When pandemic closures required content teams to close their studio doors and disperse, content strategies pivoted to utilize more user-generated content. Styleguide adherence gave way to authenticity in content that wasn't always “on brand” but was even more persuasive as it came (seemingly, at least) from outside of a brand's control.
Now fast forward to the current state of user-generated content, and it's a mix of compensated influencers, aspiring would-be influencers, and natural enthusiasts posting their unboxing, how-to, and review videos. Some are brand-compensated while others aren't. Some are fully or semi-scripted, while others aren't. But across so many e-commerce categories, you can find user-created content connected by the premise that this is how "real" people feel about enjoying an item.
What's remained a challenge for e-commerce brands is how to engage the rising sea of user-generated content that speaks to their brand when that content is so decentralized. Ajay Bam, CEO and co-founder of Vyrill, wants to improve that process. That's why Vyrill brings its client base of brands and individuals a searchable database of meta-tagged user-generated videos.
For Ajay and Daniel's full chat on making user-generated content more searchable, accessible, and successful, listen here on our website or on Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, or Spotify. Or for the quick summary, read on.
How Brands Can Engage with User-Generated Content
By now we're all in agreement—or we should be—that video is a necessary part of e-commerce marketing plans. But for as much as we recognize the prominence of video, do we understand how rapidly it's increasing in its prominence?
"I've heard a stat that there was more content—30 years of content—produced in the last two years alone than before," Ajay says. "Just to give you a sense, 700 hours of video is uploaded every minute on YouTube and 5 billion videos are watched every day."
But this surplus of content makes it tougher for brands to track who's saying what about them and their products. “With UGC content, there's a lot of noise,” Ajay says. "When you have 200 videos, how do you find the top 10 reviews or the top 10 unboxing videos or the worst 10 reviews and the worst 10 unboxing videos?"
With Vyrill, Ajay creates a highly indexed repository for this influx of user-generated video, making it easier for brands to remain knowledgeable about this realm of social content.
"Ultimately, it's not just fan content we're tracking; we're doing both fan and brand content, and putting it all together," he says. "When we put videos up on the product pages, we add the transcript and all the AI tags. We generate 50 tags of what's in the video. Now if the search engine is indexing the video, they now know that this video is brand safe. It has a very high positive sentiment for this product. It features a 19-year-old female. This video is coming from the United States. If it's sunscreen, this video is actually demonstrating that it's an outdoor video."
This emphasis on indexing helps brands find content from users whose personal reputation and review style fit their own image and their intended audience. "Something that might be relevant in the U.S. -- for example, a bikini swimsuit—is perfectly OK in Western cultures but might not be the right thing if you're in Malaysia." Ajay says.
Through Vyrill, Ajay is able to look at a creator's other content and deduce whether the person is an expert, fan, or celebrity. "It's the first of its kind system for rating and ranking videos," he says. "Then we capture the email addresses of creators as well, so brands can license videos through the platform."
What E-Commerce Brands Should Understand About User-Generated Content
When e-commerce brands are making plans to engage with user-generated content, or they're evaluating the success of their current strategies, there are four considerations Ajay wants them to keep in mind.
“First the sentiment analysis, really understanding positive and negative things that shoppers or fans are saying about their product and brand,” he says. “That's very important. The second is demographic, which is understanding who's making the video and is it their target demographic or is it outside their target demographic?
"The third is brand safety," he says. "Most brands will want to make sure the video is brand-safe. It's very contextual what 'brand safety' means. It could be, you could use the 'F' word but in the context of a happy card, when you're gifted something. And that surprise, it could be fine."
"Of course the fourth parameter is really the most important thing: engagement," Ajay explains. "If the video is coming from social, how are shoppers and fans engaging that video content?"
So it's a matter of coming back to a simple batch of questions. Who's saying what? Is the reviewer or the audience within our demographic? Does that content and its creator match our persona? Does this video effectively reach people?
Engage User-Generated Content for Product Discovery
Where is user-created content becoming most important? It's in the buyer journey of discovering a product.
"Product discovery is, now, we're seeing, even more and more driven with video,” Ajay says, noting that buyer paths are now oriented around a link or a strong call-to-action in the user-generated content. “Essentially, you're going from the video to the brand page."
If your studio is looking at user-generated content as merely a supplementary aspect of a social media strategy and not a primary component of a sales strategy, you may be under-capitalizing on its value.
Make Life Easier for Social Media Managers
What impresses Daniel so much about Ajay's work is the way it simplifies a few tasks for social media managers.
"I'm sitting here thinking about it from the perspective of the social media manager or the brand manager," Daniel says. "A big part of their job, or at least one of their assistants' jobs is, 'Go out there and see who's tagging us. If the video's any good, let's see if we can use it or something.' Being able to pull all of that to you and be that much farther ahead on your marketing plan and strategy for video is incredible."
If your brand has a social media manager or assistant accustomed to losing hours sifting through user-generated content, then introduce them to this time-saving technology.
Prompts, Scan Codes, and the Future of User-Generated Content
Content creators and brands are getting wiser about the role that user-generated videos play in the sales funnel—as mentioned, they're becoming a common tool for product discovery. So look for the path from the video to a landing page to become more evident visually or in a video's script.
"It's important not just to put a video up but to have some sort of an engagement or an action on top of the video," he says. "Either offer a search or pose a question about something in the video so customers can respond. Or have a mechanism for them to comment on the video and more."
One of the ways Ajay sees user-generated content tying in with a broader trend: the continued proliferation of QR codes.
"Essentially what we're seeing is, for example, Nike has made an announcement that they'll have QR codes on all the products and packaging, right?” he walks through it. "Imagine you're buying a Nike shoe in store and you can now scan the packaging or the QR code on the shoe. When I open up the video, perhaps there's how-to videos about size and perhaps even the durability of the shoe and the sport. Perhaps it's actually showing some videos—the sport that you should be playing with these shoes, and more. I think what we're seeing more now is QR codes enabling in-store shopping experiences as well."
So where does Vyrill's technology fit into that forecast?
"Our app is integrated with QR codes," Ajay says. "When someone scans a QR code on a product, it actually opens up the video experience for that product. Essentially what we've found is that anytime you create an interactive video experience, the completion rates of watching a video go up by 90 percent. People are watching the video and responding perhaps to a like or dislike for that video. Or when they're searching inside the video, they're more likely to watch what they're searching for inside the video as well."
So as your studio thinks through ways to augment the in-store experience with digital media, explore the possibilities of including user-generated content in that strategy.
Want Ajay's full talk with Daniel, including their bit about why user-generated content is perfect for travel brands? Get it on Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website.