From Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the basic human desire to “fit in” is something that’s impossible to ignore. Whether we choose cosplay, dubstep or Parkrun as a hub for our communities, we all want to belong, to be included, to be part of the group – it’s human psychology 101 or to quote Aristotle: “Humans are by nature social animals”.
But what does this have to do with UGC (User Generated Content)? Well, just about everything, as it happens…
The death of brand-owned content
The days of glossy ads impressing viewers into engaging with brands and making purchases are over. Today the general public is a lot more aware of how traditional marketing and advertising works.
While the odd advert may appeal, others are increasingly overlooked amidst the clamour created by hundreds of other brands, all sharing the same physical or digital space. Other marketing can be irksome or even depressingly manipulative (remember the banned “Beach Body Ready” billboard of summer 2015?).
Jaded and overwhelmed by conventional advertising, UGC is a digital asset which users are increasingly engaging with when used in marketing. Created by real social media and web users, UGC comes from real people, making it immediately more authentic and trustworthy than anything a brand may have to say about itself. It also connects consumers to real people who value a brand, making joining that “community” seem more enticing.
And that’s where the psychology of belonging comes in…
UGC, communities & belonging
Anyone who’s ever been a teenager (and we’re willing to bet that’s most of you) knows just how powerful the need to belong is. Our cliques, social circles and social collateral are everything to us at that formative age. Our approach and outlook may become more nuanced and subtle as we age, but the desire to be part of a peer group – and not to be an outsider – is a pull that cannot be ignored.
This is a human impulse which has been observed and studied for generations. In one recent neuroscience study from the University of California, Lieberman & Eisenberger observed that the brain uses very similar circuits to process social pleasures and pains to the circuits it uses to process more physical experiences such as injuries, or winning a prize. This means that we experience our social lives very strongly and profoundly – making them incredibly significant.
This is a significance observed by Abraham Maslow in 1943, when the psychologist listed “belonging” as the third item in his Hierarchy of Needs. This hierarchy placed social belonging as the third most crucial thing for successful, happy humans after physical needs (food, warmth, air etc.) and safety requirements (physical, economic etc.).
Maslow claimed that happy, healthy humans require a sense of belonging and acceptance from the social groups which surround them, whether these groups are large or small. Without this acceptance, we are prone to loneliness, social anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
This fundamental importance of (and direct relationship to) our brain’s reward systems means that tapping into human beings’ need for belonging can be a powerful way to market a brand. Making consumers feel like part of a community – especially a community of their own peers – will make them feel connected simply by engaging with a company, and by buying its goods and services.
So how can we build communities around brands? The answer lies in UGC. Real content, from real users, from communities all over the world and web is being produced all the time. When it relates to your brand, it presents an amazing opportunity to engage consumers through their peers.
Showcasing UGC from other consumers across your marketing campaign makes this valuable “community” more visible, rather than leaving it to evaporate into the hourly barrage of social media. From your website hub, to your email marketing, in store displays and screens at live events, presenting a community of real consumers who love your brand strongly incentivises others to get involved – to belong.
Our visual marketing engine helps you place UGC front and centre across all of your marketing. Miappi features bold, dynamic and eye-catching social walls which can surface, curate and distribute positive UGC automatically (you can customise it yourself too!). Our tools are always expanding. Miappi Inserts already makes it possible to share real-time UGC within marketing emails (and soon in paid advertising!), encouraging recipients to “belong” from within their inbox.