Whether you’re brand is attempting to build a relationship with micro influencers and celebrity endorsers, or you’re more focused on creating real brand advocacy via your customers, user-generated content (also known as UGC) is the new bread and butter of marketing on social media. Why is UGC so trendy and topical these days? For a variety of reasons.
User-generated content refers to unpaid or unsponsored social posts that people across every network share when they’re using or raving about a product or service. When your Facebook friend posts about a fantastic customer experience they had with a hotel they stayed at, that’s UGC. When your favorite brand reposts Instagram Stories from customers at an event they hosted, that’s UGC. When someone shares a video on TikTok about finding the best lipstick they’ve ever used, that’s UGC. And all of it is an incredibly powerful marketing tool for your brand that should be both encouraging and utilizing in your marketing strategy.
In the social media age, nearly every customer you have has both a voice and a platform from which to use it, and people are listening, even if it’s only their 300 Facebook friends. A customer who has actually used your products or services holds the key to not only the performance of your products and services, but also the experience of interacting with your brand. While you can spend countless social media posts bragging about how wonderful your products are, a real person who has actually used them conveys an authenticity to other potential customers that is worth its weight in strategic gold.
UCG also plays a significant role in building both strong customer loyalty and attracting new customers. A recent study indicated that consumers consider customer reviews of a product or service to be the Number One deciding factor in a new purchase.
Additionally, one of the best aspects of asking for and including UCG in your marketing strategy is that it’s a “win-win” for both you and your customers. Your brand not only derives the benefits of having positive customer reviews, you also enlist brand advocates who are creating useable, shareable social media content that spreads the word about your brand far and wide, without having to tap into your marketing budget.
Your customers also score a victory. Maybe they’re trying to build themselves into a social media influencer phenom or perhaps they’re just interested in having their voice heard. Regardless of their initial motives, asking for and using UCG let’s your customers and potential patrons know that your brand CARES about your customers and their relationship with your brand. This empowers solid customer loyalty.
Here are 5 ways you can begin encouraging and using the empowered voices of your customers.
1. Start Where You’re Audience Is
Today, even traditionally small “mom and pop” brands know the importance of having a social media presence to both market and legitimize their products and services. If you’re a marketing professional working with one of these smaller brands, you’ve likely run into a CFO-level executive who believes there is little point in investing too much energy in social media, as “that isn’t where our customers come from, and they typically insist that your core customer base exists in “word of mouth” recommendations from previous customers.
UCG is a great way to demonstrate to those naysayers how you can leverage both that core customer base and social media to work for you in congress with each other.
First, look at your current social media channel followings and engagement levels, and begin where you have the largest audience. For example, if you currently have your largest audience and engagement on Facebook, start there. Use the tools the platform gives you as a way to begin growing your following and UGC.
Begin by engaging your customers with posts that ask for their feedback on a recent product release or ask them to share a review of your services and a story of their experience using your brand. Ask them to share a picture of themselves using your products on their own Facebook page and tag you in the post or share a picture of themselves shopping at your store and “check in” by tagging your store’s location. If you’re not getting a strong response, consider offering an incentive or contest to boost results, such as “anyone who tags us in a Facebook post this week will receive a 15% off coupon their next purchase”. Encouraging social media engagement is a great way to “wake up” your existing audience and get them to start paying more attention to your social media activity and has the added benefit of attracting new customers who might have been waiting to try out your brand until they had an incentive to do so.
2. Know Your Audience and Where They Live
While it’s important to start soliciting UGC on the channels where you have your current largest audience, it’s also vital to examine the demographic data you have on both your current and target audiences and determine what social media channels make the most sense for you to implement a UGC strategy. Certain social media channels have an audience that is very generation specific, and you’ll want to use that knowledge to enhance your marketing plans.
