The EMV of UGC to measure the ROMI of IG

The Earned Media Value of User Generated Content to Measure the Return on Marketing Investment of Instagram

tl;dr: marketing is built on awareness and loyalty; what your customers say about you – on the most widely used platforms across the world – is important and demands to be measured. No one ignores media mentions from top outlets so why would you ignore mentions from your top customers and fans?


Even as the evolution of marketing continues to trend toward revenue attribution, awareness will always be a leading campaign indicator. An over-correction to tangible metrics has led marketing away, but earned never lost traction. Working to elevate new digital channels through technology, marketing is shifting budget away from paid and is back to stronger consideration of earned. Enter user-generated content (UGC) – a consistently impactful lever to pull. But, even as digital ads lose efficacy, this organic content is mostly being ignored. We’ll skip the ‘digital ads are dying’ sermon and go straight to how UGC is changing digital marketing and where this valuable earned media channel fits into reporting.

Did We Forget About EMV?

“How does everybody look at awareness-focused marketing as part of your budget?”

This question was recently asked in the Slack group CMO Coffee Talk. They went on to explain how their team needed a tangible metric to attach to brand awareness, even if the ROI isn’t a true 1:1 with other metrics. [insert shocked emoji] This is the definition of EMV, or earned media value. The obsession with attribution is a dark path. EMV isn’t UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) data collected from a CTA (call-to-action) conversion but it’s the OG (original gangster) marketing metric. 

Measuring eyeballs on ads is as old as the practice of marketing itself. But as the dissemination of media changes, so does the impact, and use, of EMV, the one true metric for brand awareness. Pay attention to this highly impactful marketing metric, even if it is left off everyone’s list (looking at you HubSpot). This is not a comeback story – EMV never left – it just keeps being re-attributed.

EMV for Marketing Revenue Attribution

EMV is the marketing metric to attach a revenue number to brand awareness. Hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on activations, facebook ads, and free product fall flat if no one buys (or sees) what you’re selling. What was once ‘how many subscribers will see my ad in the local newspaper’ has turned into, ‘how far is my Instagram reach?’. The evolution of EMV follows the eyeballs…

This is where EMV enters the social media space. To compare, the earned value on a single Instagram post is as good as the earned value on a single blog, but a few hundred media mentions across several publications is where the numbers get impactful. Just like UGC. A single Instagram post – much like that blog mention – is useful but where the numbers start to move the needle is when several customers are posting creative variations with a brand’s product, leading to exponential reach across several audiences. Starting to see the importance in UGC?

Measuring the EMV of UGC

User generated content comes from your most valuable content sources – loyal customers and brand fans. And what’s the most effective way to reach this audience and their audiences? More user-generated content. 

At LoudCrowd, the equation we use for the EMV of UGC is: [Impressions x .03] or $30 CPM (Cost per thousand – or the price of 1k ad impressions). 

How is this different from influencer marketing?

It cannot be stressed enough…influencers are paid to follow a script; customers are happy to share good experiences. Trust follows the latter. 

Consider this… 

If you bring a picture of Kim Kardashian to your hair stylist and request her hair style or color, you might be disappointed – unless you’re ready to spend thousands of dollars and hit the salon daily. Why? Because Kim Kardashian has extensions, on-demand salon stylists, and the top colorist in the world. A more adequate image to bring would be pictures of your friends; normal everyday people doing normal everyday things, without access to a daily glam squad. This is UGC. User generated content is organic therefore it’s more effective and trustworthy to the consumer. Even Kim Kardashian’s makeup artists post incredible UGC for the makeup brands she uses! 

How Privacy Concerns Elevate UGC

Consumers are tired of being a commodity – if a powerhouse like Apple can kill marketing’s beloved pixels in the name of privacy, then there will be more to follow. Conversion strategies that rely on third party cookies will continue to diminish. And for the love of god, it is idiotic to continue to burn marketing dollars in an ever-diminishing medium. Shift your strategy from paying Facebook and use those dollars to reward your customers who tag you on social. User generated content is the one true place where the platform behemoths can’t mess with your reach. Spend months building a following and Facebook will just charge you more and more to reach them. But shift your focus to earned, organic posts and your brand fans and customers will continue to widen your reach FOR FREE.

“There is a lot of fear about cookies going away and how that will impact the ability to target ads. But if your brand champions are promoting you on social, they still have all the reach they always did, perhaps more.”

Russ Somers, CMO, inMotionNow

As proof with the popularity of Instagram and the rising use of TikTok, user-generated content is the virality brands need to cultivate if they want to stay top-of-mind. In the future, the only cookies that will matter are chocolate chip. Shift your focus to measuring the impact of UGC or continue to lose brand awareness in digital ads.

UGC and Revenue Attribution

In a perfect world, UGC metrics include brand loyalty metrics; it’s the next level of customer experience marketing. [Stay tuned…] But for now, EMV is the way marketing takes ownership of their revenue impact through this invaluable earned media content. 

Within the LoudCrowd platform, we automatically assign an earned media value to UGC. For example, one of our beauty brands saw almost $300K in value from UGC in May. Their team members now get to take that win to their executive leadership, to the board, and celebrate with the rest of the company.

Six-figure numbers from UGC is a huge opportunity for brands. If not LoudCrowd to analyze UGC, marketing teams should at least be considering how to manually calculate these numbers.

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