In their latest #AdobeChat, Adobe asked Twitter participants to examine user-generated content (UGC) and its effect on brand advocacy and customer engagement. To continue the conversation, we posed the following question to some of R2i's strategists so organizations can gain a full understanding of UGC's marketing impact.
There isn’t a “one size fits all” answer to user-generated content. To know when and how to use it for your brand, you need to base how you use it in audience research, including analysis of what type of UGC is created, and how your audience leverages that in their decision making experience.
UGC is a very effective version of word-of-mouth marketing, and can have a great impact for a business, but brands also need to be prepared for it. It can require some major internal shifts, as it demands that brands let go of their message and put it in the hands of customers and influencers. The benefit is that you get added authenticity, and it can validate claims you make about your brand. It can also surface new value propositions you may not have considered.
To really leverage UGC properly, your brand needs to be prepared to listen, engage, and respond to what your customers are telling you.
There’s no wrong way to use UGC – at any point in the customer journey – so long as it is transparent and honest. Testimonials - Reviews - Experiences - Uniqueness (What - Why - How - Miss). Show target consumers that people like the product, then show them why they like the product, then how they can use the product, and finally what they’ll miss by choosing something else.
Good UGC is experiential – it’s sharing one consumer’s experience with another, and that can make an impact at any point in a buyer's decision process. In the case of UGC, I think it is less about thinking tactically about where it fits, and more about thinking creatively in how you can take the stories you’ve collected and apply them to the needs of the consumer.
I want to start with a quick thought experiment. You’re at a party, the host walks up to you and starts telling you how fun and witty and generally awesome he is. Do you want to be this guy’s friend? Probably not. Now, imagine that you’re at the same party and a close friend of yours starts telling you how fun and witty and generally awesome the host is. You’re probably more inclined to like the host now, right?
This is the power of user-generated content. It’s a trusted endorsement from a friend that tells your audience that your brand is worth their time. It shows that real people trust your brand, and it’s incredibly effective at moving people down the sales funnel. Some of my favorite uses of UGC are from brands who incorporate user-generated photos into their ecommerce experience, like Ikea’s Share Space, which layers simple and intuitive ecommerce functionality over a user-generated content portal, driving huge demand for their products and simple activation for their customers.
User-generated content has the capability to impact all stages of a customer’s journey if leveraged appropriately to align with the business goals. UGC can be effective from building awareness all the way to retaining customers, and everything in between. Due to UGC being essentially a digital form of WOM, I’d suggest any way a brand can get users sharing or talking about them or their products and services is effective. The challenge is creating the structure around what the projected message or impression the brand is sending out through the voice of their customers’ UGC.