How Brands Can Make User-Generated Content Work For Them

Poznan, Poland - April 08, 2015 : Youtube Gb Website Home Page

This article is by Al Cadena, senior account director of digital agency Beeby Clark+Meyler.

Whether marketers like it or not, consumers are quickly taking control of brands through user-generated content, from how-tos on YouTube to brand chatter on Twitter. However, many marketers are still hesitant to invest in dedicated UGC programs, thereby missing out on a valuable opportunity to create a lasting impact and make a connection with their target audience.

Below, I’ll address the three major issue issues holding marketers back, and why they shouldn’t be.

1. UGC is too difficult to generate. 

Whether you’re looking to tap specific online influencers or reach swathes of people to whom to introduce your product, there is a whole ecosystem of marketing partners that can help brands find UGC creators.

For online video, there are multi-channel networks, such as Fullscreen or Maker Studios, that offer assistance in partnering brands with influencers. These networks are built on top of the YouTube platform, but are independent from Google/YouTube. Digital agencies can also help you in your search for the right influencer by researching and vetting potential influencers and acting as brand stewards.

Perhaps the most potent partners for creating UGC are word-of-mouth companies that manage product sampling, reviews, and buzz generation. Crowdtap and BzzAgent lead the list. Crowdtap, which calls itself the “people-powered marketing platform,” empowers brand enthusiasts to have a direct say in the marketing process, such as providing feedback on products and marketing strategy and inviting them to share their own stories about the brands they love. Similarly, BzzAgent runs word-of-mouth networks that enlist unpaid volunteers to try products from companies, then share opinions about those products with others, in-person and online. Usually these programs also ask that the UGC creators give usage rights to the brand in return for free product. The brand benefits, as it is able to use the UGC in perpetuity.

2. Marketers will not able to control their brands’ message.

Consumers are already out there talking about your brand, so why not embrace it? On YouTube, UGC video outperforms branded content. For example, in the cosmetics world, of CoverGirl’s 251 million total views, 99% are from fan-created videos, while 99% of Revlon’s views also come from fan content.

Shopper behavior has changed, especially with millennials, where there is more of an expectation of having a closer relationship with a brand.  Millennials, who tend to value people over brands, are more favorable to brands that interact with them on social.  Indeed, 84% of millennials report that UGC on company websites has at least some influence on what they buy, according to a Bazaarvoice report, with 86% saying that user-generated content is generally a good indicator of the quality of a brand or service.

For example, this past fall, Whirlpool used UGC to bring its “Every Day, care” campaign to life on a personal level. Core to the effort was elevating authentic, real-life examples of all the ways loved ones show each other they care. To help inspire people to share their own #EveryDayCare stories, Whirlpool partnered with Crowdtap to build and engage a community of more than 17,000consumers (called the #CareCrowd) within the platform. This community was used to surface stories and develop them into posts used in the brand’s own social channels and paid media, as well as content featured on a carefully curated and monitored campaign microsite.

As an added bonus, the insights gained from UGC efforts can help inform your marketing strategy going forward. Ask questions and pay attention to what people are saying around your brand to better understand and serve your audience. If you don’t tap into consumers for their insights, you may run the risk of alienating them. (Tropicana rebrand ring a bell for anyone?)

3. UGC is too difficult to scale. 

Thousands of product reviews, UGC photos and videos are created during WOM programs, but it needn’t end there. Agencies and WOM companies can help leverage this UGC for secondary or tertiary branded content, which is a very effective media strategy.

For example, in its Art of the Trench campaign, Burberry used user-submitted photos to showcase real people wearing its products. Meanwhile, Hershey’s Spreads, in a recent push to introduce the new product line, solicited consumer suggestions for how to use the spreadable chocolate product via UGC parallel to featuring a series of interesting combinations on its homepage, which asked the question “What Will You Make Delicious With Hershey’s Spreads?”

In a world where anyone can say anything about your brand with a push of a button, you can only benefit by making consumers your advocates. Authenticity is key, and using real people to share their stories around your brand helps amplify your message and create a new level of consumer engagement with your brand. So, what are you waiting for?

This article was written by On Marketing from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.