Something I didn’t know (but which you probably did) is that paid-for advertising isn’t AT ALL the influencer’s opinion of the product.

I found this out recently when I was asked to make some UGC (User Generated Content). I would be sent the product and then make a video for the company to post on their social media. But they said I’d have no leeway to give my own thoughts: just follow a script ie “This is the best product I’ve ever tried! It’s totally transformed my skin/hair/garden/housework etc.” (Big smile! Excited, enthusiastic expression! Wave hands about!) They said: after all – it’s an ad.

Of course, so long as everyone understands this, it’s fine. And usually the corporate-speak gives it away. Plus always starting with, “Hey guys!” in that perky, social-media voice. And then being reeeeeally enthusiastic all the way through about this new thing/ car vacuum cleaner/ plastic whatsit for scraping over your face.

The good/engaging UGC seems like it is genuinely the influencer’s positive opinion (good from the marketing guys’ perspective). But why don’t they trust the creater to say what they think? Well, too risky. Too many variables. Too much room for getting wayyyyy off topic. Or people just saying: your product is fine, but not life-changing, or actually doesn’t work at all.

I was recently sent an item and it was OK, a perfectly nice product, but it didn’t have the super-duper powers the manufacturer said it would (not for me anyway, in my highly unscientific trial). She decided to cut her losses, let me keep the products and not proceed. It’s not worth her uploading content that says her product is okaaaaaaay, but not worth the gazillion quid she was charging for the extra properties it was meant to have. And this is probably the best strategy. I have read that professional poker players fold early, 80% of the hands they’re dealt. Amateurs 20% – they hang on in there, thinking maybe it’ll come good with the next card I get. The pro’s know the odds: it won’t.

Paid advertising (actual ads on TV, billboards, traditional and social media) has the biggest impact on revenue for retailers and brands, according to ecommerce marketers. But customers, having seen your ad, still want more information to hear from real people what they think. Hence the reviews on all major sales sites (Amazon, John Lewis etc). Now, we know a lot of these reviews are fake, or at least the manufacturer’s friends and family and employees, have been encouraged to leave reviews saying how great they are. The short ones are probably even bots, who knows? (the ones saying “Excellent product!”) Or am I a dreadful cynic? I think not.

Sarah Lockett, UGC
Sarah Lockett, UGC

Anyway, I am happy to make UCG only if I can give my opinion – and guys, I WILL BE DIPLOMATIC even if I don’t like it. So, if anyone wants to send me stuff, get in touch. Here’s an example of a short video (23 seconds!) I made recently for DesigerFriday. A dress they sent to me for free, with some ideas for points I could mention (sustainable! Fair pay for Indian women! Upcycled cotton! Body positivity!) I hope no-one thought, Ahh she’s sold out, because it is a product that fits with my interests (fashion, dressing for work, dressing for days when we feel bloated, body positivity) so it “aligns with my brand” (terrible marketing speak, sorry). And I am open to doing more UGC so watch this space 🙂

Sarah Lockett

Sarah Lockett is a former BBC News / Sky News anchor who currently presents a variety of content for corporate clients and delivers media training.
She has presented on BBC News and Sky News, plus reported for Channel Four News, 5 News, Reuters and others.
She now hosts webinars and conferences, chairs corporate/academic panel discussions, hosts award ceremonies and events. She writes, presents and produces training videos, as well as voiceovers (both factual and drama/comedy). She has written two books and is also working as an actor.

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