Laura’s post and let me know what you think.
It’s something we can discuss the next time Friday rolls around, if we can figure out what day it is.
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.