9 Ways to Use Consumer-Generated Content for Your Brand

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We live in a digitally-mobile and social world, and content seems to be prevalent everywhere. Your customers consume large amounts of content without even realizing it. It, therefore, makes sense to churn out content that organically engages consumers with your brand and, in doing so, creates credible endorsements for your products and services.

Do not underestimate the power of an Instagram photo or a Facebook post that portrays your product/service in a favorable light. Not only does it serve as brand marketing and word-of-mouth advertising, but also strongly indicates brand commitment and customer loyalty. This, in turn, supplements your bottom line, which is ultimately what it’s all about.

As a proactive marketer, you probably already know that customers want to feel engaged, be heard and even entertained. They want to deal with issues quickly and move on. Basically, they have put their trust in you and are looking to positive customer experiences.

In one study, Ipsos MediaCT, Crowdtap and the Social Media Advertising Consortium partnered to survey 839 millennial (18 to 36 years old) men and women. This was done to explore millennials’ media consumption habits, perception of information from various sources and how these sources impact their purchasing decisions. As far as user-generated content (or UGC) is concerned, it was discovered that:

  • Information received through UGC is trusted 50% more than information from other media sources, including TV, newspapers and magazines by millenials.
  • Millennials reported that UGC is 20% more influential on their purchase decisions than other media.
  • A majority of millenials reported tapping UGC before making big purchases like cars, major electronics or major appliances.

What is User-Generated Content?

According to Wikipedia, UGC can be defined as “any form of content such as blogs, wikis, discussion forums, posts, chats, tweets, podcasts, digital images, video, audio files, advertisements and other forms of media that was created by users of an online system or service, often made available via social media websites”.

Simply put, UGC refers to any content available on the Internet that users play a part in creating. This can include photos, videos and general posts that aren’t made by a brand. An increasing number of brands, however, have been leveraging user-generated content for improving their ranking on search engines.

UGC can take several forms. Some of the most popular ones include:

  • User-generated blog posts
  • Blog comments
  • User-generated videos
  • Social media posts and comments
  • Reviews
  • Podcasts
  • Inputs on communities and forums

Let’s face it, UGC is here to stay. If you’re wondering how to implement it for your brand, we have the following tips for you:

1. Figure Out Your Point of Connect

Even before you start putting together your UGC strategy, you will need to start thinking from your audiences’ point of view so that you can figure out how you want to use the content to establish a connection with them.

A few UGC-related questions to consider (for doing so successfully) are as follows:

  • How do you want to use your content? To inform or to entertain? How can you use it to do both?
  • Where will you find your target audience? Which social media platforms can you use to find them?
  • What motivates your customers to create content? What do they hope to get in return by doing so?

If you have the right answers to the above questions, you will be clearer when devising an effective UGC strategy. After all, well begun is half done!

2. Emphasize Quality

Quality will always trump quantity. One cannot deny the authority that high-quality content commands. It has the power to strongly influence your customers and forge the kind of connection that companies strive for. Whether it is text, images or videos you put out, ensure that they carry credibility, which can only come from quality.

Underestimate the power of using attractive (and high-quality) images and videos at your own peril. When it comes to accepting user content, it may seem impractical to remove all low-quality photos/videos. However, you can establish a few guidelines or ground rules to reduce the likelihood of your audience posting bad content. You can always tell them exactly how their submissions should and should not be by providing specification in terms of size, dimension, and so on.

3. What’s Trending?

Trending

When you consider all of your UGC in totality, you should be able to decipher the thought pattern of your core audience. Think about the following aspects when analyzing the type of content your customers are sharing:

  • Who will most likely share content about your brand? Do you have specific demographics to figure this one out?
  • What kind of content is being shared out there? Does it pertain to a particular style, product, service, or all of it?
  • Where are your customers when they share content about your brand? Are they at your store, the mall, the library, with friends?
  • When are your customers more likely to share content about your brand? Is it during a specific season, event or holiday?
  • Why are your customers tagging your products? How do their tags work for your brand?

4. Place Strong Calls-to-Action, Use Hashtags and Signage

Remember, when using user-generated content, there are two parties involved: you and your customers. So the content isn’t just about you, but also about them. Everything boils down to how they use your products and relate to your brand.

So, while your customers may tag a piece of content with a hashtag before your brand’s name, you may want seriously consider leveraging such content to your advantage by creating a personal, actionable hashtag that brings the focus back to your brand.

If you think your hashtag(s) will become popular at once, you couldn’t be more wrong. It requires hard work. Placing strong calls-to-action in places where your customers are most likely to engage with your content will encourage them to use your hashtags when sharing content about your brand.

For instance, you can place calls-to-action on your Instagram account in your bio, within the image caption, or when geo-tagging. Similarly, other places where placing it can prove to be useful include (throughout) your website, social networking channels, blogs, catalogues and other literature.

