In fact, it is one of the most effective and versatile ways to reach today’s consumers. Unfortunately, as we flood our consumers with more and more content, they are beginning to listen less and less. Consumers are so used to being inundated with brand content, they’re already tuning it out.
Luckily, there’s an alternative. Marketing built from user-generated content is much more valuable for building trust and loyalty than traditional brand content marketing. In fact, the majority of consumers – 65 percent – trust user-generated content more than traditional brand content.
The consumers have spoken: they don’t just want to be talked at anymore; they want to be part of the conversation. Give them their voice back with customer, marketing built by the people, for the people.
We created this guide to answer the most frequently asked questions we get about customer content marketing to help you wherever you are in your marketing strategy, whether you are just getting started or are a seasoned specialist.
Customer content marketing means using user-generated content (UGC), or content created voluntarily by customers and shared publicly, to drive marketing campaigns. In plain terms, this means fueling campaigns with customer-created content, such as reviews, photos, videos, feedback, word-of-mouth referrals, social media posts, blog posts, and more. Customer content is versatile and encompasses anything made by your customers, whether Yelp reviews or Facebook posts. Customer content marketing’s goal is to use UGC to drive new awareness and strengthen existing channels of engagement with consumers.
Customer content marketing is comprised of a variety of types of UGC. Customer-generated media can be used in a variety of ways to benefit a brand, such as photos integrated in an advertising campaign, testimonials implemented into call-to-actions, or reviews that stand as quality assurance to drive sales. In contrast, customer content marketing is a strategy whose sole purpose is to drive new, relevant traffic to a brand and build brand loyalty with existing customers. In other words, customer content marketing is powered by UGC, but UGC without customer content marketing is simply another type of media.
The majority of consumers trust customer content marketing more than brand marketing. Why? Customer content marketing is built from authentic connection. Psychological principles such as social proof explain allowing users to hear from and talk to one another builds their trust in a brand. In other words, instead of hearing from a brand how awesome they are, consumers want to hear from other customers.
Customer content marketing is more successful than traditional marketing largely because it allows users to become more than shoppers – it invites them to truly be participants who interact with a brand on an organic, real level.
Rather than a brand trying to boost engagement and loyalty, customers naturally become more engaged and loyal as they become involved of their own free will. Creating and connecting with customer content allows users to engage as participants, not consumers. In this way, customer content marketing strengthens relationships and community within a customer base.
Customer marketing isn’t just a part of the future; it is the future. As consumers seek a more authentic, autonomous way to interact with brands, contributing and being part of the conversation wins out over being served a marketing message on a silver advertising platter.
The millennial and gen Z youth are growing up fast, and before long, they will be the ones setting the trends of how and what our world buys. These digital darlings are turned off by traditional forms of advertising and wary of brand-sponsored marketing. They want to get involved and have a say in how they connect with products and services. Nearly three-quarters of Millennials aren’t satisfied with current options to put in their two cents, claiming companies don’t give them enough options for submitting feedback and sharing their belief that consumer opinions matter more to shoppers than companies.
This is why UGC is making the marketing world go round. It’s a transparent, connected way to let your audience speak and show them their voice matters. For Millennials, this sends a powerful message that ripples far beyond any brand messaging could.
The best ways to use customer content marketing depend on your particular goals and your audience, but in general, great customer content marketing campaigns take advantage of mediums like social media channels, online influencers (such as bloggers or vloggers), and incentivized competitions to drive user participation. Additionally, many customer content marketers combine campaigns with good causes (such as sending selfies to raise awareness of real beauty), or give real-time responses to user feedback to show genuine conversation between brand and consumer. The best customer content marketing campaigns use traditional UGC marketing methods in an innovative way, either by combining mediums or channels or putting a powerful, creative story to motivate users.
Hands down, the most powerful type of UGC for online businesses is reviews and store testimonials. While social media campaigns can use UGC to fuel awareness and participation, and strategies like asking for user-contributed photos and videos to back a contest or campaign are great, the strongest and most relevant type of UGC for online businesses are personal testimonies.
Why? Customer reviews hit all the basic strong points of UGC – increased transparency and trust, building an involved customer community, and the chance for open, honest communication with your consumers. Additionally, submitting a review or testimonial is simple for consumers who may not otherwise get involved in user content campaigns.
So how can you build reviews and testimonials into your user content marketing plan? Offer rewards and incentives for leaving reviews and for social shares to build virality around the feedback. Additionally, create campaigns from submitted user testimonials to show your users their feedback lives on beyond a product page or review page. One campaign that executed this wonderfully was Honey Maid’s Love commercial. They received an enormous amount of feedback – both positive and negative – for one of their statements, and they took real customer comments to build a new campaign that demonstrated they did more than simply look at social media responses and move on. Instead, they showed they read and cared about what their consumers had to say, which elevated consumer feedback from simply being UGC and made it part of a customer content marketing campaign
Viral customer content marketing happens when a reward’s value is greater than the difficulty of the task, and there is a strong built-in motivation to participate and share. Whether this reward is social (knowing about a campaign so cool that you can’t help but share it on social media) or physical (earning extra points for posting a photo and sharing it with friends), the reward must be size-able enough to drive the campaign.
