User-generated content (UGC) isn’t restricted to viral dance videos. While the term brings social media apps like TikTok to mind, any website or app that allows users to upload content is tapping into UGC. By that standard, companies ranging from the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe to the education site Udemy fall under this umbrella. Both enable users to create and share videos, often for other members of the community.
And whether it’s used to educate prospects or provide product tutorials, video is a powerful UGC tool. That’s because there are countless situations where giving people the ability to publish their own content makes a lot of sense.
It used to be that only video platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok supported the ability to upload and publish videos. That meant that companies looking to tap into this trend had to send their leads elsewhere. But solutions like Mux make it easy for developers to add video to their products, just the way they want, to attract their audiences and grow communities.
This article looks at the dynamics driving video adoption and how businesses are controlling the customer experience by building native streaming deployments. Anyone looking for a deeper dive into how companies like MoneyLion, Uscreen, and Whatnot are capitalizing on the UVG trend can check out our recent webinar.
The carousel you just flipped through on LinkedIn? A great example of UGC. The community forums for your favorite API repository? A UGC mecca for developers. Oh, and those unboxing videos you watched on YouTube before purchasing a new gaming console? You got it — UGC.
Today, video is so popular that it makes up more than 80% of all internet traffic. That’s because video is both easy to create and enjoyable to consume. More and more industries are leveraging UGC content for these reasons, going beyond text and images to incorporate video and give their audiences more ways to connect.
Video functionality has become a key differentiator for businesses looking to stay ahead. Companies are using it to excite their customers and drive results. Some of the benefits include:
- Education and awareness: Would you rather read a transcript or watch a webinar? Yeah, me too. Video makes the learning process painless and (sometimes) even fun.
- Authenticity: It doesn’t get much more personable than using actual human faces and voices. In a world where ChatGPT is running businesses, video delivers an authentic edge over all the digital noise. This is all the more true when it comes to user-created videos, which often come from a neutral party.
- Increase conversions: Video is a proven tool to drive conversions — giving users the impetus to click “purchase” or “subscribe.” For example, brands using Viddy and Mux to stream video on their e-commerce storefronts experienced a lift in overall conversion rates by up to 18%.
- Engagement: By offering the video functionality that users expect, you’re able to build a native community of app users and increase time spent using your product.
- Customer support and retention: Just as video goes a long way in educating prospects, it’s useful to troubleshoot customer obstacles and support their needs. This can take the form of real-time video calls, tutorials, and more. Just imagine if your favorite developer forum let users upload videos to demonstrate how something is done.
Here’s how some of the most innovative brands are bringing UCG video into their space:
- Media and Entertainment: Jack Conte of Pomplamoose — a band I first discovered on YouTube — was sick of relying on third-party platforms to reach fans. So he created Patreon in 2013 to give creators a place where they could earn a predictable monthly income and make deeper connections with their communities. The membership-based platform connects musicians, podcasters, and visual artists directly with their fan base. Patroen rolled out video capabilities in late 2022, allowing creators to share video tutorials, member-only live streams, and other types of UGC without depending on ad revenue.
- Health and Fitness: The connected fitness platform Strava encourages its active community of users to share videos while tracking physical activity. The addition of video technology to their existing product helps amplify storytelling across the platform and drive community engagement.
- B2B SaaS: HubSpot is the boss of omnichannel marketing, so it makes sense that the business software company was early to integrate video into its offering. The native HubSpot Video solution lets customers embed videos across channels. At first glance, this doesn’t seem like UGC. But it is. Hubspot has created a platform where Hubspot users upload their own content directly rather than relying on social media platforms like LinkedIn.
- Hospitality: Airbnb’s video feature lets Hosts add trailers to their listings that capture the essence of an experience. This feature is currently limited to Hosts, but it has the potential to be extended to customers reviewing their favorite getaways. The addition of native video makes listings stand out by delivering content in a more memorable and easy-to-consume format.
- Finance: MoneyLion is a fintech company that aims to make banking more approachable. Video is key to this mission. Tim Hong, the chief product officer at MoneyLion, explains the benefits of building video into their app:
“Video is an incredible way for us to bring a human face to finances where otherwise it might have been only charts and graphs... And what really moves the needle for our customers is something that doesn’t talk down to them, or just provide a product and say, here, you're on your own, but provides that layer of humanity on top of the financial products.”
