A study released by influencer marketing platform Mavrck this month stated that “User generated content (UGC) posts featuring brands earned almost seven-times more engagement than brand-generated posts in 2016.”

Influencers and UGC both present brands with a unique opportunity: to align themselves with content that targets their desired audience in a creative, innovative and transparent way without disrupting the user experience.
92% of consumers trust word of mouth and advice from their family and friends more than any other form of advertising. This has contributed to a rapidly rising demand for UGC across all agencies: nearly three-quarters (71%) of brand marketers now rate influencer marketing as a strategic marketing category. However, UGC is also a highly reactive type of content, so managing it means always having a finger on the pulse, and the ability to respond to events in real time.

An advantage of working with influencers – and one of the reasons that this content can be so effective – is the relationship that exists between influencers and their followers; their opinions are truly valued, and their recommendations trusted. This is particularly true of micro influencers and advocates (those with between 500 – 10k followers), as their content tends to be more niche.

In fact, these lower level influencers are often most highly recommended. When planning influencer campaigns, ‘audience’ is often confused with ‘influence’ – meaning brands go after high follower count, rather than finding influencers most relevant to their consumers. Research conducted by Timeout last year broadly defined these two types of influencers:

The Shaker (high authority/celebrity):
They have a massive follower base and national appeal but define their own success by reach. They play an important broadcast role.

The Maker (advocate-medium authority):
They are motivated by deep and meaningful connections and are knowledgeable in specialised areas. They are equally effective in getting consumers to research a product further but Makers are 23% more effective than Shakers in giving people the confidence to buy or try a product due to their specialism and profile.

Whether a ‘Shaker’ or a ‘Maker’ is required is dependent on a brand’s objectives, but the best campaigns work with influencers who can integrate the content naturally within their own stream, and even make it a part of their lifestyle. Success comes from being reactive via social listening and proactive through blogger outreach programmes, and tapping into a client’s social strategy as well as their overall business objectives.

The use of influencer marketing and reliance on UGC will continue to rise as brands recognise it as a way to reach out to consumers without disrupting their browsing, and to generate a more authentic relationship with them. The key to ensuring long-term success for brands will be in starting to build up partnerships (rather than one-off campaigns), integrating influencer outputs into overall content strategy, and focusing on the sentiment, engagement and perception change an influencer creates rather than looking only at the follower count.