How User-Generated Content Is Taking the Place of Famous Brand Ambassadors

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The use of famous brand ambassadors has been a tried and true tactic for decades, but some brands are switching it up in recent years. Sure, we're still used to celebrities being brand ambassadors for various companies. Just one example involves Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and nearly every other well-known athlete publicly endorsing Nike. However, some businesses are finding that selecting regular people to be brand ambassadors and create user-generated content is just as effective and a whole lot cheaper than paying celebrities to do the same thing.

The Role of Brand Ambassadors

A brand ambassador is supposed to help promote a brand by influencing others to buy a product or service. You might also know this role as a spokesperson. The more influence a person has over others, the more brands want him or her to represent them so they can sell more. That's why famous people were traditionally paid the big bucks to take on this role, since they were among the only people to be in the public eye, where they could easily influence their fans to buy products and services.

But with the rise of social media, just about anyone can be in the spotlight. You no longer need to be a famous actor, singer, or athlete to have influence over others. You can simply have a well-liked blog, a widely-viewed YouTube channel, or even just a good following Facebook or Twitter. Now we no longer have a specific need for only famous people as brand ambassadors, because as it turns out, regular people can fill the same role! And what's even better is that they bring their own content with them.

Why Companies Are Switching to Regular People as Brand Ambassadors

Okay, so it's clear that regular people can be brand ambassadors, but the real question is whether they're good at it. Do companies see the same results when they have non-famous people represent their brand, creating user-generated content, or UGC, along the way? For many companies, the answer is yes.

In fact, according to an infographic by ReadyPulse, user-generated content is often considered more influential and engaging than brand-generated content. The same infographic explains that UGC can be even better than the content produced by brands because it comes from "social users giving social proof and authenticity. Consumers trust content and recommendations from their peers much more than they trust brand-driven advertising."

Not only is user-generated content more trusted by many people, but it's also cheaper, which is of course a big selling point. I talked to Dennis O'Malley, who is the CEO of ReadyPulse, whose clients include Twitter, Nike, Adidas, The North Face, Red Bull, and COOLA, to name a few. He said, "We've seen a high adoption rate as far as ambassadors participating in campaigns. Our client, COOLA, would say the social impression they get from it is more affordable."

Basically, brands have found that UGC offers results, and that's pretty impressive for a free marketing tactic.

Examples of User-Generated Content

According to ReadyPulse, just a few of the brands using UGC are TOMS, American Apparel, and Alex and Ani. Hubspot states that Starbucks, Target, Burberry, Belkin, Chobani, and Coca-Cola are also some brands that use UGC. And none of them are exactly languishing. Are you convinced yet that user-generated content just might be worth your time?

If you want to try it out, take a look at some examples of how exactly big brands are collecting and using user-generated content:

  • Maggie Sottero has Maggie Brides, which features Instagram pictures of real brides wearing this designer's gowns.
  • Starbucks created The White Cup Contest; people got to decorate a white cup and after Starbucks showed all the pictures of the decorated cups, a winner was chosen.
  • GoPro is always happy to get videos and pictures taken with the GoPro, which the brand can then show off on its website and social media pages.

Clearly, there are lots of ways to collect content from users, casually turning regular people into brand ambassadors. Dennis from ReadyPulse mentioned that hashtags and selfies are some great ways to obtain UGC, and that's what many brands use. The experts at Emma seem to agree, stating that you can easily obtain UGC by searching Twitter and Instagram for any hashtags that relate to your brand. Once you find photos and posts about it, you can ask the user if you can use the content to promote your brand.

If you can't find much content that relates to your brand, you can create and promote a hashtag that will encourage your brand's fans to post content that you can use on your site, social media pages, and other marketing materials. And as some of the most well-known brands have shown, you can also simply host a contest that will supply you with UGC – such as images, videos, selfies, and posts with hashtags – for weeks or even months. That's much easier than creating original content for your brand every day.

Have you tried using UGC to promote your brand yet? What have the results been?

Autumn R
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Autumn has a BA in Journalism from Arizona State University, where she was accepted to the Barrett Honors College. Since 2008, she has written content focusing on the law, real estate, business, insurance, travel, education, digital marketing, and social media. There are few topics she hasn't written about at this point, but she loves learning something new every day, so she's always up for the fun of researching and writing about new subjects.
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