Informed observers have been predicting that the internet would transform commerce since the 1990s, but 2020 was the year their prophecies finally came true. Shoppers were pushed online in more significant numbers than ever before, and, quick to capitalise on this trend, the social media giants began positioning themselves to reinvent shopping. The result – 55% of people now claim to buy products via social channels, and 87% say content on social platforms helps them make purchasing decisions. As a result, the high street or shopping mall of the future will almost certainly be a platform on our phones.

Social commerce is an increasingly significant component in diversifying publisher revenue streams. They must act now to innovate and grab a slice of the pie, but that means doing more than simply embedding affiliate links and delivering branded content. Publishers must build huge, highly engaged communities, and they must be seen as relevant to audiences on every platform, be it Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Snap or Twitch.  

The good news is that if publishers get their engagement strategy right, the revenue will undoubtedly follow. According to recent research from content analytics specialist Parse.ly, consumers are becoming ever more loyal to their favourite publishers and content providers.
So, when it comes to social commerce, how to grow audiences quickly and keep them loyal?  The answer is video content and, in particular, user-generated video (UGV) content.

Inspire, delight and connect

When it comes to content consumption, moments that inspire and delight consumers hold attention and moments that foster connection is most likely to be shared. But publishers must ask themselves – how much content will consumers patiently read when they are on a mission to shop?

According to Verizon Media, two key trends are currently at play. Firstly, it is vital to build a genuine connection between storytelling and commerce, the intersection between entertainment and shopping – the need for shoppable video experiences that meet audiences where they are and empower meaningful interactions. Second, over the last few years, audience trends have shown repeatedly that user-generated video is the content they most want to see. UGV allows publishers to collect and share the vast quantity of content needed to attract and retain an audience while tapping into the need for connection, a sense of community, and a desire to be entertained and inspired.  

It works! Newsflare customer In The Know has driven a 125% increase in sales value by combining storytelling, authenticity and entertainment in commerce to meet new audiences. 

UGV builds social communities for publishers because it bridges the gap between them and their audience, increasing the sense of belonging and loyalty.

Build the trust-factor

The last 18 months have reminded us of the importance of, and great value, trustworthy content from publishers. According to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2021, publishing brands with higher trust scores better reach and retain audiences.  

Deeply networked audiences are highly selective in their attention giving and also their buying decisions. Recent research by two leading OOH media platforms found  81% of consumers agree that trust is a deciding factor in purchasing decisions.   

Audiences look for content that delivers necessary information, trust signals, and authenticity. That is why mainstream publishers without a strong presence on TikTok, Snap and Instagram become increasingly eclipsed by their more socially active peers. As a result, audiences are increasingly turning to the views and alternative perspectives of “real people”.

UGV is more reliable, trustworthy, authentic, realistic and insightful. Still, it offers a new and innovative representation format, driven by the consumer experience, that guarantees audiences feel emotionally connected to publisher content. It is more memorable and, therefore, more memorable more shareable.  

For news publishers to secure their place on the social high street, they must build stronger, deeper, and more trustworthy connections with their audience.

Create relevance as well as awareness

If there is one thing we know for sure about social media audiences, they can be a fickle bunch. It can be hard to keep up with content consumption habits that change day-to-day and week-to-week, depending on what’s happening around audiences at any given time. It can also be hard to predict how they will respond to content at any given time.

The fast-paced nature of UGV and the vast breadth, depth and variety of video means that publishers can be far more flexible with content and respond quickly to changes in consumption habits.  

UGV enables publishers to gather and share content quickly and constantly pivot to create highly relevant and contextualised moments based on current audience needs and trends.

Meet audiences where they are

Social platform audience demographics vary greatly, as do their expectations. Millennials favour Facebook, whilst Snapchat reigns supreme amongst Gen Z’ers. TikTok users greatly value creativity, whilst Instagram users want to be inspired. Rather than pick one platform over the other, publishers must adapt content to platform and audience requirements – not an easy task, but one that pays off quickly if done right.  

The vast quantity and variety of UGV coupled with the constant availability of new video offer the opportunity for publishers to get creative, experiment with different formats, and work out what resonates best with audiences on each platform.  

Harness the Gen Z effect

Generation Z has buying power in the trillions, making them a key target market for publishers. They are also highly influential. Gen Z is having a big influence on the generations preceding them – the content consumption and buying behaviours of Millennials and Generation Y – as well as the generations that follow them, of course.  

Gen Z chooses to communicate 150% more in image-based rather than text-based content. As a result, Video-first platforms like TikTok and YouTube are rapidly becoming their go-to news and information sources of choice.  

The Gen Z crowd are making user-generated video content more popular than ever. It gives them what they want – diverse, complex, relevant content delivered in real-time. Engaging in visual mediums and communicating via video expresses far more, far better, and far more efficiently than words and even pictures – its content captures the Gen Z experience in unique ways.

It’s pretty safe to say that the events of the last 18 months will have a lasting impact on consumer relationships with social media and how they shop online. TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Snap and Twitch are reinventing shopping and evolving into digital high streets.   

So, what should publishers looking to set up shop on the social high street do? Obviously, they should invest in unique, distinctive content that provides the audience with an experience they can’t find anywhere else.  

Over the last few years, audience trends have shown that time, and again UGV is the content they most want to see. Moreover, if that content relates in whole or in part to a product or service, then it’s the perfect vehicle for publishers to monetise the content.  

Social commerce opportunities for publishers are expanding. UGV offers the fastest, most cost-effective, and importantly the most engaging format for growing audiences quickly and maintaining their loyalty. 

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