Creating better, more engaging and more relevant content is hot topic for so many marketers today. But with a consumer-centric view becoming more and more important to the marketing strategy, brands are looking to their customers for more than just leads. In an interesting twist, brands are aware that despite the constant innovation of a digital world, there’s an old-school marketing tactic which still provides incredible results. Before marketing even existed, word of mouth was the only way that brand reputation could be forged or lost. Of course, word of mouth still exists, but today it has a digital cousin: User-Generated Content (UGC).
As Real As It Gets
To a retailer with an online presence, UGC seems like a no-brainer. What better way to turn your loyal customers into ambassadors for your product than involving them in the creation of content? UGC campaigns can be the low-budget, high-engagement solution to connecting a brand to a specific consumer demographic. Rena Varsani, Head of Copy at Rufus Leonard, says: “The impact of UGC is undeniable. It all comes down to one word: authenticity. The stories told through user-generated content must feel genuine and relatable, not forced or paid for. It’s a fine line that many bloggers must tread: balancing promotional work with brands within their niche.”
But user-generated content doesn’t necessarily have to involve an influencer as the middle link. Indeed, some of the most successful advertising campaigns of recent campaigns have seen brands reaching out directly to their audience for that conversation. “Businesses are missing out if they aren’t tapping into their users’ experiences.” Says Libby Bearman, CRO Manager, Browser Media. “Along with advertising becoming more competitive and more expensive, traditional marketing methods no longer have the impact they used to. They simply aren’t trusted any more. UGC, therefore, isn’t just cost effective; it’s someone real vouching for your company. It’s word-of-mouth, it’s authentic and it’s trustworthy.”
One of the most well-known and successful UGC campaigns is the ASOS hashtag #AsSeenOnMe, where fashion forward fans of the online retailer post pictures of their outfits on Instagram, where the hashtag links directly to the ASOS website. “It shows clothes styled by people in real life scenarios, as well as letting customers access a curated selection of clothes and more easily navigate the site’s vast offering.” Says Varsani. Encouraging your target audience to express their creativity in their sharing of your brand can create a diverse and dynamic marketing campaign, which allows brands to connect with their customers on a personal level.
Organically Grown Content (Pesticide Free!)
Of course, an organically grown UGC campaign is the rarest, but perhaps most valuable kind of all. Varsani notes the blossoming online communities that are springing up online, “created through the more heart-warming aim of sharing helpful information and tips. The ‘life hack’ site IKEA Hackers was set up by a community of flat-pack furniture enthusiasts who were looking for inspiration or who simply wanted to inspire others. The content is arguably more inventive than the brand could have cost-effectively created itself.” In the case of Ikea, the potential created by its simple, minimalistic products is a blank canvas for their user’s creativity, and the carefully crafted brand personality brings together like-minded consumers to curate their own experience.
Extra Team Members?
But UGC holds potential for more than just Instagram posts and “hacked” Lack coffee tables. Your consumers are full of insight to make your processes more appealing. It can be a challenge, however, to interpret that insight in a productive and valuable way. “As a business, you need to show your would-be customers that you’re attentive and engaging.” Says Bearman. “You should be seen to be not just helping frustrated customers, but also taking the criticism on board to improve your product or service. That way, a negative bit of feedback results in a positive outcome, while positive feedback is almost ready-made marketing collateral.”
Of course, with consumers being asked to “leave reviews” and “rate five stars” on everything from videos to hotels to apps, ensuring a high rate of engagement can be difficult when everyone is singing from the same song sheet. “Too much begging for customers to ‘share their story’ or ‘submit their photo’ becomes pushy and can end up feeling false, but re-gramming a snap of a customer enjoying your product feels like an authentic social media interaction, [and] shows your appreciation to the customer[…]” Says Bearman. “What you do to encourage engagement, ultimately, is going to come down to your customers – don’t force them to be present on a certain platform, adapt to be present on theirs.” To make sure that your feedback remains genuine and organic, brands must make the process as simple and unobtrusive as possible. Your most loyal and vocal customers are likely to recommend you anyway, so by politely tapping into their space and their wants, marketers can ensure the best possible engagement in the most convenient space for their intended consumer.
“UCG reveals exactly how your customers are talking about you, your service and your industry.” Says Bearman. “Rather than sitting in a boardroom trying to come up with the right jargon for your company’s ‘voice’, you can turn to real people and draw inspiration from what they’re saying.” Welcome your consumer into your strategizing process, and you may find that they are the creative catalyst your team has been looking for.
Continue the conversation at @Figaro_Digital.