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Creative that performs: Influencer and user-generated content in paid social

Creative that performs: Influencer and user-generated content in paid social

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Influencer partnerships and user-generated content (UGC) are potent tools in the brand arsenal, especially in efforts to generate awareness, promote trust, and drive consideration. Many brands leverage influencers in their mix, while others go even further and whitelist their content to be used in paid media.

Boosting influencer creative is beneficial for brands for a few reasons:

  • Expanding the reach of personal endorsement beyond the creator’s audience.
  • Adding a more authentic, trusting, and engaging voice to brand advertising.
  • Increasing the credibility of the brand’s messaging across its audiences.
  • Providing more ways to evaluate the impact of the partnership by tracking site actions and sales generated by boosted content.

In addition, well-performing influencer creative can boost campaign efficiency and drive more engagement and meaningful actions within the same campaign budget. But as brands increasingly work on boosting influencer content, a few important questions arise:

  • Which influencers should brands whitelist?
  • Are macro influencers likely to do better than micro influencers in paid campaigns?
  • Should the same creator partners be engaged across multiple platforms, or do they need to be platform-specific?
  • How can brands acquire UGC and ensure it has the same impact as influencer content?

To shed some light on these topics, let’s take a closer look at influencer and UGC content performance in paid social, starting with some key definitions.

Influencer Content: Social media posts/reels/stories produced by an influencer and posted to the influencer’s channels. This content can then be boosted by the brand in the paid social campaigns.

UGC, or user-generated content: The same style of content as influencers, but the creator does not post it to their account and instead delivers it to the brand. The brand posts the content from its accounts or uses it in ads.

Influencers are defined into tiers by follower count:

  • Nano: 1,000 to 10,000 followers
  • Micro: 10,001 to 100,000 followers
  • Mid-Tier: 100,001 to 500,000 followers
  • Macro: 500,001 to 1,000,000 followers
  • Mega: 1,000,001+ followers

Determining the right content to boost

With varying performance in boosted content and additional costs associated with acquiring the content, marketers naturally wonder if there is a foolproof approach to the selection process. However, as it usually is with marketing, the right approach is to test and learn.

The success of influencer creative for wider audiences (in other words, in ad campaigns) does not correlate with the size of the influencer’s own audience. Boosting Mega-tier influencer content is not a guarantee of success, and smaller influencers available for whitelisting at lower budgets can perform well in paid social campaigns. In whitelisting, the “fit” between the influencer, their content, and the brand is hugely important and can have a significant impact on awareness, consideration, and sales across wider audiences.

A few recommendations on picking well-suited influencers for paid campaigns:

  • Determine the available budget for influencer engagement and the following paid campaign. Make sure the paid campaign budget is sufficient for your goals.
  • Choose influencers based on their content and follower audience; the more relevant to the brand/product/audience the content is, the more authentic it will feel.
  • Review recent partnerships and endorsements to avoid competitor overlap.
  • Evaluate how much the creator’s values, style, and tone of voice align with your brand positioning.
  • Consider A/B testing different influencers or boosted content against your own brand ads to get a better measurement of success.

Can the same creator content be used across all social platforms?

When it comes to brand ads, it is standard practice to develop creative specifically for the platform where it is going to run. This ensures that formats, designs, and CTAs are optimized for the environment in which they will be seen. In general, advertisers don’t need to worry about the technical side of things since the creators themselves will post their content to the platform. Even if they are posting the content to multiple social platforms, it will necessarily adhere to the requirements of each.

If the influencer maintains a presence on multiple social platforms, should you whitelist all of their content? Or is it better to work with unique sets of influencers on a platform-by-platform basis? There is no single perfect recipe for this. We have seen campaigns where an influencer’s content is the top performer on one platform but underperforms on another.

Remember, too, that an audience’s preferences and behavior can vary by platform. While they engage with content on one social network, the same content might be less appealing on another.

The solution is testing and learning. Expanding the range of platforms for which the content is whitelisted from your top influencers is a way to start. However, identical performance should not be expected, and you should have more options in the testing pipeline whenever possible.

Embrace the TikTok revolution

TikTok transformed the influencer world by changing not only the type of content that gains popularity but the means of that content gaining popularity. Follower counts have become less important in gaining exposure to audiences and a new wave of influencers has emerged.

In this new environment, brands can still go the traditional route of influencer partnership and content boosting, or they can capitalize on the “everyone can be an influencer” mentality and acquire quality UGC at a lower cost. At this point, TikTok’s creative solutions—TTCC and TTCX—enter the chat.

TikTok Creative Challenge (TTCC)

  • Allows brands to tap into a wider network of TikTok creators by posting a challenge (detailed brief) and getting submissions from various creators.
  • TTCC program now offers two tiers: self-serve and premium.
    • The self-serve tier has the lowest budget requirements, but also limits the advertiser in the number of assets they can receive and uses automated creator matching based on defined parameters (i.e. advertisers cannot pick talent). Creative must be used in paid campaigns within 7 days of receiving it.
    • The premium tier has a significantly higher spend commitment but offers support from TikTok reps in the creator selection process and flexibility on the campaign timeline. This tier does not require the use of every creative received and gives 30 days to run the selected submissions. Creators will be suggested by TikTok experts based on the initial brief and kick-off call, and advertisers can review the creators shortlisted. Multiple versions can be requested from the same creators.

TikTok Creative Exchange (TTCX)

  • Allows brands to partner with creative agencies specializing in UGC and have creative developed for them according to their brief for committed media investment.
  • The TTCX program falls between the self-serve and premium tiers of TTCC in terms of budget commitments. After the initial brief is submitted, advertisers can browse the catalog of TTCX partners and pick an agency of their choice or allow the system to make a suggestion based on the advertiser industry and the style of ad selected. Advertisers need to receive brief acceptance from the selected partner.
  • TTCX partners provide concept outlines that need to be approved by the brand and then submit the assets. Just like TTCC, advertisers have a time limit within which they need to spend the committed media budget.

Both TTCC and TTCX require media spend commitment but do not add additional charges for creative when these commitments are met. In other words, there is no extra cost for creative—all spend goes towards media.

TTCC vs. TTCX vs. influencers

Both TTCC and TTCX deliver UGC, with the exact performance by creative type specific to each brand. But which approach will work best for your brand? Based on our experience, here are our potential scenarios for different types of content:

  • Influencers may deliver the highest conversion rate (CRV) of the three but fall behind on click-through-rate (CTR).
  • TTCX is likely to have higher CTR than influencers, but lower CVR. However, it can be a balanced solution for campaigns with traffic and sales goals.
  • TTCC might beat TTCX in CTR but also deliver lower CVR. This solution can work well in driving traffic and brand awareness.

DAC’s recommendations

In short, there are several key points to keep in mind when working with influencer and user-generated content in paid social:

  • Boosting influencer and user-generated content can improve paid social campaign performance and should be incorporated into the brand’s paid social strategy.
  • Selecting influencers should follow a test-and-learn approach just like with branded ads.
  • Brands do not need to acquire macro influencers’ content to use in ads; micro and mid-tier influencer content may work just as well.
  • Each social platform can have separate top-performing influencers for your brand’s paid campaigns. Do not apply the successes of one social network universally.
  • Use partnership tools in the each platform to help you get started with UGC.
  • Set specific KPIs aligning with brand goals, and evaluate all tested creative based on these KPIs.

Paid social is a fast-moving environment with exciting possibilities, but it can also be difficult to know where to start. Reach out to the DAC media team for support with your paid social strategy and we’ll be happy to help.


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