The Rise Of UGC 2.0: User Generated Collects

One of the most exciting breakthroughs in online content has been the rise of User-Generated Content ‘UGC’. What might be referred to as UGC 2.0, or ‘User Generated Collects’, is the next phase in its evolution. UGC 2.0 is not only a new format but will change the face of the Internet for all of us, creating new and enriching ways of interacting online for users and content creators alike.

Why does User Generated Content (UGC 1.0) matter?

Over the last several years, we've seen a seismic shift in the way we communicate, discover and create online, shaped by UGC. Reinforcing the future of digital led by creators and communities.

As UGC continues to grow in popularity, so does its monetization potential. What form it takes and how people use it continues to evolve and transform. Look no further than TikTok becoming a trusted and curated search engine for Gen Z, rivaling even Google search demonstrating the format's expansion beyond a source for entertainment.

Creators today are producing more content than ever before, but the current system remains broken.

Not only are creators not being fairly compensated for their work, but platform intermediaries that host their content continue to extract value from them in ever-changing ways. Wielding immense leverage over creators through their verbose and incomprehensible Terms of Service.

The price of a coffee ☕
The price of a coffee ☕

It's no surprise that platforms want to protect their financial interests. In fact, UGC is so valuable that it's quickly becoming recognized as a legitimate asset class in its own right. On YouTube top creators have started  to cash in on back catalogs similar to musicians selling their music rights. However major challenges remain as platforms own the supply chain therefore are able to make autocratic revenue-sharing decisions that aren't in creators' (or investors’) interests or control.

Despite limited support and downside risk from platforms, 64% of Gen Z plan to monetize their social content by 2023. A number sure to grow as more and more people understand how valuable their content is. In order to create a sustainable future, creators must be empowered to create, share and monetize content without the impediments of gatekeepers, setting the stage for the rise of UGC 2.0. This format will unlock far-reaching effects on content consumption and online engagement than its predecessor.

To be collected on christina.lens soon
To be collected on christina.lens soon

User Generated Collects (UGC 2.0)

UGC 2.0 combines two powerful trends: UGC 1.0 and blockchain technology. On Lens Protocol, a blockchain powered platform for creators, any type of content medium created is owned by the user and can be shared and collected by their audience (including videos, articles, images, music & more).

Creators can now leverage their own content as an asset class and earn revenue from it directly. Thereby removing the handcuffs from third party platforms for their distribution and earnings potential. Transforming social content into tradable collectables allows it to realize its full potential as an asset class not possible in the current paradigm.

By giving creators and users ownership & control over their social content they can now leverage it into new opportunities across:

  1. Fandom & Connectivity

  2. Data Empowerment

  3. Creator Monetization

  4. Communities & Brands

1. Fandom & Connectivity

The heart of this new ecosystem is no longer about ‘influencers’ posting videos and photos on Instagram anymore. Influence is a one-way relationship. UGC 2.0 is about allowing fans and creators to connect in new ways, opening up a two way relationship between creators and their audience. Now we're collecting content with a connection. If anything, the popularity of TikTok has taught us that we would rather participate in social media instead of liking and commenting on posts.

Having previously worked in the music and tech industry including at TikTok, UGC 2.0 is what musicians and all creative industries should be thinking about for the next 3-5 years as the format for fandom.

We really believe the next big format for the music business is fandom” Eliah Seton, SoundCloud

While this is no doubt an exceptional one liner, my theory is: “Social collectable content is the next big format which will enable true fandom”.

While there is a lot of talk about the future of content and how we consume it, in reality users hunger for more. Imagine being able to own and participate in the moments that make up the work, journey or backstory of your favorite creators. Creators today already use social media as part of fan building, but it's superficial with no mechanism to build further. Fans are the lifeblood of a creator’s growth spreading and amplifying their content with others unlocking new reaches and audiences. They are the loyal base who give a fraction of their time for no compensation.

