Time to let your customers do all the talking!

Marketing is no longer a one-way street thanks to the rise of social media and user-generated content (UGC). According to a study by Nielsen, 92% of audiences prefer organic, UGC over traditional brand messages, and companies are taking note! They’ve begun integrating their customers’ reviews, pictures, etc into their communications (Fun fact: There are brands today that purely survive on UGC today). While this is primarily done to build trust and credibility, it does more than just that. UGC fuels a sense of community in the virtual world — and in 2020, these communities are crucial to brand health!

To help you get the UGC ball rolling, here’s a look at the process I usually follow:

Set goals. The ground rule is — every content strategy begins with an objective and UGC is no different. Define what you want to achieve. Some brands like to drive awareness, while others look for lead-gen. Decide what your priorities are first, as it’ll help you chalk out the rest of the course and create an impactful UGC campaign.

Note: UGC and your current content strategy need not be mutually exclusive. You can always integrate the two and drive value —  It all depends on what your goals are.

Kick-off engagement. UGC is all about conversations, so your plan should focus on sparking dialogue and carrying it forward. I usually take a three-pronged approach to this:

  • Drive brand desire
    Get your audiences excited about your brand. Make sure your content is high-quality, visually appealing, and real. For example, if you are a travel brand, showcase aesthetic pictures of skylines or homestays taken by travellers. And if you are an NGO, display candid, authentic images of your work and user testimonials on the impact you’ve made. This will capture the attention of the audience and keep them interested in your story.
  • Promote brand loyalty
    Once all eyes are on you, strengthen your brand story by finding a spokesperson (existing loyal customers) to vouch for you. You can share testimonials, reviews, pictures of happy customers, etc (basically, whatever adds credibility to your narrative). Feedback from satisfied customers will ensure that potential users try your product and service — eventually forming a virtuous cycle that only increases your loyal user base!
  • Maintain a content bank
    Collect relevant content constantly, no matter what. Ask your customers to share pictures. Encourage them to write reviews. Promote brand-specific hashtags and repost the content shared via the same. Record short clippings of them speaking about your brand. If you are a fun, millennial brand, you can go ahead and repurpose your old UGC to post #throwback pictures to humanise your brand.

The secret here is — get as many voices as you can to stand by you. And the rest will follow.

Be on a hunt for new and refreshing engagement ideas. I believe that great ideas strike when you actively search for them — so keep thinking and researching. A few years back, a popular coffee chain launched a UGC campaign called ‘The White Cup Contest’, where they gave customers white coffee cups and encouraged them to doodle. They received 4000 entries in just a week. Later on, they converted the best user-designs into limited-edition cups and even featured them on their social media. I think it’s a pretty creative and well thought out way to engage!

Practice ethical behavior. UGC stirs many ethical issues — so my suggestion would be to always credit the owner of the content and ask their permission prior to posting (preferably in writing). When you give credit where it’s due, it shows that you are trustworthy. And don’t forget to incentivise your customer in some way or the other.

The goal of marketers today is to build a community of loyal customers — and that can only be done by actively involving customers in the marketing process. People like to feel like they belong so give them something that can connect to. Empower and encourage them to speak for you and watch the magic happen!

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Tina Garg
Founder and CEO at Pink Lemonade, an Integrated Marketing & Communications agency in Bangalore.
Tina launched the company in 2011, and today, it is known for its award-winning work in creative & business communications, and digital services. She comes with extensive experience in the creative industry, and is passionate about empowering women entrepreneurs.

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