Further, you can use signage to engage your customers at one of the most effective points of the customer journey: your brick-and-mortar store(s). For example, if you’re a clothing retailer, you could display hashtags and signage at the main desk, outside dressing rooms, or near a photo-friendly installation.

5. Host an Event

Using UGC may be a great way to create awareness around your products, but it does require that your brand places its complete trust in the customers’ hands. You may often wonder as to what customers are saying about your products and services, and might even want to know if your competitor’s products are being mentioned along with your brand. That’s only natural!

The good news is that there is a way around this. Brands tend to be more strategic in their thinking than consumers. A great way to scale your UGC strategy (and be in charge of the environment thus created) is by hosting an event. This way, you have complete say in everything. You can set the scene to your liking and keep the audiences engaged. Be memorable and keep the conversation going by handing out free goodie bags (branded, may be?) to your guests at the exit.

6. Design a Contest

More often than not, consumer behavior with respect to using UGC is organic. This is what makes it so effective. Such behavior is devoid of bias, which is why it feels genuine. You can encourage this behavior by analyzing the content that is already surfacing about your brand, and then launch a targeted contest that aligns with those preferences to build upon it further.

7. Deploy Influencers

We live in times when social and digital influencers dominate the Web world. They are viewed as experts and leaders in their respective fields and among their social circles. They tend to have a multitude of active followers and feeds that instantly resonate with them.

Typically, when an influencer writes about a brand or posts an image of a product, he/she doesn’t just drive awareness, but also inspires an entire community to put their faith in that brand or product. In fact, consumers who see these images are more likely to partake in ongoing conversations by creating and submitting more content as well.

According to adweek.com, “There is already a lot of money in the influencer marketing space. 65 percent of brands participate in the market, 52 percent of companies have stand-alone budgets for sponsored social content and 25 percent have budgets in excess of $500,000”.

They further go on to say that influencers can solve several shortcomings your company may have by teaching consumers about your products, lend search-engine-optimization authority, counter negative feedback with positive feedback, increase sales and help with user-generated content.

You will do well to bear the following three factors in mind when engaging influencers:

  • The demographic they address and the type of content that wows their followers.
  • Whether or not they are available on the same social channels as you.
  • If they really do carry the kind of credibility that you’re looking for, i.e. if they really do have authority among your target market.

8. Display Customers’ Photos

Including user-generated photos in the e-commerce experience can enable brands to draw the attention of the shoppers towards making connections between images and products. As this happens, their most engaged customers also feel valued. This can go a long way in giving customers the social recognition they deserve and desire. Further, an on-site gallery of user images will help attract new UGC.

Remember, the more your audience loves your brand, the more amazing content they will continue to create for it.

9. Avoid Legal Troubles

To steer clear of legal issues that may arise out of the content that your users create or upload to your website, you will do well to include a few specific sections, clauses, and information on your website’s ‘Terms and Conditions’ section. Also, do not forget to ensure that your users clearly agree to your Terms and Conditions before posting any content that you wish to have covered by this legal agreement.

Make sure to include the following major elements in your agreement:

  • Ownership of Content: The Terms and Conditions agreement should spell out how the submitted content will be used. Use this section for limiting and restricting unwanted and undesirable behavior or activity on your website.
  • Copyright Violations: When allowing users to upload content, watch out for anything that violates copyright laws and constitutes as infringement of someone or something else’s rights.
  • Filter Bad Content: Remember, you’re in charge of what ultimately gets posted on your website. Use your authority to eliminate content that you don’t want on it, or any other content that goes against the terms of your website. Let your user know that you have complete discretion and take the final call when it comes to displaying and removing material.

Conclusion

When it comes to user-generated content, it all filters down to how you plan to generate and use the said content. UGC can surely benefit social teams and digital platforms, along with serving as a creative, economical and rewarding way of developing a variety of channels such as your homepage, product pages, emails, microsites, among others. By bearing the above aspects in mind, you should be able to build an effective UGC strategy that not only helps you meet your goals, but also keeps you out of hot water.

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How to create a successful brand for your small business or ecommerce start-up

branding for small businessesMany small businesses have been up and running a good while before their thoughts turn to brand building. Even then branding ends up slipping to the bottom of the to-do list. Of course, with the 101 things small business owners are faced with on an every day basis this is understandable. Yet it is important not to underestimate the importance of good branding.

In order to be successful long-term, branding needs to be at the heart of your business. Working on creating a proper brand presence early on can pay dividends in the long run. Why? Because the impression you make as a business as critical to your long-term success and this is tied intrinsically into branding.

What is a brand?

