New year, same me, but very different UGC? Only time will tell, but with the UGC industry showing incredible growth on the creator side over the last eighteen months it’s hard not to wonder where it could be going. And what that means for you as a creator.
Building a UGC business has allowed many creators to reach 5-figure months and leave their 9-5s once and for all: Chelsea racked up $130k in her first year alone. But — and it’s a big but — there are a lot of skeptics wondering if the bubble is getting ready to burst. Brett Fully took to TikTok with his own 2024 predictions to profess that “UGC is officially dead. UGC creators cannablized their own market by telling other people to become creators.”
Me, I don’t think so. But I do think it’s changing.
Today I’m running through my predictions for the UGC business in 2024.
1. Traditional ads won’t fly
First up, and it’s an obvious – ad formats need to change. Once upon a time, problem/solution ads were the easiest and most profitable way to grow a direct-to-consumer brand. Consumers bought in. But, now, it’s not as easy.
Consumers are selfish. They’re fatigued. They are done with being sold to (in an obvious way). They want to scroll without an interruption, and this means brands need to embrace native content that doesn’t feel like an ad. My best guess is that brands will leverage creators for authentic, social-centric content. More organic, less performance creative. According to The 2023 Sprout Social Index, authentic, non-promotional content is the number one type of content consumers don’t see enough of from brands on social.
☁️What does this mean for UGC creators? Emphasize your organic retainer packages or ads that can humanize a brand with UGC style storytelling. You want to sell long-term collaborations, not one off arbitrary ad testing.
2. AI will be a help, not a hindrance
2023 was the year of the robot. 2024, won’t be different. I think AI is going to continue to take over a lot of the menial operations aspect of running a business, but leave brands scrambling for strategists.
ChatGPT has disrupted a lot of the ways that we think about work in general. And I think that the fear initially was that a lot of people thought it was going to steal jobs. For UGC creators the introduction of the uptick in Elevenlabs and for short-form video creation was a worry. But it didn’t need to be, at least, not yet. While AI can easily pick up systematic and assistant-based work (operations folks watch out), it can’t touch creative. Yet.
Brands will need creative strategists that can pave the way and then intertwine their output with AI. I do think we’ll be kissing goodbye to the big money scripts reads and additional hooks — instead, licensing your voice to brands to enable them to make their own alternative scripts will become a thing.
☁️What does this mean for UGC creators? Hone your skills, work on educating yourself and being able to pitch not only your UGC skills but yourself as a creative strategist. Also, stop looking at AI as the enemy and use it to enhance your own processes.
3. TikTok shop is going to change the game (but not how you think)
I’m sorry to say it. I know it’s been a money-maker in Q4 of 2023, but I think the TikTok shop hype is going to die down. There, I said it. TikTok shop is reaching new heights because of two things:
- TikTok creative affiliate program
- TikTok incentivising brands to sell, and consumers to buy
Right now, there is a lot of money and a lot of perks to be gained by being one of the first. First brand, first creator, first customer. TikTok is supplying coupons to both brands and customers to incentivise them to shop on the platform. Add in a crazy high affiliate % for promoters, and it’s a win for everyone. But this high can’t last forever.
Consumers are already tiring of the FYP feeling like QVC. TikTok will eventually stop awarding coupons, and brands will have to reduce the affiliate percentages they are offering. It’s not sustainable. But, this will give Meta a push in the right direction to improve their own social commerce. By Q4 of 2024, we’ll all be scrambling to start promoting on Facebook products. Mark my words.
☁️What does this mean for UGC creators: Don’t put your eggs in one basket. That’s it. That’s the tip.
4. Employees turned creators are on the up
Possibly my favorite trend of 2023 has been employees as influencers. If you’ve not seen SET active or Sheer Luxe transform their offices into sets, you’re missing out. I’m invested in these workplaces, as are many other consumers.
In many ways, 2024 is going to be the year of the employee.
If you’re looking at applying for the marketing team in a SAAS company in the next 12 months, I’d bet my bottom dollar that creating content is on the job spec. People don’t care about brands, they care about people, and amidst a loneliness epidemic, human connection will be more important than ever.
☁️What does this mean for UGC creators?: Long. Term. Retainers. Brands are going to need faces, and most won’t have a SET active style office with a handful of employees ready to be interviewed. Consider a small business with a founder who doesn’t want to be front and center. Pitch yourself as the employee.
5. Courses, courses, everywhere
UGC as an ‘industry’ is constantly evolving. Why? Because it’s not an ‘industry’. It’s a marketing tactic, a creative style, that has been around for a solid decade, but has ultimately gained momentum in the last two years thanks to get rich quick creators on TikTok.
Now, those creators — and those who came after — have realized it’s easier to make money passively selling courses on UGC than it is to actually do UGC. In fact, Brands Meets Creators have an entire section in their UGC Academy dedicated to diversifying your income. One of those is creating digital products. The other is promoting other people’s digital products. This isn’t new for 2024, but it is maturing. Affiliate schemes are getting more lucrative and courses are popping up here, there and everywhere.
☁️What does this mean for UGC creators?: More noise. There’s no denying that creating a digital product can bring additional revenue, but you really have to consider what value you’re bringing before you make the leap.
Let me know your own thoughts on where you see the world of UGC heading in 2024. Nothing is certain, but there’s one thing I’m sure of — UGC is going nowhere. You’re not too late to the party, get your head down and make your mark.