Authenticity vs. Control: Getting the Reach You Want With the Creative That Matters

Malcolm DeLeoMalcolm DeLeo

Business Development & Strategy

December 17, 2020

Brands struggle to be authentic.

Word of mouth has always been a key factor in consumer purchase decisions. According to a Nielsen study, 92% of consumers believe suggestions from friends and family more than they do advertising. As new social media platforms come into existence year after year this word of mouth factor is only accelerating. Brands are now challenged to find a way to create authentic content with their consumers to take advantage of this purchase process, while maintaining brand consistency and brand control over their images.

How should I think about this problem?

In this post, we cover in detail how you will need a process in a new user generated content (UGC) world to drive authenticity and control.

What is the process for creating authenticity with control of my content?

Step 1: Become a micro influencer champion

In order to build something new you need to challenge how you are doing it now. Too often, digital marketers are failing to realize that their “cutting edge” field isn’t so novel anymore. They forget to be dynamic in how they build their processes. UGC is maturing. Most marketers, however, forget to focus on the power of their consumers and instead continue to focus on influencers’ crowd size. The truth is this; social media’s newfound power is in its authenticity between peers, its ability to scale word of mouth marketing friend to friend, family member to family member. 90% of millennials put authenticity first as the reason they will purchase from a brand and only believe that half of brands are actually authentic. In fact, authenticity declines as an influencer’s follower count increases. It’s time to use social media and UGC differently; focusing efforts less on influencers + eyeballs and more on the authenticity your consumers and potential consumers crave by championing micro influencer efforts in your organization.

Step 2: Recognize the digital wild is untamable

Most social media content processes are built on the concept that the digital wild (TikTok, Twitch, YouTube, Twitter etc.) will provide what you need. The problem with the digital wild is just that; there is no social media consistency, it’s uncontrollable. You can navigate it for content, but the reality is you can’t control it. While what is happening is natural and authentic, the reality is any hope of capturing decent UGC is as much luck as process.

Step 3: Realize you need a system to do it

Like fishing, UGC programs need a way to catch those creators, and to pull them into your community so they can be leveraged appropriately. The system you choose to activate your consumers to provide the content you need should be focused on the right goals.

If you take a step back and think about it, a good 1:1 creator program should focus on a few things.

Step 4: Come to terms with the idea that UGC is about affiliates not ecommerce

With a strong system in place, you need to think differently about these creators. Over the last 10 years, the promise of UGC focused heavily on the idea that consumers’ content sitting on your website did two things: saved you money and created authenticity. While both are true, simply putting a consumer’s content as part of a gallery to demonstrate how people use your products or services is thinking too small for the UGC evolution we are a part of. Your micro influencers need to be thought of as affiliates not simply content producers. If you think about it, the core reason a consumer wants to send their content is their love of your brand. Not only does a 1:1 creator network allow you to acquire great content, but it also creates a new relationship with individual brand ambassadors. If you have set up a way to find, manage, and reward your creator network, you have a systematic marketing loop that is new and different. Now find campaigns that guide these creators to bring others into the fold. It’s great to reward consumers that buy from you. It’s another to reward them for participating directly in your marketing and bringing their friends to do so as well. How can you do this? Gamify things! Challenge your new affiliates’ creative juices and focus them on your brand needs. Think of how consumers are engaging with each other on TikTok, they create video moments to impress each other. Why not get them to impress you? Why not guide them to where you need them? This is the power of rethinking how UGC can drive your business with the help of your consumers.

Step 5: Know it’s going to take time to get there

In an evolving UGC world, probably the most important thing is patience. UGC has been around and not optimized in the process described above leading to individuals being skeptical of its value. What people are missing today, is that the platforms generating UGC are changing and evolving as much as the consumers who use them. Digital consumer interaction isn’t static. How consumers engaged with each other 5 years ago is very different than today. And with this change, you need to be patient as your 1:1 creator network gets built. It will take experimentation, trial and error, and a commitment to the concept. The core idea is that by engaging your consumers and making them part of your brand, you will change how they relate to your marketing. Virality does happen, but like anything, putting in the hard work is the difference between success and failure. Don’t be shortsighted when it comes to the reinvention of how you use UGC and your team’s push to modernize word of mouth marketing.

1:1 Creator Program 101

Find creators in the wild

First, a system is needed to help you “find” creators across all of the social sources that matter to your brand. They could be your consumers, your competitors’ consumers, or even new prospects you want to introduce to your brand or category. No matter the use case or social source most imperative to your brand strategy, you will need to be able to easily and quickly search for the content you need.

Manage your creators

Second, once you find your creators, you need to be able to “manage” them. That means having a process that allows you to sign them up or communicate seamlessly with them, easily acquire legal rights to their content, and most importantly activate them. With strong management of your creator network, you begin to be able to attain both the authenticity with the control you desire. Once they are in your network you gain the freedom to guide and communicate with them to let them know what types of content you really need.

Reward creator content

Last comes the “reward” part of the relationship. Developing and scaling a creator network requires you to give them a reason to play the game. Sure, most consumers thrive on simple recognition from your company, but showing them they can be rewarded for their effort is a surefire way to keep them coming back for more. Any process you build must have a reward part to it. It is the key element to help brands scale the most effective authentic content while driving loyalty among their creator network.

Key Takeaways


of consumers believe suggestions from friends and family more than advertising

Creating authenticity with control of your creative:

  1. Become a micro influencer champion
  2. Recognize the digital wild is untamable
  3. Create a system of focus and management for your creative
  4. Understand that UGC is about affiliates not ecommerce
  5. Time and patience will get your creative there
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.