Lens Collects are an opportunity for fans to weave a bond with their favorite creators. First, by allowing fans to own and collect the creators' social content, we open up new ways for fans to connect using this as patronage or to showcase their fandom as part of their digital identity.  Second, fans can now discover and connect with each other sharing their passion for the same creator thereby increasing network effects. Third, by rewarding fans for amplifying content through "Mirrors," an affiliate type fee embedded in Lens Collects fans can finally be rewarded for their efforts. Now, sharing and curating content we enjoy is more than just fun — it's a way to share in the monetization potential.

The rise of the ‘curator’ is a shift in how we think about the future economy of content creation and consumption. It's starting to be recognized, last week we saw TikToker Ari Elkins start a music label. Why must you go this far to start earning from your curation? Can't it be simpler than that?

Fan curators such as Mixtape  are cropping up all over Lens' growing ecosystem as a creator class in their own right. Each curation is an endorsement for the creator, with the potential to generate revenue for them. Well-known web3 industry curators are including Lens Collects as part of their weekly NFT roundups, such as Brokeinvstr of FRESH MINTS.

I expect to see Lens' Mirror Collect powering new tools and impacting the way tastemakers capture value from their skills and contributions online. We're just getting started. Personally, I'm eager to bring back the era of authentic curatorial discovery such as music blogs incentivized by a new economic framework.

Co-creation and remixing are additional areas of fan engagement that we believe Lens Protocol will be at the forefront of. These behaviors create a content waterfall of Community Generated Collects ‘CGC’, a form of creative expression and “ripple effect” that can be equally productive and value-add to the underlying original piece of content and creator. UGC 3.0 anyone? At Lens we're forging new pathways via different license options and smart contract toolkits to support attribution, ownership and monetization of CGC, most recently partnering with StemsDAO. Expect to read more about this in 2023.

2. Data Empowerment

Creators, Curators and Communities of tomorrow will be empowered by data transparency to discover their most engaged fans and members aggregated across the entire social ecosystem without the gatekeepers and centralized databases of today.

Creators today are no longer defined by one platform or medium anymore. Lens seeks to connect creators' multi-platform and multi-media activities with a social graph that they can use to engage directly with fans, increasing distribution power and benefit from direct-to-fan engagement.

Our mission is to help creators connect and own their basic audience in order to understand and engage with them wherever they are. Today creators cannot track the most basic overlap in engagement between TikTok, Instagram and Twitter followers and are unable to answer who are the fans driving their success. They lack valuable information to build and nurture their audience base. Lens Protocol provides open data structures facilitating transparency on all social media analytics. They’ll be able to learn about their most loyal fans in real time and consumers will no longer need to wait for their annual “Spotify wrapped” to be attributed to the top 1% of someone's fan base (and limited to one platform).

Taking this further, imagine being able to see a heat map of how a meme you’ve created or collected spreads across the internet for example. Where it's most popular, how quickly it grew, which platforms are most effective at distributing it and which media types did it evolve into? All powered by the open, public and transparent nature of the blockchain.

Bello is an example of an application using Lens to allow creators to make sense of all this new open data with actionable social analytics.

Important to note that while the utility of open data is undisputed, over the past decade we have also learned that privacy is important. Lens Protocol is working on privacy options for Collects, experimenting with zero knowledge and verifiable credentials to add a layer of privacy based on the user’s or creator’s choice. A new area with more to come as the underlying infrastructure continues to develop.

3. Creator Monetization

Since Lens Protocol’s beta launch ~7 months ago, creators have made over $350K monetizing their content directly with their audiences, with assets that are now owned and traded by fans.

While high earning headlines such as PussyRiot are early indicators of potential, Lens Collects are not limited to established large scale creators. When it comes to UGC 2.0 it's all about the micro-creator. The creator without millions or thousands of followers but a smaller more engaged audience. UGC 2.0 is focused on building a sustainable environment for the long tail. Indexing less on numbers such as reach and likes, instead on quality and depth of relationship and content. We're living in a time of social inflation and even in the more traditional sense micro-influencers are becoming the most valuable and trusted in the creator economy. Instead of focusing on rewarding ‘virality’ or ‘reach’ as the primary source, Lens Collects enables the creation of collectible assets that can be posted as easily as a tweet. Creators don't have to invest time and energy structuring a high pressure large-scale NFT drop to benefit from the blockchain and earn from their audiences. Gone are the days of worrying about a floor price and whether something sells out as a psychological barrier to entry. Ryan Fox an avid Lens user and creator aptly summarized his experience:

Additionally by being on the Polygon blockchain and composable Lens Collects can also be used by creators to customize and reward their communities as they see fit via token gating, exclusive content/access/experiences. Shoutout to the couple Karma & Violetta who have created a token gated telegram group using Lens’ integration with Guild for their Lens music fan collectors.

