When it comes to Millennials, brands have a trust problem. They are the largest generation of consumers, but they're also the least engaged with brands.
Tech-savvy Millennials aren't fooled by stock image advertisements or product posts on brands' Facebook Pages. In fact, only 1% of Millennials say a compelling ad would make them trust a brand more.
To reach this diverse group of digital natives, brands need to tap into the content they instinctively trust and engage with: user-generated content (UGC).
The Power of UGC
User-generated content is any content - posts, tweets, images, videos, reviews, etc. - freely created by consumers on an online or social network.
With over 1.8 billion posts published across social media networks every day, most people have seen, been influenced by or contributed to UGC - whether on social sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter or other digital platforms like YouTube, Twitch and Vimeo.
Millennials, in particular, organically create and interact with UGC on a regular basis, spending 5.4 hours per day engaging with user-generated content.
Not only do they interact with UGC, they trust it 50% more than other media - UGC is so trusted that 84% of Millennials say UGC from strangers has at least some influence on what they buy, and 86% believe UGC is generally a good indicator of a brand, service or product's quality.
So how can brands leverage this powerful content to better connect with elusive Millennial audiences?
Let's take a look at how two companies have successfully, and strategically, used UGC to reach younger audiences.
McDonald's Monopoly Mo Selfies
Millennials crave the authentic, engaging experiences they and their friends are creating online every day. Realizing this, McDonald's decided to refresh their annual Monopoly campaign with a favorite Millennial pastime: selfies.
With "Monopoly Mo Selfies" McDonald's asked fans to celebrate the game and their instant wins by sharing selfies. As a result, McDonald's not only improved engagement but also collected a wealth of relevant UGC which they could re-purpose across their other marketing channels and paid ads.
Toyota's Feeling the Street Campaign
Toyota's annual "Feeling the Street" campaign is focused on engaging their Millennial audience - but to improve the campaign's impact with younger consumers, Toyota's team understood they'd need to turn to UGC.
"We knew authenticity was the key. Slick product photography and cheesy montage videos weren't going to resonate with our core audience of 18-24 year olds," said Kristen Matthew of Media Blanco, Toyota's Creative Agency. "Instead we put a focus on authentic user-generated content, using it to power our social display advertising."
By infusing the most compelling UGC fans were sharing on Instagram into their Facebook ads, Toyota was able to increase ad engagement by 440% year over year - without raising their budget.
These results are clear. In order for brands to master Millennial marketing they need to start marketing with them, as opposed to at them, and user-generated content is the most effective and efficient way to genuinely do just that.