How to leverage UGC for better consumer insights
In the beauty industry, leading brands are looking to user-generated content on social platforms to understand what their customers need. Are you using these insights to your advantage?
The last few years have seen many changes in the beauty & fashion space, especially around how brands are reaching their customer bases.
New social networks provide different ways for people to share products they like. Up & coming direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands have begun to saturate traditional retail spaces. And customers everywhere are becoming more conscious of where their dollar goes, and choosing the companies they want to support for their good products as much as their great brand values.
Our 2021 fashion & beauty report shows that one way customers are finding new products is through online tutorials and user-generated content (UGC).
“Hair & makeup tutorials” made up over 16% of conversations related to beauty online from March - May 2021, with UGC-fueled trends playing a role in many other major topics gaining traction.
Talkwalker recently analyzed the most loved brands in the world, and found that 30% of the names in the global top 50 were in the beauty space. In the US that ratio increases even further, with 40% of the top 10 most-loved brands in the country falling into the cosmetics & personal care category.
The research found that many of these beloved brands are harnessing UGC as a way to better connect with audiences. It helps them understand the ways that customers are using their products, and gives them insight into new products they can (or should) be developing to meet their needs.
In June, we teamed up with the brand strategy research team at Pinterest for a webinar on the ways that brands are leveraging UGC for consumer insights and more on the popular social platform. Below you’ll find our top takeaways from the session, with tips on how brands can tap into UGC for instant customer feedback, research & development, and campaign strategy.
Are you more of an audio than visual learner? Click here to catch the webinar replay!
Focusing on creators
Contrary to popular opinion, influencers don’t have to have thousands of followers to be effective partners. People can get inspired by anyone that they see creating content if it speaks to them and their needs.
With the huge array of social networks and users sharing, posting, and speaking about their favorite products, anyone can be a creator and can help get the word out about your products & services. Brands that embrace this influencer strategy will see positive results and more relatability with their audiences.
2021 data around fashion & beauty discussions online shows that while celebs certainly help get a company’s name out there, the impact of the message often depends on how many people are sharing it with their smaller followings. Brands that cast a wider net with the creators they work with are able to share their story across more channels, with a broader audience of potential customers.
The screenshot below depicts how some of the most engaging video beauty tutorials this year were created by everyday folks who just love the products they use.
Visual insights from Talkwalker show that beauty UGC gets tons of engagement and brand recognition, with some of the most-engaged posts coming from average users rather than celebrity influencers.
It’s clear that creators big and small are essential for companies that want to use social media to get eyes on what they’re selling. Pinterest’s Brand Strategy Research lead, Zak Kirchner, shared how the platform named 2021 the “Year of the Creator” for just this reason, and how this ethos has been applied to their internal product strategy.
Their team is taking the experience of the users that craft and consume content into account, and building tools around what people on Pinterest want out of the product. This includes homepage updates and display enhancements that make it easier for creators to get content in front of people, and for “Pinners” (the official moniker for their core users) to find the tips & tricks they’re searching for.
Features like the “Idea Pin” above showcase UGC in a new way to people browsing on Pinterest, introducing them to creators and tutorials they may not have been able to find in the past due to UX restrictions.
Brands can equally track UGC on Pinterest and other social platforms (like what people are “pinning”, commentary on new releases, and tutorials being shared based on their experiences) to research products & services through the platform.
So embrace the way that your target audience creates - find out where they are posting their stories, and what they’re saying about your brand in that content. Free tools like Talkwalker Alerts can help get you there by tracking where and when people are mentioning your brand online.
Center inspiring voices
Once you have a handle on the online creators that best fit your brand, you need to highlight their stories and put them in front of your audience. This is about more than finding influencers who get the most engagement - you must listen to what their message is and understand how it can bring a positive experience to your core consumers. UGC can prove to be one of the best sources for this information, as these posts are ripe with customer insights and oftentimes ready made for sharing more widely.
Beauty tutorials are a huge UGC category, and they offer consumers a way to experience new products in a tangible way.
Social media platforms have launched careers, businesses, and product lines for many creators over the years, and those that are most successful have one thing in common: they inspire their audiences. Brands that center these voices in their communications strategies show that they are tuned into what their customers want, and will find more success engaging with their customers through repurposed UGC.
