Adam Dornbusch launched EnTribe which builds upon the strategy of leveraging authentic user-generated content for brand promotion. EnTribe conducted a survey revealing consumers’ preference for authenticity over influencer-sponsored content, indicating that personal referrals and trust significantly drive purchase decisions.
Recognizing the evolving role of influencers and the value of ‘authentic fans,’ EnTribe advises brands to engage actively with their customers, encouraging them to generate on-brand content that can be rewarded, thereby reinforcing customer loyalty and positive brand perception.
Who is Adam Dornbusch, and what is EnTribe?
Adam Dornbusch has been in digital media for 25 years now. He worked with Tribeca Film in New York and Encore Entertainment in Denver. He started some of the first video-on-demand television network specs almost 20 years ago. In most of those stops, he bought and sold TV shows and films.
His latest stint was with Current TV, where they were licensing citizen journalism. They were bringing in citizen journalism from all over the world and putting it on various media platforms, including the TV and the internet.
Ten years ago, the CEO of GoPro reached out to him and told him about their goal of building a media company. The company had inspirational individuals, such as Kelly Slater and Sean White, who were capturing aspirational content. However, the company wanted authentic content to help sell their cameras.
“But what we started realizing is there are amazing things happening all over the world. And with these cameras, people were capturing it. So, we started working with them. I launched GoPro awards and many other programs and started rewarding over a million dollars a year to people who were capturing great content,” Adam explains.
Adam left GoPro about six years ago and started his own company called EnTribe or engage your tribe, which aims to do the same thing as what GoPro was doing.
It took Adam a couple of years to build the company up, but today, they now have several amazing customers. They’re working with one of the top five tech companies in the world for their marketing, Circle K, which recently expanded to Canada with them, and Hershey’s has been using their services internationally.
EnTribe also used to work with League of Legends on their world championship and KIA on their World Cup campaign.
What prompted EnTribe to conduct this survey on user-generated content (UGC) versus influencer marketing?
EnTribe did its first survey about a year ago and figured it would be a good time to do another check-in with the same type of people. They surveyed over a thousand people and asked about their experience with social media today, especially with regard to influencers and e-commerce, because more and more people are shopping through Instagram and TikTok.
Adam’s team was trying to see the people’s appetite because they already know anecdotally from their friends, and based on what they heard online, that some are getting a little tired of influencers. One reason behind this is there’s a lot more crackdown on privacy regulations by tech companies, and people are protecting their privacy.
As a result, brands are having a more challenging time targeting the customers they want, and then any kind of influencer content has to show that it’s an ad or sponsored. People are often inundated with this kind of content.
Through the survey, EnTribe found that people are tired of seeing those sponsored ads. They’re scrolling past them almost 90% of the time. What’s driving purchase decisions today is their friends, family, and people they’re authentically following because they know and trust them. Those people making referrals are actually what’s selling products.
When someone follows Kim Kardashian or another large influencer, there are a couple of problems with one. One, people don’t know if all their followers are real. There might be fake followers on their profiles. Two, they might be following them because they like or don’t like them. There’s no way of telling whether these influencers drive purchase decisions or care about what the influencer does, eats, or drinks.
In addition, influencers are getting more expensive. They know what they can charge, and there are a lot of agencies out there hiking up their rates. So, is it cheaper to hire an influencer than George Clooney to do a TV commercial for brands? Today, not really.
“What we’re learning is there are better ways of targeting audiences. Being more authentic and really getting through the noise of social media,” Adam adds. Brands should also focus on creating one-on-one relationships with their customers, interact with them regularly, and interpret the shift in customer preferences towards authentic and organic content, as the survey revealed.
The survey also revealed that people are much more likely to buy if they know or trust the person recommending the products. For instance, from a friend or somebody they’ve talked to and met before. This means that if it’s an authentic and non-paid ad, people are much more likely to purchase than they’re coming through an influencer.
One of the survey’s biggest revelations is that some people are turned off from a brand when they hire the wrong influencer. It could even damage a brand if they’re hiring influencers, especially when the campaign ends up feeling forced. Consumers on social media are getting smarter and can determine when someone is being paid to market or push a product.
It was also enlightening to see that brands are starting to embrace user-generated content much more, and customers are starting to appreciate that.
In what ways does user-generated content help build online communities with trust and inclusion, as mentioned in the press release?
What’s interesting is that people are seeing user-generated content as authentic. But what EnTribe sees is that as people see other people take those types of photos, when a brand gives a little bit of direction, saying, “Hey, hold the logo out and just take a picture in front of our store or take a picture at our event and upload it to us.” Creators who are true and authentic fans they’re happy to oblige with the brand’s request because they’re likely already there and taking pictures.
