How to harness the power of user-generated content
User-generated content, whether customer reviews or visual praise for your product, can serve as superior marketing collateral. With this in mind, brands should harness the power of consumers to maximize the impact of social media marketing efforts.
Social media marketing professionals understand the value of attracting customers. Much time, money, and energy is spent on marketing budgets in order to share quality content, hold product sweepstakes, and invest in attractive landing page designs to increase conversions.
While these and similar efforts play a significant role in boosting social media exposure, the actual direct customer ‘voice’ in the form of user-generated content hasn’t been receiving sufficient attention in social media efforts. This is unfortunate, as content - whether in the form of a product review or a customer-uploaded photo - has immense potential for leveraging social media marketing campaigns.
According to a Social Media Link infographic, nearly 70% of those surveyed consider recommendations from dear friends and family members, while another 55% specifically search for positive online reviews. Keep these stats in mind when you see the following.
What this and similar figures show is that consumers are becoming more suspicious of brand-sponsored content and that they are more inclined to support user-generated content when exposed to advertisements.
From brand marketers to user-generated content enthusiasts
But what role does user-generated content (UGC) actually play in promoting brands across social media platforms? Here we explore three items and why brand marketers better listen up.
- UGC establishes a dialogue between the brand and the target audience
- UGC increases traffic, engagement and conversions
- UGC gives your brand ‘social proof’
1. Facilitating a Dialogue Between You and Your Target Audience
Traditional social media marketing is often brand sponsored and well, brand intensive. Rather than adopting a strictly top-down approach to social media advertising, encouraging the inclusion of user-generated content as part of your marketing strategies will help facilitate a line of communication between you are your target customers.
By opening up to hear their ideas, suggestions, and feedback, brands can effectively learn from positive and negative comments/reviews, address some of the main points, and take advantage of this dialogue in order to improve customer service and the overall experience with products and services.
We can actually learn a lot about the power of user-generated content on a brand’s reputation by examining Lay’s “Do Us A Flavor”campaign that initially launched in 2012 and went viral across social media platforms.
2. Using Social Media Platforms to Boost Traffic, Engagement and Conversions
In linking with users themselves, brands can align themselves directly with customers. By having customers promote or attract attention to your brand’s offering, whether in the form of a public review or photo, you effectively turn them into your fans, or better yet, product ambassadors. This in turn, increases engagement and drives further traffic to social media page.
Source: Why Reviews are the Best Social Marketing Tool
Here we’ll explore this by using Lay’s example.
The Lay’s campaign was so successful that the company decided to continue it on an annual basis. Let’s look over the numbers to truly understand its impact. In the first year alone, the number of votes reached nearly 4 million submissions. The subsequent year received even more traction, amassing a whopping 14 million votes. These numbers alone are massive indicators of how reaching out to consumers directly can influence engagement. User-generated content also has a direct impact on brand awareness. According to Forbes, the 2014 campaign contributed to a 2% increases in Ad Awareness for the brand.
Interestingly enough, only after Lay’s decided to use social media channels (initially Facebook and Twitter and later on both Vine and Instagram) as voting platforms did the competition really take flight. In the 2013 contest for instance, Lay’s Facebook company page captured a very high participation rate: “…more than 22 million visits per week to the competition’s Facebook page during the voting phase.”
While this exposure is great, user-generated campaigns across social media channels can also directly impact conversions, as “Sales (for Lay’s) during the year lifted 12%, as compared with the 3% that the company had set for its success metric.” These impressive results of user-generated content on conversion potential don’t lie just within the potato chip sector. In a unique hotel-sector study, ratings, reviews and photos generated immense exposure, resulting in increased conversion rates of nearly 18%.
The figure below nicely recaps some of the successes of the first Do Us a Flavor campaign:
3. Social Proof is True Validation
Social media that is powered by users themselves increases brand credibility. In effect, it gives brands the social proof or rather, validation, that their products are liked and appreciated by customers.
Looking at the US review market as an example, where nearly 50% of users trust consumer-led content (‘words, pictures and videos created by other consumers’) vs. 14% of consumers that trust a brand-sponsored/created ad, the following statement is quite clear:
Source: Why Reviews are the Best Social Marketing Tool
So What Should Social Media Marketers Do With This Knowledge?
UGC can help strengthen the relationship between brands and customers. According to Wharton, social media can play a major role in this as it can effectively act as a bridge between the two: “The role of consumers in marketing and the development of products is essential because consumers provide information on strategic marketing ideas, how to improve the product and the current trends that are popular. Social media can also be the bridge that makes this partnership successful.”
In order to take advantage of the power of UGC, social media marketers should consider the following ideas in time for their next campaign launch:
- Capture direct feedback and reviews from customers (considering giving a freebie or monetary reward for participation)
- Consider launching a contest or sweepstakes across social media channels to get users directly involved in brand awareness
- Ask customers to submit photos and ideas related to your products. Showcase these photos and hold contests related to total amount of user Likes (on Facebook) or Favorites (on Twitter).
- Use social media channels, namely Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as voting channels
Brand marketers will need to consider optimal ways to harness user-generated content as part of marketing efforts via their social channels. Both the short-term and long-term impact can be very rewarding, both from brand exposure standpoint as well as actual ROI.