During our webinar, Zak shared the story of Live Tinted - the inclusive cosmetics line touts vegan, cruelty-free products in a wide range of tones that are made to fit every skin color. The company’s founder, beauty influencer-turned-entrepreneur Deepica Mutyala, got her start by creating videos on beauty hacks for women of color after she became frustrated by the lack of diversity in products from many big-name personal care brands.
One of her most popular videos featured a trick to reduce dark under eye circles using red lipstick. The piece of UGC rapidly went viral, racking up views, likes, and shares from others who felt left out of beauty conversations.
The video that started it all - this piece of UGC from Deepica was relatable to countless people and helped her become a big name in beauty.
Now, Deepica has her own cosmetics line and has become an advocate for inclusivity in the beauty industry. Not only have her “hacks” shed light on an area of improvement for personal care brands, they also inspired other brands to embrace new product development for women of color. By showcasing creators like Deepica, beauty brands can give a voice to marginalized customers and show their commitment to making consumers feel heard, too.
Help customers see themselves
As noted above, inclusivity is an incredibly important aspect of product & service development across industries. For brands in the beauty & personal care space, it’s essential to provide a space where customers can see themselves in your products. Those that don’t will face a reckoning with consumers who buy based on whether brands can relate to them and their values.
While companies are beginning to take this into account in their product research, savvy social platforms have factored it into their user experience, too. That’s why earlier this year, Pinterest introduced skin tone ranges in makeup search filters; their team found that there was a disconnect for many people of color on the platform who couldn’t easily find cosmetics, skincare products and hairstyles that worked for them.
Pinterest’s filters for skin tone ranges made makeup style discovery more accessible for users, and increased the platform’s engagement in return.
“After triggering skin tone ranges,” Zak shared, “we saw Pinners searching for ‘alternative makeup’ increased five times, ‘cool hair color ideas’ increased four times, and ‘eyeliner styles’ increased 3.5 times’. It clearly enabled Pinners to more easily take action on these beauty ideas they discovered.”
Now, users can find the UGC they’re looking for much more easily, dramatically improving their experience on Pinterest. In turn, brand partners can find creators of UGC that speak to diverse fanbases, and feature the products they offer that meet all of their audience’s needs.
What’s the best way to leverage UGC from fans of your products? Use it to help create a safe space for your audience. Nothing shows commitment to customers like building a diverse community where they can seek guidance and expertise from other people with similar interests.
From the brand side, tapping into communities is essential for creating inclusive campaigns and understanding where your audience is coming from. Monitoring UGC trends for your industry and your product/services will allow you to build your community more effectively and give them a sense of belonging through both engagement and your product development. You’ll get firsthand accounts of how people see and experience your brand, and can craft products and messages that resonate with them.
The cosmetics brand e.l.f launched a wildly successful campaign on TikTok last year, harnessing the the power of the UGC-friendly platform to spread the word about their products.
The #EyesLipsFace campaign from e.l.f. incorporated content that typically trends on TikTok - an original song, dance moves, and makeup looks - and took off with users who were inspired to create and share their own videos.
The brand saw a massive amount of UGC created from the campaign - 5 million videos and counting - and it even attracted celebrities like Lizzo, Reese Witherspoon, and Terry Crews. It's now evolved into the very first TikTok reality show called "Eyes Lips Famous", and the program aims to help winning beauty influencers kickstart their careers. It's a great example of a brand that's in touch with its community, and gives back to them for their support.
From the platform side, building community means incorporating features and policies that will give your users a great experience both online and off. As part of their Year of the Creator, Pinterest has implemented a new Creator Code that focuses on making the platform a “safe and inspiring place”. Anyone who creates content on Pinterest must agree to the terms of the code, and can forfeit their right to participate in the online community if they don’t adhere to them.
Rather than turning users off by enforcing a platform code of conduct, they’ve seen people respond incredibly positively; Pinterest creators have shared that it “provides a safe space that focuses on community” and that “the Creator Code... is a recipe for creators to be 100% themselves”.
There isn’t a surefire recipe for success as a brand on social media, but there are steps you can take to get you there. As Zak shared during our webinar, “In the end, it comes down to customer-centric company values.”
Companies that keep their consumers at the forefront of their strategy - from a product, outreach, and retention standpoint - will find it much easier to adapt to new trends. Tracking UGC for customer insights is just one way to do this, but it’s a key piece of the buyer puzzle that can help your brand get a better sense of what audiences need.
Be user- and customer-centric at your core, and the rest will come as naturally as a barely-there makeup look.