As the influence of artificial intelligence (AI) is now permeating what feels like every aspect of our lives, is the flourishing trend of user-generated content (UGC) as a marketing tool about to plateau?

UGC is reaching a crossroads of authenticity and volume.

The growth of UGC has been intense. It is now essential for brands, to help them engage with customers along their customer journey and provide insight as to how consumers are interacting with their brand. Consumers trust organic, user-generated content more than traditional advertising in 92% of cases, as it feeds into our subconscious of wanting others’ validation prior to purchase. Marketers – 93% of us – have seen that UGC performs better than branded content, as it is created by real people and, as a result, is perceived as more authentic and unbiased.

User Generated Content also slots neatly into our mobile phone addictions, and works wonders with different channels’ algorithms, as trending music, colours, and themes are often utilised in the content created. With billions of social media interactions happening every day, the UGC platform market is now worth around US$4.4 billion.

So, as I watch AI-generated content becoming increasingly sophisticated, I’m waiting to see how long until the authenticity of UGC itself is questioned – or pushed into AI-dom.

The challenge for our industry

The challenge that we are facing, as marketers, content creators, and consumers is the incredible ability of AI. AI technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, resulting in incredible capabilities in content generation. From AI-written articles and automated video production to computer-generated images and voice synthesis, the boundaries between human-generated and AI-generated content are becoming increasingly blurred.

Probably the best-known examples are the use of Donald Trump, from fake arrest images to voice synthesis we think we spotted fakes – but this is the dilemma. How do we determine what is truly authentic in a world where machines are capable of producing content that appears indistinguishable from that created by humans?

And for this, I ask – do we actually care?

The song Heart on My Sleeve featuring AI-generated vocals purporting to be Drake and the Weeknd racked up 600,000 Spotify streams, 15m TikTok views, and 275,000 YouTube views before it was pulled from streaming services by Universal Music Group (UMG) for “infringing content created with generative AI”.



Too late – it had already gone viral – which means that we (the public) liked it, right? Drake’s voice has been added to more songs since this. He’s not happy – but we’re still pressing like on TikTok.

User-generated content is seen and valued as a platform for authentic expression, enabling individuals to share their experiences, opinions, and creativity with the world. It has been a valuable tool for building trust, fostering engagement, and cultivating communities.

The big challenge for UGC will be in preserving the authenticity that underpins it and ensuring that human experiences and voices continue to resonate amidst the AI-generated noise. If our trust starts to fall, then we’ll need something to take its place (literal word of mouth anyone?).

A need for (groan) guidelines

There is undoubtedly a need for transparency and some form of Ethical Guidelines required to navigate the potential destruction of authenticity. Perhaps it is time to establish clear guidelines and practices to maintain transparency and ethical standards in content creation. Just as brands and content creators had to declare payments, using #gifted #sponcon and other declarations, perhaps it is time that brands, platforms, and content creators need to disclose when AI technology is employed in content generation.

Transparency ensures that audiences are aware of the presence of AI and can make informed decisions about the authenticity and credibility of the content they consume.

Maybe in some strange vortex AI will eat itself alive where it detects itself and then deletes itself! Grab a ticket for that show…

Valuing the human touch

I’d like to see the human touch and creativity remain. Let’s have more unique and imperfect content to push a deeper connection. AI will struggle for uniqueness, but that’s something that we humans and creative marketers have, as well as a ton of emotion to make connections.

No matter what guidelines are brought in, we know that the essence of authenticity lies not in the technology used to create content, but in the genuine expression of human experiences and perspectives. Let’s use AI to be more productive, to help us learn, and to allow our ideas to grow. But if we really value user-generated content, then let’s celebrate individuality, let’s celebrate innovation and opinion, let’s celebrate unfakeable emotion, and make it a world where AI and UGC coexist.

If this fails, we may even just have to start talking face to face, in person again.

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