Let’s face it, stock photography is boring.
As consumers are inundated with marketing content, they are increasingly resistant to anything that looks and feels inauthentic, which sadly describes much of traditional marketing and advertising. In fact, 84% of millennials don’t trust traditional marketing and 92% of consumers trust user-generated content more than advertising.
Although there has been growing resistance to traditional advertising, audiences are still willing to engage with brands that provide a positive experience.
Satisfied customers are increasingly turning to social media to write, speak or post about the products and brand experiences they love, and these social engagements are essential for marketers. In fact, according to a recent study, 66% of users rely heavily on this content when making a purchase decision, and 65% trust online word-of-mouth more than traditional advertising.
Even as resistance to traditional marketing grows, the availability of authentic, unfiltered content, including images, on social media is also growing. And this represents an opportunity.
Here are six reasons why it’s time to ditch stock photos in exchange for user-generated content.
1. We can’t all look like models.
It’s hard to get an idea of a real product or experience when the images of those products and experiences are too good to be true. After all, you can’t really picture yourself in a new outfit if every picture of that outfit features someone who looks nothing like you.
Consumers know that models can look good in just about anything, which is why it’s important to show what that same item looks like on a range of sizes, styles, ages, ethnicities and of shapes. Unfortunately, traditional marketing doesn’t easily lend itself to this kind of variety, but user-generated content does.
2. People create better images
The quality of user-generated content has increased dramatically in recent years, with ordinary people now able to take brand-worthy photos. This improvement is partly due to the gradual increase in the quality of smartphone cameras, which now use sophisticated software to help users get the perfect shot every time.
Apple has built an entire campaign around images “shot on an iPhone” to demonstrate the shrinking margin between professional photographic equipment and these handheld devices.
Plus, those with even a casual interest in improving their photography skills have a wide range of affordable or even free resources to help them up their game. Local educational programs, online platforms like Skillshare and Masterclass, and video tutorials spread best practices and allow more enthusiasts to capture higher quality content.
3. The numbers don’t lie
Brands in various industries are succeeding with user-generated content every day, and sometimes the numbers are truly staggering. By replacing its Facebook ads with videos assembled from user-generated content, for example, Visit Indy’s click-through rates tripled.
We’ve seen similar results across other channels, from websites to microsites to display ads, increasing engagement, reducing bounce rates and improving recall.
4. User-generated content lets you pump up the volume
Although stock photography libraries may seem endless, those who have spent time browsing through them to find the perfect photo know that it can be extremely difficult to find exactly what they are looking for, especially if they are looking for something authentic.
User-generated content, on the other hand, offers an even greater and ever-expanding choice of content. Plus, it’s much easier to find real people showing real emotions – like joy, fear, surprise – on social media than it is to find models and actors who can nail those expressions in a pool of photographs. .
This extra volume also helps marketers cover more territory. For example, even a big brand like Patagonia could never buy stock photography that captures every use case of its products authentically and unstaged. With user-generated content, however, it’s able to collect images and video from everywhere, with volume and perspective unmatched by anything stock photography libraries can offer.
5. People will help build awareness of your brand when you feature their content
Marketing is all about spreading the word, and user-generated content often adds one more authentic voice to the conversation; that of the creator. The people whose work is used don’t just provide high-quality content for free; after being asked to participate in a campaign, they tend to become his biggest cheerleader as often. Highlighting someone’s content encourages their creator to spread the word on their own networks. We consider it “word of mouth 2.0”, powered by social media.
6. It’s never been easier
Many marketers know that audiences respond better to user-generated content, but many are intimidated by the task of sourcing images, for example, securing the rights to use them and tagging or cataloging all photos they collect.
Fortunately, however, tools are available that make it easier than ever to find, secure, and store engaging, authentic, and dynamic images of everyday consumers active on social media. Marketers can search for the specific content needed (going beyond hashtags and locations), and the process of securing usage rights for that content is streamlined.
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User-generated content has never been more accessible, effective, or better than it is today. So why would we continue to use stock footage?