“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. Jeff Bezos, Founder Amazon

Your  brand is essentially the set of ideas your business stands for in people’s minds. Recognisable visually such as through a logo, your brand is also shaped by your actions as a business.  A successful brand will help differentiate you from your competitors, build loyalty, increase traffic, create brand advocates and help connect people emotionally to your business.

For example I have being buying Converse All Star for well over 20 years. Not solely because of the trainers themselves but because over years I have connected emotionally to the brand through a sense of belonging becoming a loyal returning customer in the process.

brand loyalty

 

Defining your brand

Branding itself is a massive area indeed, large companies have  dedicated people such as brand managers and brand directors working on their brand full-time. As a small business owners we obviously don’t have that luxury, yet with a bit of time and effort we are quite capable of building a successful brand for our business ourselves. Before you embark on building your brand presence you need first to spend some time thinking about the fundamentals of your brand.  Considering the following questions will help you get you off to a solid start.

  • What is your purpose as a business?
  • What are your businesses core values?
  • Who is your target audience and what are their needs?
  • What do your customers think when they think of your business?
  • What differentiates your business from that of your competitors?
  • And most importantly, what is it you want your customers to think when your business comes to mind.

7 essential tips small business can use to build their brand

The great news is you don’t need a huge budget in place to build your brand. You will however need to invest some time and thought into establishing a solid brand presence.

excellent customer service1. Offer a positive customer experience.

72% of consumers say customer service is central to brand loyalty.  

 

I mentioned earlier that branding is closely associated with the impression you make as a business. Central to this is offering your customers an all round positive experience from start to finish. Ensuring that your customers experience a seamless journey – from navigating your website, browsing products, using your shopping cart, making a payment, shipping and delivery to exemplary customer service – is essential if your want to building a positive impression and healthy reputation.

2. Use content to build your brand

Authentic, relevant, quality content is integral to building your brand. Content that reflects your brand identity and is relevant to the needs of your customers will build brand engagement, brand loyalty and brand trust.

80% of consumers say that the authenticity of content is the most influential factor in their decision to become a follower of a brand.

Focus on providing a variety of engaging, value added, visual and non-visual content for your customers. For example;

  • Blog posts
  • New articles
  • How to Guides
  • Online Tutorials
  • Webinars
  • Infographics
  • Competitions and Quizzes.

3. Create a brand personality

People prefer to do business with other people. For small business owners your brand personality is likely to be you – it is what you do on behalf of your business. Think about the tone you use when you write, how you interact on with people on the phone, what things you post on social media and what visual images you use. Remember what you are submitting is a reflection of your business and your brand values.

Try using your ‘About Us’ page to give customers a feel for the people behind the business. ‘Meet the team’ or ‘behind the scenes’ can give a face to your business and help people build an emotional connection to your brand. Take a look a Stella and Dot or Riverford’s About Us videos.

Use Social media to build brand awareness4. Use Social Media

71% of people say they are more likely to make a purchase from a brand they follow on social media. 

Social media is a great platform to build awareness of your brand. Firstly consider not only the platforms your target market are likely to be using but also which platforms best support your brand image. For example Facebook is probably a safe starting point for most businesses as it is has huge and diverse audience, if you are heavily imaged based then look at Pinterest and Instagram and if you are B2B then you probably want to be on LinkedIn. The point is to give it some thought before you leap in.

The content you post should reflect your brand image and support your brand values. The more valuable it is to your customers the higher the likelihood is that it will be shared.

5. Brand trust

A successful business with a loyal customer base will have worked hard over time to establish brand trust – think John Lewis, FedEx, Apple and Amazon. As a small business and start-up the best way to start developing brand trust is, as we mentioned earlier in the article, through providing a consistently positive customer experience.

When you are starting out it is also a good idea to include various trust signposts that will signal to new customers that your business is trustworthy. For example:

  • Security logos and Trustmarks
  • Customer testimonials
  • Awards or accolades
  • Customer reviews
  • Transparent information on delivery and returns 
  • Exemplary customer service
  • Easy to find contact details and registered address
  • Links to official organisations and associations

6. Visual identity

Building a recognisable visual identity is essential to establishing a  brand. Firstly create a great logo and use it everywhere. Think also about your visually branding in terms of fonts, colours, style and feel. This should be applied to all your marketing materials both online and offline. If you keep these things consistent you will start to establish visual brand recognition.  It is a good idea to create a set of visual brand guidelines and standards – such as how your logo can be used, what font should be used and the Pantone reference for your brand colours.

7. Be consistent.

brand consistencyApparently it takes between 5-7 brand impressions before someone remembers your brand. Therefore staying consistent is absolutely essential if you want to establish your brand in the mind of customers.  Consistency will reinforce your brand identity making your brand recognisable and differentiating you from your competitors. Mixed messages and inconsistent branding will only leave customers confused about your business with no reason to invest in what you have to offer.

 

 

We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences on building a brand for your small business, so please do leave a comment.