How to Leverage User-Generated Content to Increase Brand Loyalty
Any marketer will tell you – few things are more important in eCommerce than making sure your site has quality content that informs and adds value. But that can be challenging for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that have correspondingly small- or medium-sized marketing budgets. About 70% of businesses fail to consistently provide quality content, according to research from Altimeter. Creating great content takes skill and diligence, and few SMEs have the knowledge or resources to produce it regularly.
What if your company can't afford, or doesn't have the expertise, to compete with more established brands that have deeper pockets? Luckily, there's a workaround. You can crowdsource your content. Your customers know themselves better than you do, and crowdsourcing lets you tap into the knowledge of your entire target audience.
One of the most effective – and least expensive – tools businesses can use to market themselves is user-generated content. Customer photos, videos, reviews, testimonials, comments, social posts, and more can be a goldmine for businesses that know how to leverage them.
This strategy is not entirely without risk, because you can’t control what people say about your brand. But if you cultivate a community and engage with your consumers in a transparent way, this type of promotion is more persuasive than anything you can buy.
Millennials currently spend about $200 billion a year and are on the cusp of having more purchasing power than any previous generation. An infographic from Ipsos MediaCT shows that millennials consume a lot of user-generated content (UGC). The survey information indicates the following:
- 30% millennials’ connected time is spent consuming UGC.
- UGC influences purchase decisions 20% more than other media types.
- Users find UGC 35% more memorable and 50% more trustworthy than other content.
- It is getting progressively easier for users to create and share content.
Tapping into User-Generated Content for your Products
You can tap into user-generated content by following these simple tips.
- Record your customers. Testimonials aren't new but they are effective. They cross all media types for good reason. Ask your buyers: How have you used the service? What did it help you do? You might only get a small percentage of responses, but any you receive are a win.
- Promote your customers. User-generated testimonials or “unboxing” videos are a great way to get authentic content and social media has made this easy to capture. Any proclamation of loyalty to your brand is like gold in the vault. All you have to do is retweet, share, or comment with a note of thanks.
- Challenge customers. You can introduce contests in both B2B and consumer channels.Starbucks inspired customers to doodle on their Starbucks cups and submit these pictures in a contest. Nearly 4,000 customers responded. The company used the winning entry on a limited-edition Starbucks cup.
- Engage customers. With #hashtag campaigns, you engage customers directly. On Instagram, hashtagged images from clients are a form of word-of-mouth advertising.
- Survey your customers. There's no more direct way to find out what customers are thinking than simply asking them. This content type can be repurposed in many ways. Use it as a post, infographic, slide deck, report or as a microsite. Gated with an opt-in form, it can generate leads for your email list.
- Collaboration. You can incorporate service reviews into content for your site. Use social channels as a two-way street to engage and converse with your audience. Ask questions, collect feedback, and build an FAQ section with responses. Let users contribute tips, hacks, favorites, recipes and other great content, such as:
- Forum posts where customers help one another
- Roundup posts with customer contributions.
- Co-develop an infographic or eBook.
- Record consultations via audio and video shares.
The Power of User-Generated Content (UGC)
Everything a user contributes on your site becomes branded UGC. Users add UGC to gain recognition. This is a win-win situation since brands benefit from the attention. Other benefits of UGC include:
- A better understanding of the target audience
- Increase site engagement and time spent on site
- Increase customer satisfaction
- Channel for users to connect and build a community
- Improves search engine ranking and visibility
- Peer-reviewed, trustworthy content
Most importantly, UGC gives your brand a competitive advantage that's hard to reproduce since communities can't be copied or reworked by competitors.
Wikipedia is moderated via crowdsourcing, and users help make the site more accurate because they care about the community. This effort would be expensive to accomplish if the site had to pay for it. This is the power of engaging the user in content creation.
Another example is Inbound.org, with 170k professional marketers who share their knowledge. This creates an unbeatable source of expertise so that this community is very attractive for anyone who wants to know about sales and marketing.
Get Permission to Use Individual User Posts
If you would like to secure the rights to user-generated content, it’s easy to do. Ask permission via a comment.
For example, PetSmart monitors hundreds of hashtags about pets. When they see something they'd like to share on social media or for other marketing purposes, they comment on the post to get permission via the poster commenting back #yespetsmart.
Using Contest Submissions
If you throw a hashtag contest where contestants enter via a branded hashtag, they are giving implied permission to use whatever they post. However, it’s better to get their explicit agreement.
Companies such as Facebook, Airbnb, Uber, and Alibaba depend entirely on the community. The larger the community, the more value individual members receive. However, these are extreme cases where the product and the community are the same things.
Many businesses don't have the ability to build a community-centered site. They can still interact with prospective and existing customers via social media and blog comments. Online communities help you showcase your products or services, improve your site's Google ranking, attract new members and increase your brand awareness.
These benefits yield a higher conversion rate and help you build a community for future market tests and product development.
About the Author:
Laura Gayle is a full-time blogger who has ghostwritten more than 350 articles for major software companies, tech startups, and online retailers. Founder of BusinessWomanGuide.org, she created her site to be a trusted resource for women trying to start or grow businesses on their own terms.