For example, if your products and services lie almost exclusively in a B2B market, you’ll want to focus your efforts in social media channels that speak to the business relationship world like LinkedIn and Twitter. Using tools like polls and question/answer tweets on Twitter or asking for businesses to share their usage stories on LinkedIn will help you not only generate valuable UGC but will also help you put your energies where they’re most efficient.
Conversely, if you’re looking to expand into a new demographic, asking for UGC on the right social media channels can help you get a strong and quick foothold in that audience. For example, if a new product launch is targeted at a millennial market, engaging in UGC on Instagram is going to not only expose your products to a more age-appropriate audience, but will also help you gain some real traction and buzz where you need it the most.
3. Determine What Kind of Content You Want
If you think that asking for UGC is asking too much of your customers, think again. A recent poll from Forrester research indicated that more than half of consumers (60%) enjoy sharing their brand and store experiences on social media. What stops them from doing it? Not knowing what kind of content to post. The same study showed that half of those same consumers (54%) wish that brands would tell them what type of content to create and share.
If you’re not flat out telling your audience to participate with user-generated content, how else will they know? Whether you’re asking for images or customers thoughts, your advocates need proper guidance. Be transparent with brand rules and regulations toward UGC.
There are countless ways to encourage UGC-campaign hashtags, social media contests, special coupons for those who share their experience, etc. With a single hashtag, you can build focused interest and guide your audience to create content inspired by your campaign.
For example, if you’re an Outdoor Life products company, share a dedicated hashtag like #BuiltfortheWild on your social media platforms dedicated to people enjoying your products in their outdoor pursuits. If part of your brand strategy is delivering your products in beautifully packaged presentations, ask your customers to video themselves opening their package, and have them share and hashtag it appropriately.
4. Focus On Community & Collaboration
One of the greatest aspects of UGC is the way it sparks engagement and fortifies community, two elements essential for building Customer Loyalty.
For consumers, receiving a mention or repost from a brand can be just the right surprise and delight moment they need to build a lasting relationship with your business. One study says 71% of consumers as more likely to engage with and/or purchase from a brand if it shared their social posts in its marketing. Social media shares not only build a bridge between brand and customer, they also expose your audience to potential customers, and this can result in creating a “viral post”, which is true social media gold for any business.
In today’s crowded eCommerce world, it’s imperative that marketing strategy includes a persona for your brand, as well as connect customers and advocates. UGC is the glue that builds all of these facets together, bringing new people together through conversation and building bridges from those interactions to the brand. Ultimately, it builds credibility and establishes your space in the marketplace. When done correctly, you’ll drive users down the marketing funnel.
5. Measure Your Results
To knit all these efforts together, you have to measure their success (or failure) if you want them to work for you instead of against you. Solid, comprehensive data analytics will provide the intel needed to ensure your efforts are targeting the right audience and maximizing your social media output.
Consider the following: 90% of marketers agree data from social media enables them to stay ahead of their competitors, yet only 55% say they’re using social data to understand their target audience. This finding emphasizes the crucial role good reporting plays in a UGC strategy.
If you’re using a comprehensive data analytics tool like Group FIO’s Insight Marketing Platform, you not only have social analytics tools to track your overall engagement with UGC, you also have the capabilities to access data that gives you a true 360 degree view of your current and potential customers. Regardless of what social media platform you’re posting on, deep data analytics tools like Group FIO’s gives you access to detailed audience reports that reveal not only the success of your UGC content, but a deeper understanding of who is providing it and watching it.
Knowing both the demographic and behavioral data on your audience can provide unprecedented insight into what content is resonating with your customers, as well as where you’re falling short in bridging the communication gap. This level of intel is a massive boon to building a strategy that incorporates UGC as well as other marketing efforts that can drive your sales funnel.
If you have yet to begin utilizing Zero-Party Data, Customer Loyalty or Insight Marketing Platforms to boost your customer engagement and overall customer lifetime value (CLV), then it’s time you begin implementing this next wave of technology into your marketing strategy. Contact the team at Group FiO today to find out more. Click here to arrange a meeting.