By sharing genuine content that comes from trustworthy sources (i.e. other customers), your company is showing that it cares about its customers.
User-generated content (UGC) is incredibly influential over consumer behavior.
Brand messaging naturally comes with a biased tilt. UGC, however, is raw, third-party insight into a brand, product or service. Since UGC is (ideally) free of ulterior motives, it is an extremely powerful factor in how customers make decisions.
Case in point: When was the last time you bought something on Amazon without looking at reviews?
One of the main reasons for UGC’s effectiveness is the trust consumers place in it:
- Customer reviews are trusted 12 times more than marketing coming directly from the organization
- Two-thirds of consumers say they trust the opinions of other customers posted online.
Manish Dudharejia president and cofounder of E2M Solutions Inc, a San Diego-based digital agency, offers three tactics to get the most from your brand’s user-generated content.
1. Social sharing as a top priority
There is no doubt about the role social media plays in our daily lives. We are spending more time on social platforms than ever before, and many customers are looking to social media to guide their spending habits and make purchasing decisions. Depending on your company’s target audience, there is likely a particular social platform (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.) where most customers first hear of your brand. Therefore, you need to understand the nature of your customers’ preferred social network and share UGC that builds trust and recognition.
UGC can be shared directly on these social platforms or used to inspire social media content. Some businesses choose to share direct quotes from customer reviews as visual content, as seen here from Gunas New York’s Instagram post.
Feedback can also shed light on the topics that your brand’s social media content should cover. Most marketers find it very difficult to come up with new content ideas that are engaging to their audience, so using your customer reviews to guide the focus of your social media content is one way to keep things relevant. To do this, collect 360-degree reviews in order to collect further details, particularly about the reviewer’s experience.
For instance, review platform Trustpilot asks users to describe the pros and cons of a customer’s product and/or service, along with star ratings for various features. One common pain point across brands was related to issues with customer service, which Trustpilot then covered on its LinkedIn page.
Another way to generate more social UGC is by monitoring conversations and joining in at the right time. You will likely want to use a social media listening platform for this so your marketing and PR team are alerted when brand conversations begin. Whether the sentiment is positive, negative or neutral, replying to a customer’s post can be a great opportunity for connection and engagement. It is also a great place to showcase your brand’s personality or sense of humor, as demonstrated in the response from Sainsbury’s PR team on Twitter.
2. Using UGC for effective visual marketing
Visual marketing is clearly important because of its higher engagement rates and effect on customers; the same applies to UGC. Sharing pictures and videos from customers is important, especially since many people look for “real” pictures of products during their research phase.
However, customers are not always eager to share photos or videos of a brand’s products. It may require incentivizing customers through a giveaway or promotion, particularly on visual platforms like Instagram. Ask customers to share a photo along with a branded hashtag for an entry into a giveaway. This will help motivate your followers to create visual UGC that is easily shareable and searchable.
You can also motivate followers to share their experiences by cultivating a brand community through visual content. Again, this is most often done on social media because it is the perfect platform for connection. The athletic apparel brand Outdoor Voices is an excellent example of how to create this type of community. The brand regularly shares UGC and encourages its followers to share their own experiences via the branded hashtag #DoingThings.
3. AI and UGC working together
As more and more UGC is being shared online, it can become extremely difficult for brands to manage all of the available content distribution methods.
Artificial intelligence (AI) systems are built to manage large amounts of data, including UGC. Through machine learning technology, AI programs can automatically tag images and videos with relevant keywords for easy searching.
This makes it much easier for brands to organize their visual UGC and search for relevant pieces that contain target keywords. This is also extremely helpful for UGC that includes specific products, such as an article of clothing. AI can analyze the photo and match it directly to the product page on your company’s website so that a direct link can be embedded in the post. (Source)
AI can also assist in UGC marketing by evaluating which content pieces will be the most engaging with other audiences. Again, this information is formed through machine learning, which tracks customer behavioral data to determine which pieces are going to generate more engagement with your specific audience.
UGC is certainly nothing new. But there are some innovative ways to use it that can benefit your brand. By sharing genuine content that comes from trustworthy sources (i.e. other customers), your company is showing that it cares about its customers.
Instead of testing the waters of UGC simply because it’s popular, see how you can use it to benefit both the customer and the company.