User-generated content; it's one of the biggest marketing buzzwords of 2017. However, there is plenty of evidence, and more than a bit of research, to suggest that in a time of declining organic social media reach, increasing CPCs in paid search and a spike in the number of people making use of ad blockers, leveraging user-generated content is more than just a fad.
With that in mind, we’ve listed some of the reasons why you should consider making user-generated content a part of your overall marketing strategy and one cautionary note about the upcoming consumer data protection rights changes to watch out for as well.
Peer recommendations seriously influence people's purchases
According to the Nielsen’s latest Global Trust in Advertising report research, up to 92% of adults admit that they trust peer recommendations over all other forms of advertising, including those celebrity endorsements that were once all the rage.
And it makes sense. Who are you going to trust more to tell you which brand of concealer will cover up a terrible zit? Kylie Jenner, who has a gazillion dollars and is never pictured without a face full of makeup and a forgiving photo filter or your mate who always seems to look pretty good when you see them at the shop first thing in the morning?
By encouraging users to share just how they use their products or services with the world - showing off the results of using that concealer in their latest Instagram story for example - not only will the product reach a new audience but the company behind it gains a treasure trove of 'trusted' imagery. Better still, use them in future marketing campaigns and identify the most engaged customers.
UGC boosts engagement and reach
Unless you've been living under a rock recently, you know that it's getting harder and harder for businesses to make an impact on social media unless they agree to pay for exposure. Organic reach is declining for sure, but only as far as business pages and accounts are concerned. One group that is seeing an increase in organic exposure for their posts, tweets and snaps are 'general users', people like us, also known as your customers and their mates.
By encouraging your customers to share content on their timelines your company can gain back at least some of that organic reach your branded accounts have lost. In fact, according to ComScore, brands experience, on average, a 28% jump in social media engagement when people are exposed to user generated content related to their brand.
If you are looking for inspiration and tips on how to get started with UGC campaign, check our recent blog post with case studies from UEFA, Malteser, and Emmental Valley Region.
A boost in the SERPS
Obviously, few business marketing efforts centre solely around social media. Google, and where your business shows up there, and SEO are still every bit as important, but user-generated content can actually help you out there too.
The wider the variety and volume of content that is out there that makes use of your name in conjunction with the keywords and key phrases you want to rank for, the better. Much of the user-generated content will be indexable, especially if it comes from Twitter thanks to the renewed search partnership between Google and the microblogging platform. That alone should give you a nice, free and SEO boost and who doesn't want that? Even if the social media content itself would not improve your rankings, Google is considering social signals (e.g., number of shares, likes, reach etc.) as ranking factors.
Influencer marketing isn't new; It's just changing
Being influenced by your peers in your purchasing decisions is nothing new, it's just a concept that is changing. Think back to fifteen years ago. If you tried a new restaurant and loved it, you told people about it. Your Mum during lunch, your mates down at the pub, your co-workers in the car park on Monday morning.
Now, instead of just doing that, you probably also mention the restaurant on Twitter, leave them a review on Facebook, and post some pictures of your dinner to Instagram (with a pretty filter). Bearing this shift in the way people communicate it only makes sense to at least start thinking about what user-generated content can do for you.
As a brand, your role is to champion your customers and engage them in sharing their content. That is precisely the concept of Planet Fitness Community. In addition to helpful content created by the marketing team, Planet Fitness is actively promoting their most engaged customers on social channels. The higher engagement and visibility of the content enables Planet Fitness to reach out to a higher number of potential new customers and to build engaged communities of existing members.
A word about GDPR
For businesses in Europe, there is a wrinkle in the works that will mean that you will need to be a little more careful about the way you make use of user-generated content, the incoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will begin on May 25, 2018.
If you are not familiar with the ins and outs of these fairly sweeping new data privacy protections the time to brush up on them is now, not just because they may affect the way you leverage UGC but how you deal with customer information in general.
Regarding user-generated content, it is mentioned explicitly in the language of the rules themselves and defined as material including blogs, videos, comments and photographs. In addition to educating yourself and your employees about the GDPR, it's just as essential to ensure that any third party that handles your customer's data is completely GDPR compliant as well.