For example, one of the best examples of a viral customer marketing is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which not only asked users to get involved but also requested they share the challenge with their friends. A key takeaway here is that the Ice Bucket Challenge got specific: rather than just asking friends to share with other people, they put a specific number on how many people to share (5) and asked users to do the marketing work for them by challenging new invites to also invite new people. The ripple effect succeeded because participants were rewarded by feeling like they were contributing to a good cause, and the action was easy enough to do that users willingly took part.
So what causes customer content marketing campaigns to flop? We have a secret for you: If your users don’t want to contribute, you aren’t targeting them correctly. User content marketers understand it’s not just what you ask your audience for, but how you ask.
In the case of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, it could have easily failed to go viral if it wasn’t framed in such a fun way. The challenge (pouring an ice cold bucket of water on yourself, perfectly timed in the hottest months of Summer) is fun, so the videos also reflected this. If the challenge was proposed in a serious manner, it’s likely users would not have responded. In other words, the tone needs to match the invitation.
Additionally, it’s important to ask them for input in the way they like to communicate. If your audience is an older generation unacclimated to interacting with brands on social media, then don’t run a social media campaign! Customer marketing must match a campaign with the right tone in the invitation to participate and must be designed to match the media channels your user base feels most comfortable using.
There’s not a universal formula, because how often and much you use customer content marketing depends on how your target audience prefers to interact. Customer content marketing offers a platform to gather information that can then be used for other marketing efforts, like personalization.
In this way, customer content marketing is becoming a part of overall marketing, just as branded marketing is. They are not separate but parts of a whole that rely on each other and work together.
Offline UGC was generally simpler than online, because it was easy to ask all users to agree to terms and conditions before participating. Online, it gets a little more complicated. The blurry line comes when customers voluntarily submit content outside of a formal campaign request, such as when users submit content on social media and uses a campaign hashtag.
In this case, the intellectual property rights to re-use this information aren’t necessarily the company’s. To be safe, only use user content that you gained explicit permission to use.
In general, the same legal rules that govern traditional content advertising also apply to UGC, but there are a few pitfalls, such as statutory risks, tort risks, and intellectual property risks, you should make sure you’re protected against. Always be sure to contact your lawyer before launching a UGC campaign and ensure the written, binding agreement you ask users to agree to includes exclusions for underage participants. As long as you’re educated about you and your users’ rights, UGC can be leveraged in a user content marketing campaign legally.
Customer content marketing has a secret SEO power: It powers your site and social media channels with unique, authentic content. It’s not always possible (or beneficial) to churn out tons of content for the sake of creating content, but SEO wants to see your site is active, so what’s a brand to do? User content marketing is here to help.
User content marketing brings in a variety of fresh, relevant UGC that shows search engines not only is your site active, but you aren’t just talking to your customers, but they are talking with you and about you. This is serious SEO gold that’s almost impossible to rival with any other marketing strategy.
Additionally, user content helps you organically build up long-tail keywords, or specific search phrases that have low competition but high search intent. These keywords generally consist of phrases that users search for but brands may not think to include in their keywords. For instance, maybe you have optimized for “mineral make-up,” but you are facing a large amount of competition for this keyword that makes it hard to rank high. In contrast, “mineral make-up that won’t clog pores,” may have much less competition and be searched by users with a specific intent to find and buy this product. Your users, by posting what they love about your product, can give insight into how your audience really talks and what they search for.
It makes sense for potential customers to listen to what your current community is saying, posting, and sharing, which is why even Google now considers customer feedback a valuable way to measure a site’s ranking. In this way, user content is a powerful shaping force for SEO because it helps you optimize according to what people are really searching for, not what you think they are searching for.
User content is also the driving force behind social media optimization (SMO), because social media consists nearly entirely of user generated content. By integrating marketing campaigns driven by user content on social media channels, you will naturally bring in more targeted audiences because people are more trusting of friends’ shares and likes than anonymous brand marketing. In this way, friends who like a jewelry store will share their like and draw in targeted, promising possible customers because they are driven by the power of word-of-mouth suggestions and are gravitating towards your store based on a friend’s suggestions, rather than throwing an advertisement out and hoping the right people will find it and trust it.
There you have it – our round-up of the top 10 questions eCommerce stores have about user content marketing with applicable tips to help you hit the ground running. Feel free to shout out with any other points you would like us to cover in future user content marketing guides. We are always interested to know what you would like to read!
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