76% of US consumers are more likely to buy a product if they see a lot of positive reviews.[1] Reviews are the most pervasive and powerful type of user-generated content. They engage customers and prospects in building your brand by talking about your brand.

User content helps people make connections and reassures them of the outcome when purchasing a product. Because it can be a powerful endorsement, user content should be an integral part of your marketing mix.

User-generated content has built many digital products, with Wikipedia and YouTube being two of the earliest and largest examples. Most ecommerce sites, including Amazon, Zappos, and Target, routinely ask for customer reviews after purchase. According to Nielsen, online customer reviews are trusted more than a company’s own marketing and messaging.[2] You’ll find customer opinions on company websites as well as social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you don’t have a forum for your customers to talk to you and review your performance on your company website, they will take that conversation to social media. You should absolutely monitor social media for references to your company and brand, but it also makes sense to host those conversations on your website.

So, how do you develop your own flavor of user content to use in your marketing campaigns? You invite and encourage your customers to share their experiences with your brand. What will you accept? Reviews, photos, videos, testimonials?

Knowing that it won’t all be positive, how do you deal with the negative things that some customers will share?

The key words here are sincerity and authenticity.

For user-generated content to be credible, it must be sincere and authentic. That means you take the bad with the good. You can’t control what customers say, but you need to engage with them respectfully. When customers submit a bad review, you can turn the situation to your favor with prompt and sincere apologies. By responding to complaints appropriately and marshalling good reviews to highlight your commitment to service and integrity, you can support your reputation and reduce the damage that a negative review might cause.

Forrester reports that user-generated content is used primarily as a new product launch tool as consumers discover, explore and purchase new products.[3] It offers marketers the opportunity to tell stories that help build trust in the brand.

One company participant in the Forester study remarked: “We found through research that what others say about you is more important than what brands say about themselves. Whether through social media, reviews, or a video, if it’s independent, it’s credible and it drives purchase intent.”

User-generated content is persuasive and it works. Another Forester participant found that prospective consumer technology shoppers who engaged with user-generated content converted at twice the rate of those who did not. This example highlights the ultimate goal of user-generated content – your customers are selling your product so you don’t have to. It’s more authentic than anything you can say.

Finally, you want to measure quality of interaction, not quantity. At every intersection point with customers, develop a feedback loop so that you can effectively monitor your brand’s reputation.

Invite your customers to share their reviews and stories about your brand. Harness those conversations and put them to work for you. The result will be greater awareness and engagement with your brand.

 


[1]Forester Reports.User-Generated Content’s Impact on Brand Building. December 2014.

[2]Content Marketing Institute.Turn User-Generated Content into Undeniable Glorious Connections>. April 2015.

[3]Source: Forester Report above.

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