78% of B2C businesses are planning on using UGC in their marketing efforts next year, so it’s clear that this is an issue which matters to marketers. As part of Social Media Week London, the Reevoo team decided to host a talk – which turned into a heated discussion – on branded media versus user-generated media.

The ‘What’s Yours is Mine – Content in the 21st Century’ talk held at the RSA House on September 15th, gathered five very different players in the marketing space under the calming supervision of Reevoo founder Richard Anson.

No punches were pulled as Malcolm Coles, digital director at the Telegraph Media Group, started off by comparing content on the internet to vomit. Funnily enough, given his job title, he was clearly on the side of branded content, citing how Apple News and Facebook were making deals with UK publishers.

Lisa Rodwell, CEO at fashion brand and retailer Wool and the Gang, was far more positive about user-generated content; she looks at her Instagram account every morning and evening to know what her customers are posting and liking. She could give the job to the intern but she feels it’s important to have that connection with Wool and the Gang’s fans.

78% of B2C businesses are planning on using UGC in their marketing efforts next year. - Highlight to share -

Allan Blair Beaton, a social media ‘scientist’ who consults for clients as varied as Hootsuite and the University of Glasgow, saw the role of social in content marketing as initiating a conversation with customers and fans. UGC is just an extension of that conversation and shouldn’t revolve around the brand pushing out a message without listening.

On the other side of the equation, Kate Osbourne, a partner at ARC, an Omnicom Media Group UK company, wasn’t sure if content was always the answer:

“It’s a buzzword. More people are doing it and more people are doing it less well”.

She stressed that advertising still had a big part to play; brands have to ask themselves if it is content that they really need, rather than advertising – and it if is content, the marketing department shouldn’t be the ones providing it.

Alan Mitchell, strategy director at Ctrl-Shift, a company which helps businesses capitalise on the opportunities afforded by the new personal information economy, then tried to reframe the debate. He wanted to move the focus away from creating different types of content to providing information to consumers. He talked about the importance of getting the right information, to the right people, at the right time.

Funnily enough, the audience at the event seemed more preoccupied by another issue concerning UGC, namely the problem of privacy. The panel weren’t so sure; Malcolm and Allan (Blair Beaton) thought people didn’t care about giving away details while Alan (Mitchell) thought it was simply a question of relativity. Consumers are prepared to give a certain amount of information away for certain purposes.

Consumers are prepared to give a certain amount of information away for certain purposes. - Highlight to share -

The discussion touched on lots of other important subjects – from publishers losing the means of distribution as social takes over, to the looming threat of ad blocking to both publishers and brands. And of course, a talk on content marketing was always going to tackle the all-important problem of keeping potential customers’ attention as they get bombarded with information, whether it’s from brands or other consumers.

The top five take-aways:

Lisa Rodwell: “Be authentic.”

Alan Mitchell: “Brands need to become information services.”

Allan Blair Beaton: “Who is that person you are creating content for? Where are you publishing it?”

Kate Osborne: “Know who you are as a brand. Find out what’s stopping customers from buying. Is content the answer? And then who is best person to create that content for you?”

Malcolm Coles: “Apple doesn’t tweet.”

Watch the video from the event:

Branded content versus user-generated content