Which tablet is best for reading on the beach? What is the best airline to fly from DC to London? Is the Volkswagen Jetta a good choice for my daughter’s first car?
These are the types of questions that consumers ask when making major purchasing decisions—they are specific and relate directly to their own needs. With access to social networks and search engines, consumers rely on different sources to get answers to these questions before making their decision. Some consumers rely on word of mouth and others take into account information the brand provides. The Internet has created a database of reviews to assist consumers with their decision-making. Today, finding product reviews is as easy as a click of a mouse.
This earned coverage produced by the consumer is called “user-generated content,” or UGC. It is content created ‘outside of professional routines and practices over the Internet.’ UGC comes in many forms other than product reviews; it can be blog comments, social media posts, photos, videos or COI forums.
With the recent abundance of user-generated ads like Coca-Cola’s Happiness Flag, EDC’s Snapchat Our Story and Miller’s Show Us Your Miller Time campaign, it is clear that user-generated content has made a comeback as the “new” trend in generating brand awareness and sales.
Before the World Cup opening match this year, Coca-Cola unveiled its largest World Cup digital activation with a 3,015-square-meter nylon flag comprised of 219,000 photos collected via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram from 207 countries. Emmanuel Seuge, Vice President Global Alliances & Ventures, The Coca-Cola Company said, “At the start of our campaign for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, ‘The World’s Cup,’ we set out to create the most inclusive and participatory FIFA World Cup™ ever. Through “The Happiness Flag,” we gave fans from all around the world the unprecedented opportunity to be a part of the greatest soccer stage of all.” Through this campaign, Coca-Cola was able to promote their brand all over the world while interacting with consumers via social media. The Happiness Flag taped into the emotional side of consumers by creating a worldwide social community, showing that what unites us, Coca-Cola and football in this instance, is greater than what divides us.
MillerCoors’ “Show Us Your Miller Time” summer campaign asks consumers to follow the brand on Twitter and tweet a picture of themselves with the product or logo with the hashtag #ItsMillerTime - this is the brand’s first ever tweet-to-win contest. Contestants are encouraged to participate by the $1000 award, which is awarded to ten submissions on each day of the campaign, as well as the opportunity to be featured by the brand itself. These photos will be used in a television commercial this fall, but may also be used in other traditional and social advertisements, such as on-air ESPN billboards.
These are only two examples from the growing lists of brands employing user-generated content to create initiatives. UGC is changing the marketing world. User-generated campaigns make customers partners in the marketing process, rather than just targets. There are key benefits of using consumers in the marketing process.
UGC creates brand loyalty. It appeals to the consumers’ need to be a part of the story and knits together a strong community for the brand. UGC allows users to speak up, share their opinions, and connect with like-minded people as well as the brand.
UGC opens the door to more targeted content on a larger scale. Content is accessible, in real-time from anywhere in the world.
UGC helps you understand your audiences. It is an easy way to listen to your customer directly.
UGC is a powerful ally to search engine optimization. By encouraging consumers to talk about your brand, you will increase brand awareness and rank higher in search results.
UGC can generate sales and help you to measure ROI. It demonstrates value and has a very high conversion rate in comparison to other types of advertisements. Ninety-two percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising (Nielsen). Eighty-four percent of millenials report that UGC on company websites has at least some influence on what they buy (Marketing to Millenials).
It is evident that today, consumers rely on word of mouth via UGC to assist them with making purchasing decisions and trust this content more than what comes from advertisers. UGC should be used to unite social and ecommerce teams to drive brand loyalty and ultimately corporate success.
*This post was co-created by Kelly Pollhammer and Ali Merkert. Kelly Pollhammer is currently a Digital Marketing Intern at r2i in the Baltimore office. Having just received an undergraduate business degree in marketing from James Madison University, she is eager to expand her knowledge and experience in all areas of the digital marketing realm. Online, you'll find her tweeting about a summer country concert she's at, pinning a new recipe, or Instagram-ing yet another lovely evening at Camden Yards.