In short, it’s easier for brands to tap authentic fans because they’re already participating. This drives a network effect where their friends and followers do the same thing. Entribe calls it “the copycat.” Over time, this creates a snowball effect where more and more people start to participate with the brand more directly.
Could you elaborate on why consumers perceive influencer marketing negatively and prefer brands to share content from actual customers?
According to the survey, there’s nothing wrong with influencer content, but it has to be categorized. For instance, hiring a celebrity to do a commercial. This means that celebrities will have a bit more brand affinity or make the brand look better next to them.
But in terms of influencing purchasing decisions, people are getting smarter on the internet and are now trusting authentic reviews. But not just any reviews — it should be reviews that don’t feel like someone or the brand is paying for the reviews.
“The survey really showed us that people are so much more likely to buy if they something that they can identify with, not George Clooney hawking a product because they can’t identify that,” Adam explains. Consumers today would prefer brands using influencers that look and talk like the Average Joe as they’re more relatable.
Considering the survey results, how do you see the role of influencers evolving in the marketing landscape?
“I see it going two ways, and I think it’s going to do both,” Adam says. Some influencers are going to get very good at selling products because they got such as powerful network, and they come off as authentic. If they can do that, then they’re going to go much more into the referral game.
For example, someone buys a product worth a hundred dollars, and the referrer gets a dollar for doing that. This has become a norm in the channel marketing strategy. This basically means that people getting referral bonuses for driving customers and are good at it are the ones that come off as authentic.
The other side of the influencers Adam sees is going to be waning a lot. He thinks people who are just celebrities for being celebrities online, say taking pretty pictures and things like that, will have a harder time attracting brands that want to pay them because brands are realizing today that they can get great content without having to pay the high prices for these celebrities.
Companies that are trying to build their brands, say Hershey’s, doesn’t care too much about e-commerce. Since they’re still building their brands, authenticity matters more, and they will need influencers that look and feel authentic, not high-paying celebrities.
What strategies or approaches can brands adopt to effectively incorporate user-generated content into their marketing initiatives?
“There’s an old saying that there’s never a new idea; only you can make ideas better,” Adam says. They’ve been doing it all the time with the brands they work with — they just improve on the ideas already existing in the wild.
“Something we say all the time at EnTribe is when social media started, brands lose control of their messaging because everyone’s talking about brands. And so you had to rein what in with social media listening tools so that brands could get control of it again,” Adam explains.
Nowadays, brands are losing control of their creatives, as pictures are posted on social media. For brands to adapt to this shift, they need to start working with creators or the individuals taking those photos and videos and teach the team the right kind of content brands want.
Brands must ensure that content produced and posted by creators is more on-brand and puts the brand in a good light. Then, brands must reward creators for doing that.
What are some examples of successful brand campaigns that have leveraged user-generated content, resulting in higher brand engagement, consumer trust, and revenue?
Before EnTribe worked with Circle K, the brand’s social media presence wasn’t really good. The content they were posting online was clearly coming from a marketing agency and didn’t show any real people — they were just ads. People were also talking negatively about the brand online, complete with hashtags.
After EnTribe started working with Circle K, their engagement score doubled in the first year. “It was really incredible,” Adam recalls.
EnTribe is now seeing more and more brands all over the world getting far more hits on user-generated content than they were on other brands’ creative. They see at least a 10x increase in the likelihood of purchase if somebody sees a piece of user-generated content than a creative agency.
How does EnTribe’s SaaS platform facilitate the process of community and content development for brands?
EnTribe works with different brands, both big and small. Some small brands they’ve worked with are often worried as they don’t have a large community. Big brands, on the other hand, work with at least ten creators, which is extremely labor extensive. They must manage spreadsheets, reward systems, content management systems, secure rights clearances, and marry altogether.
What EnTribe does is make the process simple for every brand. “We have a SaaS platform with all those fun functions built in its turnkey. We can set up a brand in less than ten minutes in our platform, and we can either run it completely for them, or they can run it themselves,” Adam explains.
EnTribe has its own customer success team to help brands that decide to run the campaigns themselves. This team provides tips and tricks to brands to ensure that they’re using the platform in the right way. Without EnTribe’s platform, brands need a huge team to manage a network comprising hundreds or thousands of creators.
Can you provide insights into the collaborative communication tools and interactive features offered by EnTribe that enhance brand-community engagement?
The platform enables brands to provide insights into the creators, thanks to its collaborative communication tools and interactive features. EnTribe has lots of AI tools built into the platform, helping in content discovery, creator discovery, and creator communications, plus lots of communication tools.
