Tuesday, May 5, 2015

CMOs, Digital and Ecomm Leaders: 3 Easy Steps to Harness the Power of UGC

As a digital marketing leader, you're challenged to position your brands to align with your consumer interests and needs, ensuring they remain engaged and buying into your brand. Some of the more 'progressive' brands today are trusting their customers to co-create their marketing content, and it's paying off with increased consumer engagement and loyalty. However, I can share their secret in three simple steps that will help you focus on building the right UGC strategy. As a graduate student of the Northwestern University, Medill IMC program, and a Client Strategy Director working with major global corporations to build and maximize their UGC content, I aim to help brands understand how critical UGC and word of mouth is to a marketing strategy. So below, I've provided two articles that outline the growth of UGC and its ever-present importance as well as the steps that any brand can take to harness it's power. 

The first article, "User Generated Content – Why Companies Will Make the Most of it in 2013" (and beyond), by Shreya Ashok explains the benefits of developing a strategy around collecting and displaying user generated content, as well as the different types of UGC and its power to influence purchase decisions, brand affinity and loyalty. Consumer content is a growing phenomenon with the explosion of social platforms allowing the consumer to express their opinions openly, and with a mass audience. Marketers can no longer afford to ignore the need to integrate UGC into their marketing mix.

"UGC: 3 Tactics for Converting Customers into Brand Advocates," by Nicole Fallon discusses how the marketing landscape is changing, and the need to co-create your brand message with your customers is essential in remaining effective and top of mind. Today’s most progressive (and often most successful) brands are actively encouraging their customers to share their experiences, and transmitting it back out for others to see. Furthermore, if you consider your brand ahead of the curve, then possibly consider visual media to further grow engagement.  Consumers respond best to visual UGC, and a few methods to best integrate this into your plans are through product interaction, integration, and contests.

Now that you've read about the growing importance of UGC, I've listed 3 easy steps that I recommend my clients start in order to put a UGC strategy into practice. They are as follows: 
  • Ask – Develop and ongoing dialogue and proactively encourage your customers to provide their feedback and experiences about your brand. You won’t get the best content unless you pursue a strategy around building content volume.                            
  • Amplify – Once you’ve gathered the consumer content, magnify the strongest points for your brand out into the marketplace to influence others. “95% of consumers need social validation before making a purchase,” so amplify your positive content in all marketing platforms.                                                                                                          
  • Take Action - UGC is an opportunity for product/brand development. Your UGC is a 24/7 focus group, and you need to ensure you’re addressing your customers concerns.
So when you’re developing your brand’s annual plans and have to prioritize your marketing mix, please remember that almost all consumers need social validation before making a purchase. The more you can communicate the positive feedback you receive, the higher your conversions will be.

Amanda Sime is a graduate student in the Northwestern University, Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program. She currently lives in Austin, TX and works at Bazaarvoice as the Director, Client Strategy on Enterprise accounts and focuses on integrating WOM and UGC best practices into Account's marketing strategies in order to help drive business performance and consumer engagement. Feel free to comment, repost and follow her on Twitter: @asimetime 

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