The following is a guest post by Jeff Ernst, co-founder and COO of Smync:
One of the big benefits of building social word-of-mouth and a brand advocate community is user-generated content (UGC). In an era where the marketing message is greatly distrusted, the sheer volume of content is unmanageable and what people say about your brand is more important than ever, UGC can provide a huge difference in your marketing results.
Most in America are well aware of Bud Light’s “Whatever, USA” campaign where they take over a town, throw a party and spend ad dollars like they have beer money—in fact, escaping the advertising was pretty difficult. By comparison last summer, Miller reintroduced “It’s Miller Time” and asked people to share photos of what Miller Time meant to them. Miller saw over 180,000 photos submitted, generated 40 times the social impressions, was the No. 2 branded hashtag of the summer and turned some of the photos into a TV commercial—while spending significantly less than Budweiser. All those responses came from simply asking people what something means to them.
While there are right ways and wrong ways to get UGC and you always need to advise people what the content may be used for and what they may or may not be entitled to, the benefits from a marketing perspective are straightforward.
It tells their story from their perspective. Consumers value seeing how your brand fits into other people’s lives. As marketers, we’ve always known the value of testimonials—one of the original forms of UGC. But if we can see the story that goes with it—an image, a video, words—as consumers, we put that message in a different voice. It’s no longer James Earl Jones commanding us to believe what the brand says, it’s somebody you can associate with—someone you trust—sharing the story.
It provides a feeling of involvement. Many of us humanize brands and what they stand for. If we have the opportunity to engage and feel a part of something, it makes us feel special. Think of your favorite brand and imagine if they asked to hear your story. How much more connected would you feel? Would you become an even better customer? Chances are you would tell anyone who would listen, share the brand’s story more often and buy more. It explains why UGC and brand advocacy go hand-in-hand.
It creates an emotional connection. While Samuel L. Jackson asking me what’s in my wallet and explaining how all the super bonus points work everywhere is great, show me a real family who got a great vacation out of the points they used on everyday expenses and had a great customer service experience and, as consumers, we’ll connect with that. We can see ourselves being like that family and having the same experience.
In today’s social media environment where both reach and trust are down, finding a way to connect people to the story becomes more important. That’s why UGC needs to be part of your marketing strategy and a key component to your social brand advocacy.
Jeff Ernst is co-founder and COO of Smync. He has built, grown and managed sales and marketing organizations in businesses of all sizes, with over 20 years of marketing and management experience. A lifelong entrepreneur, he has spent more than 10 years in tech, including B2B startups in webcasting and web conferencing. Connect with him @TheJeffErnst and on LinkedIn.
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