Dominic Carelse, Marketing Manager at Miappi, explains how brands can leverage their own digital presence whilst transitioning into a “new normal”.
Perhaps you’re old enough to remember when traditional physical (or, as I like to call it, “meatspace”) shopping was the norm, and ordering items from the internet seemed to need to come with a prayer that it would get delivered on time, and to your house? Well those days are well and truly over, and thanks to the perfect storm of lockdown conditions, online shopping is not only a huge share of overall shopping, it’s completely dominant.
Consumers have also had a lot of time for introspection to evaluate what’s really important and reflect on bigger social causes, such as the Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion movements. Along with dwindling consumer spending power, all of these factors combine to pose a major challenge for marketers who face increasing competition, decreasing marketing budgets, and decreasing opportunities to get their brands out there in the world. And when they do get heard, are they treading carefully? The good news for brands sticking their head above the lockdown parapet, is that there are ways forward that don’t cost the earth.
Grow your digital presence with UGC
When consumers go online, brands must follow. If you can’t get people talking about you in person, it is vital you’re getting your share of the online conversation. You’re not the only brand jockeying for position on consumers’ screens, and competition is stronger than ever. This is where the importance of growing and maintaining a strong digital presence comes in. If you have this, it will be easy for consumers to find you.
Sounds like hard work, doesn’t it? The good news is that a lot of the work has already been done for you, in the form of User Generated Content, or UGC for short. UGC is content, often visual, created for you by your most engaged customers, which exists on social media such as Instagram, or can be directly uploaded to you via a form. It can be informative, beautiful, funny, moving – the list goes on. The additional benefit of UGC to brands during changing conditions such as lockdown is that high quality UGC can be created by users with smartphones without the need for travel, expensive locations, and professional equipment.
Certain platforms allow brands to aggregate, license, and curate UGC easily which, with the right permissions, can then be reposted on social media, displayed at points in the purchase path, re-edited into video… the list goes on. What this does is provide social proof and reassurance at key moments such as the point of purchase. For example, if you’re not sure about whether it’s safe to book a holiday to Greece in these uncertain times, or whether a holiday could be enjoyable with the added mask-wearing and social distancing, seeing a photo of people like you having a great night out there might give you the push you need to click “proceed to checkout”.
Understanding your UGC to Owned Ratio
When looking to scale your digital presence, it is vital that you pay close attention to your UGC to Owned media ratio. This is the number of UGC posts you enjoy each month, for every one thing you post on your social media accounts.
It can be tempting to create and post as much as your heart desires just to gain a digital presence. But the trick here is to work smarter not harder when it comes to achieving an effective digital presence. After all, creating your own assets and boosting them to reach more is a costly practice. You can of course post hundreds of pieces of owned media a day, run display and pre-roll everywhere, sponsor publisher websites and be omnipresent (if you have the resource). But this is a) not sustainable in the long-run and b) UGC has been shown to be the most influential form of marketing. A Nielsen study has shown that 92 per cent of consumers trust earned media above traditional forms of advertising.
The goal is to generate as many pieces of UGC with every one post you publish on any of your accounts. This is why the most successful brands try to encourage a sharing culture throughout their posts and campaigns. The question now is, what clever calls-to-engagement can you make to get your fans to power your marketing campaigns?
Understand your UGC creating fans, and nurture their worlds
How well do you know your most engaged customers? Are your fans already vocal about your brand or do they need encouragement to talk more? One way to do this is by targeting and nurturing communities. Not only do brands have the opportunity to use specialist platforms to discover and license content, they can use such platforms to develop a dialogue with pre-existing fans with shared beliefs or hobbies. Customers are looking for value, so after a consumer has created content for you, give them something more. One key way to do this is to invite them into an exclusive community where they can interact with like-minded people. If you build a strong community around your brand that people will want to belong to, they will feel compelled to show the world that they too are a part of your community. This way, by nurturing communities your brand will find itself appearing in a whole host of diverse scenarios.
How do you encourage the creation of UGC, and where do your paid/owned channels fit into the picture?
Many brands will have plenty of vocal advocates who are already posting UGC, but UGC can be created through a number of tried and tested approaches. Much of the best social campaigns are launched with a paid/owned post showing consumers an example of how they want people to react to their brand. This could be a step-by-step tutorial or a professional shot creative featuring a prominent figure. Be clear with your message, provide clear instructions, and explain why you have launched your campaign. Consumers will see through any cynical marketing ploys, so make sure you are clear on the value you are trying to bring the consumer. This value might simply offer the chance for a consumer’s post to be featured, which can be enough if you are amplifying their voice on a matter that is important to them. However, some brands, particularly smaller brands, can benefit from adding an incentive.
Beauty brands such as Frankbody and Fenty are proud of the role their community of consumers have played in building their businesses. These brands go from strength to strength because they reward vocal consumers by featuring them prominently on their owned channels. Brands like these also encourage content creation by developing beauty tutorials or challenges such as #wipedownchallenge by Fenty which recently launched on TikTok. These challenges result in fun and engaging polished content that fits the platform, delivers brand consistency, and inspires others to do it in their own style.
Another successful brand that built itself on social media platforms is Gymshark, which recently launched the #sweatyselfie campaign during lockdown. As well as encouraging people to exercise, the brand added another layer of value by pledging to donate a £1 to the NHS for every post tagged with the hashtag. This approach has been taken up by many brands that have seen success by associating themselves with charities that are meaningful to their communities.
It’s possible to increase your social share of voice by throwing your support behind bigger social movements. Consumers appreciate openness and honesty in these trying times, however, tread carefully, as there’s a fine line between authentic messaging and a tone-deaf campaign.
A classic, simple approach is to encourage consumers to enter competitions to win prizes by using a hashtag. On the other end of the scale, some brands are getting high tech and creative by developing their own add-ons for social media platforms, such as their own Instagram filter. This is one way of ensuring UGC can be professionally branded by the user, giving brands even more control over how they appear in earned posts.
Post-lockdown, the brands that will not only survive but thrive will be those with the best digital presence that can be leveraged effectively through a small amount of investment and careful messaging. By harnessing the power of consumers and their boundless enthusiasm, brands can have an almost self-powering marketing campaign that will help them weather the storm of a fast-changing world.