“But essentially, we will either help you leverage your existing marketing campaigns to make those into UGC activations, or we can help find people through social media and communication with them through the platform,” Adam says.
The platform also makes it easier to do both work through social media and directly with the creators. Since various communication tools and AI streamline various processes, creators using EnTribe will feel like the brands are directly talking to them.
How does EnTribe differentiate itself from other UGC management platforms available in the market?
Most UGC platforms out there are either quickly licensing content on social media, but then they never talk to that creator again, or they’re working with influencers to try to create authentic UGC but are actually paid campaigns. As mentioned, consumers are getting smarter and can easily determine the difference.
“What we do is we find your authentic audience, and then we work with them over time to make their content better. [We help them] build their brand loyalty and license more content from them over time because usually, the first piece of UGC isn’t the best if you’ve worked with a creator for a couple of months only,” Adam explains.
How can brands track the performance and effectiveness of their user-generated content campaigns using EnTribe’s platform?
EnTribe offers different techniques depending on the kind of brand and the goal they want to achieve. For instance, some universities are trying to build a community and foster camaraderie and will look into people exchanging content showing off what campus life is like. On the other hand, other larger brands are trying to reduce the cost of their marketing initiatives.
“Like Hershey’s. A lot of the content we’re using is much cheaper to acquire through UGC campaigns than it is to hire a creative agency to push it out,” Adam says.
In addition, there are some brands that are just trying to save time and energy when working with creators. Nowadays, brands understand that they must start working with the creator’s audience but often struggle because they don’t know how to do it.
EnTribe streamlines the process and makes it easier for brands to do just that. “The main difference of EnTribe from other agencies is we will find your authentic community, and we’ll work with the most passionate creators,” Adam shares.
With the continuous growth of social media, how do you see the role of user-generated content evolving in the coming years?
“I think it’s getting more critical,” Adam says. In the past, it was nice to have UGC, but now, it’s a need to have. It’s essential for brands to have a community because this is the way people are going to communicate from here on out.
How does EnTribe envision the future of marketing and the balance between user-generated content and other forms of marketing, such as influencer collaborations?
“I think all of them are just a piece of your marketing stack, and I think you need a little bit of everything if you want to have an effective job,” Adam says.
Influencers are excellent for many specific things, but they don’t scream authenticity, only commercials. But brands who choose to work with influencers get to tap into their networks, which for Adam, “is the best part of an influencer.” But for brands that want to have a full 360-degree marketing approach, UGC is critical.
As the CEO of EnTribe, what are your observations on the current state of the creator economy, and how do you see it evolving in the coming years?
“I think we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of what’s possible. And as AI gets better, you’ll be able to hyper-target creators and find new creators faster,” Adam says.
He saw how TikTok changed the fame of creating short-form videos. Now, anyone can create engaging short-form videos, and this trend will continue to increase over time. And as new products come out, content and creators are only going to get better.
“It will change the whole marketing agency model completely. And as the marketing agencies change, it changes all of marketing,” he adds.
Looking ahead to the rest of the year, what are your predictions or expectations for the intersection of user-generated content, brand marketing, and the overall landscape of the creator economy?
For Adam, UGC will take a much bigger piece of the pie. “I think the authentic users and creators are just going to keep encroaching on the marketing spends.”
“I think it’s going to be valuable to have your nice, shiny, glossy BMW commercial up there, but more and more, the content that they’re going to need to fill the pipelines as people have a huge thirst for content. They’ll need user-generated content to fill those pipelines to make them feel authentic, and as technology gets better, our channels become more infinite,” Adam explains.
Ten years ago, there were only one or two entertainment channels on social media. Today, there are more than 20 options, plus television. There’s an infinite amount of content through television and video and over-the-top fast networks.
Can you share any upcoming developments or features that EnTribe has planned to further support brands in leveraging user-generated content?
“We’re learning into AI, and we’re looking at new ways of having AI filter content and find the right content quicker. But one of my favorite developments, that’s just about to come out, is called the Media Hub. It helps distribute content to any platform you want and also has a closed network of reviewers,” Adam shares.
EnTribe’s Media Hub is basically a very secure and instantaneous way of distributing selected content either by brands or AI. AI can help brands filter their content and select groups.
Adam explains further by telling us, “Think of channel marketing; if I need to get a bunch of content to Best Buy or to a surfer shop or a ski shop and I need different content for each of those, I can have AI looking through the content and find content just for skiing and distribute that to the ski shop in a secure way with password protecting, tracking who downloads the content, and where it goes.”
The Media Hub guarantees a seamless process because it only requires one click on the computer. Even users can allow AI to start distributing the content while they’re sleeping.