The Latest Big Thing in Social Media, and Why Smart Companies are Paying Attention

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Friday, October 7th, 2016
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We’ve all heard the old famous quote, “Content is king” credited to Bill Gates back in 1996. Here we are two decades later, in an evolved environment, where the online world and the offline world are deeply intertwined, where we are surrounded by Apps galore and multiple types of social media. In this new era, a slightly different king has been crowned: User Generated Content.

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What is User Generated Content?

Think of it as anything you or your customers place on your website, social media channels, blog, or other online marketing, which is generated by your customers and is about your products or services. Examples include product reviews, testimonials, photos of customers using your products on Instagram, videos posted on Facebook, a YouTube video, a comment posted on a blog, etc. Customers do create this “content” for a variety of reasons without any encouragement from companies, but now Fortune 500 companies have recognized the immense value of User Generated Content, and are strongly encouraging customers to create this type of content.

Why is this User Generated Content so darn sexy?

It’s a form of Social Proof. We are naturally influenced by our peers, and we look to others’ experiences for cues on what to do and what not to do. We learn at a young age that we can increase our chances of survival by observing and learning from the experiences of others. In addition, we are built to belong to social groups, and to want to “fit in” to keep that human connection. Everyone’s doing it!

Talk about cost effective! Essentially, when your customers generate content, they are building your brand for you, for free. How many videos have you seen online of people surfing, scuba diving, snow skiing, and doing other extreme sports using a GoPro? Now imagine how much it would have cost for GoPro to produce all of those videos at exotic destinations themselves. Here’s another example from at www.gap.com under #gaplove. Look at the mountain backdrop, the guy in front of the graffiti wall, the baby on the floor, and think about how many photoshoots would have been required to fill the page and continue refreshing it with good content. User generated content is a blessing to companies!

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Unlike ads, customers are open to the user-generated impressions they see. It’s no secret that consumers are bombarded by online advertisements more than ever. As social media platforms have sought to monetize, they have let advertisements creep into the meat of our feeds, but we HATE THEM! A 2016 Harris Poll found that 74% of Millennials don’t want brand posts on their social media feeds, and 56% say they are even motivated to stop using social media altogether to avoid them. Meanwhile, we DO still spend a considerable chunk of time each day on our social media sites. Earlier this year, Facebook reported that users spend an average of 50 minutes each day looking at its platforms (collectively between Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger). While we don’t want to see advertisements, we DO want to see what our friends and peers are doing, and we are spending on average almost an hour every day looking for this information.

It’s an effective sales tool. Facebook actually recently posted a case study, showing that including user-generated content in ads increased click through rates by 300%. Other brands have reported seeing 25% higher conversions when user generated photos were used in advertisements instead of professionally made product shots. So even when content is used in an advertisement, if the content is created by customers, consumers like it!

This mean that if your company is not promoting user generated content, now is the time to start. Get creative about ways you can use your customer reviews and testimonials on your website, online store, and advertisements. Invite your customers to share, and reward them for doing so. To get your creative juices flowing, here are some examples of user generated content that innovative companies are using now.

Hop on board! Everyone is doing it!

Lanette Willis is a Senior Account Manager at Nexternal. Before joining Nexternal she spent nearly a decade working in market research and professional services marketing, before running her own successful eCommerce apparel business. Lanette is passionate about helping people and businesses thrive.

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