User-generated content (UGC) – blogs, reviews, comments, essentially any digital interaction your customer has with your brand – is becoming an increasingly important part of many businesses’ marketing plans. It is a low-investment, high-impact way of raising your profile online.
A recent study by ratings and reviews company Reevoo (pdf) found that 70% of consumers place peer recommendations above professionally written copy. Here’s how you can harness user-generated content to grow your business:
Create opportunities for engagement
Mike Peates, founder and director of the homemade chocolate business Owow Chocolate has focused on turning his customers into brand advocates from the start.
He says: “My view was that we would grow our early adopters and through that, our brand presence would swell.”
When his business was starting up, Peates focused more on engaging than selling and was relentless on social media. He sent packs of chocolate to people he’d been talking to and encouraged them to share their thoughts on Twitter.
This worked particularly well, largely because the business makes branded chocolate gifts and his target market are other small firms who use them for promotion and client rewards. His customers help him promote his business, while his whole business focuses on promoting theirs.
You can create opportunities for engagement in many ways. Encourage your customers to get involved in social media competitions, ask them to show you what they love about your product or simply tap into their personal life and encourage them to share their interests.
At Bozboz we ran a Mother’s Day competition on Facebook for one of our clients, an airline company based in Africa. We asked people to send in a picture of their mother and explain what made their relationship special. Thousands of people entered for a chance to win flights on a route our client was keen to promote. As a result, we were left with thousands of images of happy customers, which we could then use in marketing material for the airline.
But be aware: you need to obtain permission to use any images, even if they have been sent to you.
Look for brand ambassadors
The psychological phenomenon of “social proof”, which says that people are drawn to a product or service that they know others are already engaging with, is a pivotal part of marketing. So appointing brand ambassadors, people who genuinely like your brand, is a great way to spread your message.
About Balance, a health and wellbeing centre in Brighton, got in touch with a local writer and offered them a week of free therapies in exchange for them becoming their “wellbeing ambassador” and writing about their experience in local publications. This is becoming more of a trend among small businesses who are engaging with bloggers, offering them a taste of their product or service in exchange for a review.
Clearly there are no guarantees that a review will be positive. However, if a blogger writes a negative review, you should acknowledge this and respond in the comments. Also, contact the blogger personally to try to resolve or understand what could have been done differently. Although negative reviews aren’t the ideal result, more often than not it’s how the business responds that’s more important. And, if it’s done correctly, it can turn the situation around into a positive PR exercise.
Focus on peer recommendations above sales spiel
Modcloth, an online business that sells vintage-inspired fashion, encourages customers to review its clothes by posting pictures of themselves in their new outfits, along with their opinion on how it fits. This way, other customers can see how the item sits on someone with a similar body type. This approach to co-curated content encourages Modcloth’s customers to feel invested in the development of the brand – they are the models helping to sell the clothes.
Create opportunities for your customers to comment on your product or services. Pay attention to Google reviews, TripAdvisor and any other relevant review platforms. Follow up with a personalised message when people say something about your brand – particularly if it’s negative. Find out what your customers like and don’t like about your business and use this as invaluable research to spur growth.
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