- E-commerce The beauty app Supergreat brings together a community of skin and hair care enthusiasts to review products, share routines, and shop daily drops. By powering UCG video for its niche community, the platform delivers a delightful experience to like-minded buyers. Supergreat members are able to engage deeper and more authentically without ever leaving the platform. Live interactivity plays a major role in this application, allowing viewers to ask questions and add emojis.
Other industries leveraging native video capabilities include online dating, real estate, education, and so many more.
Now that we’ve overviewed the value of UGC video and how it’s being used, what about the trends driving adoption? Below, we break it into three groups: consumer, tech, and product trends.
1. Users as creators and community builders
Whether they’re publishing makeup tutorials on Instagram or posting about their love for Slack on LinkedIn, today’s consumers are creators. It’s imperative that you support their desire to at once consume and create. Adding the ability to upload videos within your product does just that.
I’m guilty of leaving Google restaurant reviews before finishing a meal. And today’s users have the same inclination when interacting with products. That’s why consumers share makeup tutorials, product unboxing videos, and live streams of concerts. The desire to review the things we purchase has become second nature.
Adding video to your product makes it that much easier to keep users engaged with your brand. It also helps grow a self-sustaining community within your platform — meaning you don’t lose control of the user experience when they leave your app to post content elsewhere.
2. Digital fatigue
On the flip side, users are still consumers. And the vast amount of channels vying for their attention can derail the path to purchase. Rather than making buyers go to YouTube to learn about your product (and potentially see an ad from a competitor), and then PayPal to make a purchase (while getting distracted along the way), it’s your job to create a seamless experience.
Don’t force buyers to search the internet for answers. Instead, use video to keep them on your app while giving them the answers they need. That way, you can drive growth with brand-aligned experiences rather than losing customers down a YouTube rabbit hole.
3. Brand sociability
At the height of the pandemic, video was everywhere. We used it to consult with doctors, tour homes for sale, and network with colleagues. Often, these makeshift solutions leveraged Zoom or FaceTime to satisfy social distancing mandates.
User expectations haven’t changed. But there’s room to improve on how we adapted in the past few years. Developers now have the runway to take a more strategic approach by building video experiences within their platform.
4. Demand for transparency and authenticity:
For social commerce platforms like Taobao, Supergreat, and Whatnot, UGC is the new sales pitch. Buyers want to see products in action and hear from people they trust. Many e-commerce websites are embracing this by establishing a community of real people who review products, share tutorials, and answer questions that come in via chat.
Other companies like Patreon and Bandcamp have productized this need for authenticity. Rather than dealing with algorithms, ads, and trolls on YouTube, creators can directly monetize their content and create deep relationships with their fanbase.
Even in the B2B space, video helps communicate the personality behind a brand. Pitch recognizes this power and thus makes it easy for businesses to add videos to their presentations. The result? More authentic decks that bring products and services to life.
The better your data, the better you’re equipped to delight customers. And this translates into business growth. That’s why quality of experience (QoE) and engagement metrics are key to building great video experiences.
Whether it’s correcting performance errors in near real-time, identifying which types of video drive the most engagement to inform future content, or capturing data to create more personalized experiences, end-to-end visibility is a must.
P.J. Taei, CEO of Uscreen, explains why analytics is his main product focus for 2023:
“Analytics is essential for our customers because they need to see how their content is being adopted, how much is being watched, heatmaps, and how often users repeat. This kind of engagement data on the analytics side is very important for our users and we want to stick to the core there, which is something we haven't solved.”
In this case, Taei is talking about the benefit of making data available to the creators using his platform. Uscreen and other UGC apps built on top of Mux have the unique advantage of being able to leverage our data for their own insight — while also adding features that make the data available to their customers.
2. Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI):
Generative AI is all the rage right now, and it’s making waves in the world of content creation. Whether it's video generators like Synthesia that let users quickly turn text into personalized videos or the ability to programmatically shape each customer’s experience within an app, the opportunities are limitless.
Specifically, generative AI shows promise in automating:
- Democratizing content creation and reducing the burden on creators by making UGC video easy. Imagine adding backgrounds, building avatars, and creating polished content without any video expertise.
