The Power of User-Generated Content

Marketing has two purposes to gain new customers and retain current customers. We spend thousands of dollars and countless hours on campaigns trying to reach these two audiences. Thanks to social media, we don’t have to spend our time or money to reach either. Why? Consumers are doing it for us. User-generated content is free, effortless, and a very powerful persuasive tool. Websites such as Yelp and Angie’s List are so popular because people trust their family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, and casual acquaintances more than they trust marketers and advertisers. It is obviously unrealistic to completely rely on user-generated content because it is not always positive and the reach is limited to that person’s social network. However, it is a powerful tool that should be utilized by brands.

User-generated content is most predominant on Twitter and Instagram. A picture is worth a thousand words and a thousand ad dollars. Every day, I see people I follow on Instagram post pictures of great sushi or a new outfit and in the comments it’s always the same, “Where did you get that from?” “Need to go their immediately.” What is so appealing about these pictures; authenticity. Unlike advertisements, pictures posted on social media sties by consumers do not have food artists fixing them and retouching them. The pictures are honest and show your product for what it really is. Most of the time, these pictures are not even accompanied by a caption of words and don’t need to be.

Here are a few tips to make user-generated content work for your brand:

1.      Create Hashtags to Track

For user-generated to be most powerful, it is important for the brand to have some hand in it. Make sure to create your own hashtags for your products and your company on Instagram and Twitter. This makes it easier to track who is posting about your brand and what they are showing and saying. Consumers will catch on and begin using the hashtags on their own.

2.      Create Contests

Users are going to post on their own but to have it be more consistent, give them an incentive. Contests are a great way to get users posting about your brand and how they use it on a daily basis. Forever 21 did a great contest on Instagram where they had users posts outfit pictures for 21 days. Followers of participants were exposed to Forever 21 products for a full month.

As I said before, sometimes user-generated content can be negative and is intended to damage a brand. But that is the beauty of social media we are exposed to the good, bad, and downright ugly we don’t want to see. User-generated content also forces us to acknowledge and address our flaws and shortcomings as a brand. The key is to see such posts as an opportunity for improvement. Whether promoting or dissing your brand, user-generated content is powerful.

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