We’re big fans of content, and I doubt that comes as much of a surprise. We bang on about it quite a lot, and we genuinely believe it has the power to massively benefit businesses. Quality content can be awe-inspiring, and we like to think that what we produce is pretty darn good. But we also recognise that when it comes to content, even we have limits. Yes, you read that right. Southerly, the award-winning creative content agency, can’t do everything. When it comes to user-generated content (UGC), one of the most persuasive forms of content, the consumer holds all the cards. If you want videos, blogs, website copy or podcasts, we can help; but to profit from UGC, you must rely on your customers.
UGC: seeing through the public eye
When it comes to getting the most value from content, it makes sense to take more than one approach. Writing blogs and having an attractive website can help bolster SEO and give your company a professional appearance, but that can only get you so far. Once you’ve managed to get customers to your site, what then? How can you encourage them to make a purchase, or enquire further?
For many business, the answer is to utilise UGC. Online reviews form the backbone of numerous household names – from Amazon to IKEA, Just Eat to Airbnb – because they are regarded as being authentic and reliable. UGC is the digital equivalent of word-of-mouth, and it has the capacity to be extremely influential.
However, UGC comes with a fairly significant catch: reviewers have the ability to be negative as well as positive. And, although research suggests consumers are more likely to share good experiences than bad ones, this is certainly something worth bearing in mind. UGC can certainly give your business a competitive edge, but it also has the potential to be detrimental in extreme cases.
The customer is always right
The idea that the customer is always right has been drilled into most of us from an early age. This slogan is, of course, not to be taken literally; rather, it should merely emphasise the idea that customer satisfaction is key to success. Without having the consumer on your side, your business will constantly be fighting a losing battle.
When it comes to UGC, happy customers can be marketing gold. A few five-star reviews can be far more effective than any amount of paid advertising. However, if your business goes down the route of allowing reviews and opinions to be visible on your website, you had better make sure you’ve done everything in your power to ensure their summaries are upbeat.
With a little help from my friends
The clout of UGC should not be underestimated. According to the Nielsen Consumer Trust Index, 92 per cent of consumers trust UGC more than they do traditional advertising. Another survey, carried out by Bazaarvoice, concluded that 84 per cent of millennials say UGC is central to their decision to buy an item. Both of these statistics go a long way to highlighting the incredible power of UGC to influence.
We live in a world where digital plays an increasingly vital role in the purchasing journey. Being able to research a product or company is not only relatively simple, but for many it is an essential part of the buying process. According to the Pew Research Centre, 82 per cent of adults say they regularly read online ratings or reviews before purchasing an item for the first time, which begs the question: can your business afford to have a reputation that is anything other than favourable?
At the end of the day, it’s all about trust. A study by Sprout Social found that 86 per cent of consumers say they ‘sincerely value’ companies that are open and honest, which is hardly shocking. In every relationship, be it with an individual or an organisation, people want to be treated with respect.
People have grown tired of empty promises and insincere advertising; instead, they simply want to know what to expect should they commit to a purchase. And if you can get your customers to sing your praises, you’re onto a winner. If not, then they’ll quickly be on the hunt for a competitor that gives them exactly what they’re looking for.
More than the written word
Video is growing in prominence as a channel for people wanting to voice their opinion, and it’s an outlet that offers huge opportunities for savvy businesses. In fact, estimates suggest that by 2020 video will account for 79 per cent of all internet traffic, so it’s only going to become more popular going forward.
Did you know that user-generated videos get around 10x more views than brand-owned content, or that user-generated videos increase brand sales effectiveness by around 20 per cent? If you are able to maintain good relationships with video-based influencers, while also providing services and products that they’re happy to endorse, you could reap substantial rewards.
Again, this all stems back to transparency, authenticity, and trust. Consumers don’t want a brand to tell them why they should purchase its product, because such messages are inherently biased; no company is ever going to criticise itself, after all. Video content that comes from an independent party is not afflicted with the need for partiality, and so viewers can rely on any expressed opinions to be uttered candidly.
An added incentive
Your business should, of course, be prioritising quality and consumer satisfaction from day one, but if ever there was an additional incentive to up your game and make processes that little bit sharper, UGC is it. If you’re giving consumers a platform with which to voice their thoughts, the last thing you want is a spate of reviews that have nothing but negative things to say about what you do, or how you do it.
Of course, even if your website doesn’t have a section for reviews or customer comments, you can still suffer from UGC that condemns your business. Social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook give everyone an online voice, and one bad customer experience could easily spread like digital wildfire.
For any business owner worth their salt, excellence should be at the very heart of everything they do. Garnering a reputation for poor service and supplying inferior goods has sounded the death knell for any number of companies in the past, and continues to do so, but for a business whose customers are only too happy to sing its praises from the rooftops, UGC offers nothing but positives.
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