4. Communities & Brands

Denis Nazarov from Mirror last year wrote “collect is the new like” strongly echoing the vision of what social content is becoming. In today's one-directional social media interactions, "likes" are abundant and meaningless when it comes to generating authentic connections or content discovery.

TikTok opened up our ability to explore even the most niche of interests but we’re a slave to a black box content curation algorithm and it lacks a connection mechanism for shared interests. With digital collectables becoming the new social fabric, social collectables will power the evolution for authentic discovery and connection. Everything always starts at the social level.

The Lens Collects in our wallets will provide bottom-up community building opportunities around shared interests and belonging, linking like minded people together. Communities will form around the Lens Collects we choose to carry and use as social proof. No more large scale superficial and expensive membership NFTs are needed. Like all our social interactions, it will be organic and spontaneous, enhancing our online experience through more personalized and self curated discovery. The natural extension is that Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (‘DAO’) will be formed underpinned by the very own Lens Collects that powered discovery and brought the community together in the first place.

Social collectable content is the future of brand creation, because consumers trust their peers more than they do brands. 61% of US consumers believe communities are more trustworthy than brands. Today a brand's success is a product of culture and heavily influenced by online social discourse. Social collectables have the potential to mark the formation of new-aged brands, music labels, media houses all created and led by their digital communities. ConstitutionDAO taught us that grassroots online collectives can be incredibly powerful. A social collectable meme trend can easily become the next media house; a community can spur around it and make that happen on Lens. The future digital communities will become owners in the brands they create and contribute to the success of. Changing how brands interact with consumers as active participants in their own social consumption.

We're starting to see this new frontier emerge on Lens Protocol. Rehash DAO is leveraging Lens Protocol, as part of building its new aged community centric media brand. Campfire plans to build its music collective using collectable content. Je$$yFries, a web3 cult culture meme artist with a love of fries, is also working on a gated community for her Lens collectors.

I also expect to see traditional brands experiment with their web3 social presence and profile. The Smurfs Society,  yes our childhood favorite, partnered with Lens to release their web3 game exclusively to Lens Profile holders. This was overwhelmingly successful, driving 30K wallets to play the game over a weekend representing a fifth of all Lens Protocol profiles (currently 100K as Lens remains in closed beta).

Brands like The Smurfs understand that to stay relevant in the future, they need to engage with web3 early adopters. These users are the next valuable cohort, the younger siblings of Gen Z (in sequencing only). They love technology, they're creative, and constantly looking for ways to deepen connections. This means engaging with them in authentic ways by meeting them on their native social platforms. Anyone say Lens?

Not to mention UGC 2.0 provides brands with the tools to build loyalty and online social engagement with their audiences in more meaningful ways through first party data and community generated content (again ‘CGC’). Brands must rethink the status quo of using UGC as just an additional linear marketing channel for reaching their audience to compete with the risk of new entrant community powered brands. This means being active participants co-creating new experiences with their consumers and communities through UGC 2.0.

Another solid nugget of alpha from Ryan Fox on Lenster to round it all out.

To close, the future of social media is User Generated Collects or UGC 2.0. Collects are a new primitive and remain an untapped area that will play a major role in shaping social media dynamics in the future. I hope this helps scratch the surface and inspires creators, users and builders to explore the possibilities.

Do you have any additional ideas for UGC 2.0 that go beyond this piece? We would love for you to share your thoughts and help us shape what is next. Feel free to leave them in the comments or DM me on Lenster, Orb or Twitter.

Please collect this article here on Mirror.

Thanks to PH and Azeem (resident UGC expert from 2013), who provided valuable feedback on this piece and encouraged me to publish it.

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