Importance of User-Generated Content
Getting a consumer excited enough about your product or service to spark them to talk more about it to others- it’s the most important and promising challenge in marketing. Just a casual conversation, while engaging, doesn’t necessarily generate on-going engagement. The challenge for brands is to organize user-generated content that actually accomplishes valuable goals for a brand. It’s not starting a conversation- it’s framing it.
User-generated content allows the consumer to become more involved in the marketing and sales process for a product or service. Starbucks started utilizing user-generated content early in the game through their “My Starbucks Idea,” which allowed customers to send their best coffee or tea idea to Starbucks because they recognized the disconnect with their current offering. Also, in 2014, Starbucks launched a contest featuring their signature white cup where they asked consumers to decorate and submit a picture of their artwork on the cup by posting a picture on social media with the hashtag #WhiteCupContest. In just a few weeks, thousands of customers submitted their artwork to Starbucks. This initiative engaged customers, gained Starbucks publicity, and showed that Starbucks once again was listening closely to the opinions and ideas of their consumer.
Simply putting a contest on your Facebook page isn’t going to generate on-going engagement. So what should companies do to turn a promotion or contest into consumer engagement?
First, reward consumers with recognition when they positively promote or advocate for your brand. These folks don’t “owe it to you” to be engaged with your brand. Earn their business! As you monitor your social channels and you see someone post a picture or content saying how great your company did— engage! Reach out to them and thank them for their feedback, ask to use their content on your page, and encourage them to complete reviews or rankings to have their voice heard by more people.
When running a promotion, don’t just think that once the award is given, the marketing benefit stops. Ask consumers who submitted entries if you can use their content in an on-going manner. Utilizing videos and photos generated by consumers engages new customers and encourages repeat customers by endearing the brand to the public.
Finally, harness user-generated content to create advocates for your brand. “There are stories about your brand that are being shared every day. Harnessing UGC enables you to engage and share the narratives through the voices of your most passionate brand advocates” (Wright, 2017). By engaging with consumers about the content that they create, you can generate more passion and excitement for your brand from them, their friends, and your general consumer audience.
Next time you see someone post an Instagram selfie with your product or see someone post a picture of a great job your company did, don’t simply settle for the double tap to show your appreciation. Engage with your audience, earn their continued business, and utilize their content to reach new audiences.