- On-the-fly personalization by leveraging automated processes for creating targeted content. For instance, generic videos could be quickly adapted to address the individual user viewing the content.
- Improving accessibility by incorporating tools for live dubbing, adding transcripts, and more.
Synchronization is what brings it all together. To deliver truly seamless experiences, content distributors need to integrate chat functionality, in-app purchases, polling, and real-time statistics.
Say you’re building an interactive fitness app that tracks the users’ physical activity. Or maybe you’re developing an online education platform that encourages real-time participation via polling. Bringing these virtual worlds to life depends on complete harmony between all the interactive layers.
1. Community-driven brands
Today’s most exciting products are communities in their own right. Think HubSpot, Strava, Slack, or Etsy. People are looking for products that go beyond the bare minimum and make them feel like a part of something.
With the ability to put a face to other users, upload personal videos, and even join video chats — these online communities come to life.
Decentralization has been trending for a minute. Just as Uber revolutionized transportation by connecting passengers directly with drivers, many companies are using video to close the gap between customers and the products they’re purchasing.
That’s why Patreon connects creators directly with their communities by providing exclusive access to their work. Likewise, Bandcamp has built decentralization into its value proposition. The app lets users “discover amazing new music and directly support the artists who make it” — thus promising to minimize any intervention along the way.
This desire for buyers to go directly to sellers is also playing out in retail. Consider Whatnot, the live shopping marketplace that delivers decentralized e-commerce. The shopping app brings collectors together by streaming auctions for items like sports cards, comic books, limited edition sneakers, and records.
Ludo Anonov, Whatnot’s VP of engineering, explains:
“I started looking at at live commerce was in China, where the second biggest category of livestream shopping is food and drink. You actually have farmers that go out to their crops and livestream them. So you can see the tomatoes, the apples, the strawberries directly from the farm. And this really exciting because if you look at like the last 20 years, there's been a lot of these logistics layers that have been built up and that's made it really difficult for creators to actually reach audiences or for sellers to reach audiences without really integrating into these massive floats.”
TL;DR: UGC video cuts through the layers separating creators and end users.
3. Product-led growth (PLG)
Great marketing and phenomenal sales teams are no longer enough. Today, companies need to A) create amazing products, and B) Remove any barriers between the product and their customers. These are foundational tenants of product–led growth (PLG), a go-to-market strategy that’s been gaining momentum.
The end goal of PLG is simple: Let the product speak for itself. Marketing and sales will follow in the form of leads educating themselves, freemium users looking to upgrade, and customers excited to talk about the product.
Whether you’re leveraging video as a growth strategy to boost customer acquisition or you’re building a video-enabled product that’s unlike anything else on the market, it’s a dynamic PLG tool. That’s because the role that it can play in gathering customer testimonials and building engaged communities is unmatched.
“PLG relies on virality and word of mouth, rather than traditional promotion strategies. More specifically, happy users will share your product with friends and coworkers.”
One Mux customer, Testimonial built their product to capitalize on this. Testimonial makes it easy for companies to capture word-of-mouth videos. In this way, it’s enabling PLG growth tactics for customers.
4. Category design
Another buzzword akin to PLG is category design. It describes when organizations release something so innovative that it falls into a category of its own. Consider Peloton, which built video into its products and introduced the world to streaming-enabled home gym equipment.
Live commerce, the metaverse, and so many other categories only exist because of the organizations that leveraged video tech to differentiate their offering. The role of UGC video in category design is playing out before our eyes. So buckle up. 2023 will be a big year for innovation.
Developer teams rely on Mux’s video infrastructure to build video into their products in a snap — reliably and at a global scale. That’s why Bandcamp, MoneyLion, Strava, Udemy, Supergreat, Whatnot, and countless others use Mux’s video infrastructure.
When you build your business with Mux, you’re able to meet customer demands without making things unnecessarily complex for your dev team 🥳.
You can rely on Mux for video infrastructure that’s:
- Easy: Building with video is tough. Mux makes it simple.
- Native: Own the video experience by building the video tech you need into your products. Do UGC on your terms rather than sending customers to YouTube.
- Actionable: Gain deep insight into engagement metrics with Mux Data
- A team player: Take advantage of integrations with your favorite tools