Marketers Guide: Drive Change Through User Generated Content
1. The birth of a new era of how we do marketing
We are indeed a few steps closer to authenticity.
95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase. Let me say that one more time. 95 out of 100 people who will consider buying your product or service will read online reviews before making a purchase (North Western University, 2017). And, 91% of 18-34-year-old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations as research suggests. And there are hundreds of other stats suggesting pretty much the same finding. Perhaps one of the most interesting findings is that 51% of millennials say that user-generated content from strangers is more likely to influence their purchase decisions than recommendations from friends, family and colleagues.
Consumers and customers trust other customers opinions much more than the voice of the business and the brand itself, and rightfully so. Why should they do otherwise? Unless you want to focus on the very small minority that doesn’t care about the voice of your customer, you know that your customers are your biggest assets. But if I can ask you a heart to heart question – do you really consider and treat your customers as if they were the biggest asset?
2. Tough lessons that our customers and consumers taught us
Marketing is all around you since the day you were born. Think about how many things you have bought throughout your life. How much money you have spent on buying anything from commodity items to luxury and even business purchases. The chances are most of what you have bought, has been influenced by some sort of marketing. Whether or not we like to admit it, marketing truly and tremendously affects our behaviour. But we also know that sometimes we hate it or despise it. Marketing has been abused and corrupted by marketers for so long – like most things in life. Us marketers, tend to overuse and squeeze the juice out of a strategy or a tactic so much that consumers and customers quickly get over us and our old ways. Then we abandon our tactics and strategies quickly when we clearly see that the market isn’t responding anymore and move on to the next trend, tool, tactic or strategy.
As a marketer, you probably think or thought at some point, what your role really is about? Your business, your boss or even your bills, might tell you to focus on numbers, KPIs and sales. All business schools for so long have been promoting that marketing is about more. More engagement, more awareness, more loyalty, more sales, and the list goes on. And consequently, most marketers focus on what’s in it for their businesses and not what’s in it for their customers and target audience. And that’s when businesses and brands fail to move the needle and end up taking themselves down the rabbit hole. Marketers who win, think fundamentally different. Their focus is on driving change.
3. The one strategy that can get every marketer that applies it, well… promoted.
So, in this day and age, how do you drive change? You drive change when you have a true, valuable set of USPs which you can leverage and expand on through engaging UGC campaigns. Your unique selling points (USPs) need to be connected to your why. Change needs to come from within. It starts by working on your WHY. Why do you do what you do? What is your product or service doing that is reflecting your ‘why’? What problems are you solving that no one else is? How do you translate that into clear USPs that your target audience can appreciate and value?
4. What is User Generated Content?
User Generated Content is the simple act of a consumer or a customer sharing their story about a brand, product or service they encountered or used. They typically do it for a compelling reason and in most cases; being moved, touched or inspired by what they experienced through your business. From the perspective of your target audience, UGC is a neutral unbiased opinion about you created by others that might be similar to them in one way or another. This might be in the form of pictures, videos, testimonials, reviews, tweets, blog posts, and more.
Want to get a good gauge of a brand’s authenticity? Check their Instagram, Facebook or their main social media channel and see percentage presence of UGC amongst all other content they have. Take a look at their ads. How much of their ads are using UGC? 78% of millennials said they would rather see photos of real customers over professional photos created by the brand. Does that change anything in the way you promote yourself?
5. The upside of UGC
When most of your customers do marketing for you, others will be shaken by your authenticity as a brand. Trust and adoption will become inevitable byproducts of the process. Your objective is to identify how to influence a few people in your target audience to the point they become your ambassadors. Let me clarify that this is not about paying influencers or celebrities to endorse you. In fact, its the complete opposite of that. This is about investing all you have got to understand your target audience more than they understand themselves and solving their problems in the most brilliant and effective ways. Then, its all about finding creative and unorthodox ways to incentivise them to share their story. If the incentive involves monetary compensation, there is always a fine line between paying for an unauthentic endorsement vs. encouraging customers to share their story. The latter is what you want, and it typically doesn’t require much financial incentive because they have been truly touched by your product or service or even customer experience. This also depends on the nature of the industry you are in and the assumption that your customers don’t have any motives or drivers for privacy.
So, how much impact can user generated content have on your business? Here are some of the things you can get from UGC
- Increased Brand Trust & Authenticity
- Higher engagement levels on social media and website
- Lower cost of marketing and advertising
- More brand recognition and awareness
- Increase Sales through genuine customer reviews
Ultimately, you’ll need to decide whether you should use UGC and if so, how to use it in your overarching content marketing strategy. In my perspective, UGC can be used for almost any business, industry and growth stage. It comes down to what type of media, level of significance, frequency, and how you promote it.