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Why now is the time for social learning

Reasons to encourage UGC and how to overcome the barriers.

Richard Bailey Marketing Executive

Why now is the time for social learning

Gartner predicted that “by 2018, more than 80% of organisations will leverage user generated content (UGC) as a part of their corporate learning strategy.” Just a few months into 2021 and in my experience, this prediction remains pretty far off. 

Of course, social learning strategy isn’t just about leveraging UGC, but this stat indicates that L&D has some catching up to do.

Let’s take a look at what I mean by this and the current state of play in L&D.

Rethinking user generated content

UGC and social learning are a huge part of our everyday lives. Whether in the workplace or not, they are woven into our lives. UGC isn’t just social media or a marketing strategy. It’s any content that includes articles, blogs, videos, images, reviews, created by people, not organisations or brands. Many sites like YouTube or TripAdvisor have become popular simply because they host UGC.

Social learning isn’t just a trendy new L&D term. It’s simply the concept of how humans learn from each other. Think of networks like Linkedin that create communities where you can learn from other people. In the real world, it can be as straightforward as turning to your colleague and asking how to carry out a task. 

Why humans trust humans

Let’s look at some statistics that tell us why UGC specifically is here to stay... 

Now more than ever, people trust other people more than businesses and the numbers don’t lie. Consumers find UGC 9.8 times more impactful than influencer content and 70% of global consumers trust online customer reviews. 

So, how does this relate back to L&D? I’m not suggesting people don’t trust their organisations, but you’re more likely to be able to relate to information from trusted colleagues, than the business. It’s about psychological safety and relatability. Think about when you were at school, you might have asked a friend about something you didn’t understand, rather than the teacher. 

In a digital space, it’s become the natural way we learn too. Think about the last time you turned to content shared on YouTube or Google to figure out how to carry out a task in Excel before asking someone in your organisation. It makes sense, right? 

What's stopping social learning?

So, why aren't more L&D teams making UGC a deliberate part of their strategy? Here are three common barriers we help new clients overcome:


“What if it’s not appropriate?”

You trust your employees with an email account and to represent your company externally, why wouldn’t you trust them to share on an internal platform? 

You might be worried that content shared by your people won’t align with exactly what you want. But let’s look at the flip side of that. People are learning from each other every day, a lot of it is probably hidden in instant messaging or buried in emails. You can have complete visibility of that and share that learning across your organisation for everyone to benefit from. As well as, collecting important data on your learners’ behaviour, habits and what knowledge and skills gaps you might have. 


“It’s not going to be on-brand.” 

Authenticity is key. Don't be afraid to be real. What you lose in slickness or inaccuracy, you will gain in connectedness and agility. Think about how much effort it takes to put up a 30-second selfie video compared to a fully designed 20-minute elearning module.

With social media platforms like TikTok skyrocketing in popularity, it benefits you to mimic the short, authentic, user created content people have become accustomed to consuming. 


“Not everyone is comfortable in front of the camera.”

Remember, social learning is the goal and any content activity whether it’s sharing links to articles, videos or images and liking and commenting is encouraging connectedness and learning. Not to mention, awkwardness can be overcome. It’s about creating a culture where it’s safe to share and learning from each other is normalised.

Agility is more important than ever

68% of people are having to learn new ways of working in the UK. It’s not enough to plan your professional development strategy at the start of the year and rigidly stick to it. We need to be agile, responsive and adapt to immediate needs. 

What can help us with this? You guessed it! UGC and social learning. By sparking conversation and giving people a platform to share content with each other, it takes some pressure off L&D to create new content quickly. 

UGC really works

But what does this look like in the real world? Well, beauty’s biggest disruptor, DECIEM, has a Learning & Skills Platform made up of 53% UGC and they see 90% of employees spending an average of 83 minutes a week on optional learning. Additionally, award-winning video games company, Sumo Digital, has encouraged 77% of their platform to be user generated and they boast a 91% engagement rate. These are just two examples that demonstrate how UGC powers engagement, collaboration and knowledge sharing. 

And what do these organisations have in common? Their people want to learn and connect, not only consume content that makes them better at their job but hear stories from relatable people they can learn from. 

They see their Learning & Skills Platform as extensions of themselves and use the platform to unite their people, have fun and be themselves. Knowledge sharing and real time learning are normalised and community is encouraged from senior leaders. 

Still early days in your social journey and interested in getting started? Read this article that shares a quick beginner's guide to building a habit of UGC in your organisation. 

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