Today, the Internet is more social than ever, and consumers are more vocal. Innovations in technology over the last decade have allowed individuals to influence what they want to see and experience from brands by providing user-generated content. Content marketers must take note.
While this might sound like a PR disaster waiting to happen, brands should embrace what consumers are saying and sharing about them. User-generated content such as blog comments, online reviews, social media posts and more can all help brands better provide what their audiences want. The end result? An increase in traffic and sales.
Engage consumers with web experiences
User-generated content (UGC) allows you to develop and enhance your relationship with consumers as they engage with you and other users on your site. User-generated content lets your customers voice their opinions and connect with a community of people with similar interests. Creating campaigns that showcase your audience leads to more traffic and time spent on your site.
For example, Haute Couture’s online dress-rental company Rent the Runway created “Our Runway.” “Our Runway” features 12,000 photos of customers enjoying their Cinderella moment in their rented dresses. Customers were asked to upload their photo, size, measurements and any feedback. This information allows prospective customers to use a “Find Women Like Me” tool, which helps them envision what a potential dress will look like on a body type like their own.
The company found that members who used “Our Runway” were 200 percent more likely to rent than if they had seen the dress on a standard model. While this is certainly a more elaborate example, UGC that is engaging can be as simple as holding photo or video contests, or featuring creative tweets using a specific hashtag.
The bottom line: Creating engaging web experiences that drive traffic will raise brand awareness and trust, which in turn will make potential customers more likely to buy your product.
Bonus: Consumer reviews are nearly 12 times more trusted than manufacturers’ descriptions.
Influence purchase decisions
Allowing customers to share their opinions about your brand tells everyone you are confident in the value you provide, and it establishes consumer trust; consumers, after all, value authenticity and transparency in brands.
For many consumers, this means demonstrating how customers are using your product or what they are saying about it. You can easily link a photo of a consumer using your product back to the product description. Yoga apparel giant Lululemon used this tactic in their #thesweatlife campaign, causing their conversion rate to double.
For consumers considering a product or service, the opinions and experiences shared by their peers are much more influential than the best pitch your top salesperson can deliver.
Bonus: Fifty-one percent of Americans trust UGC more than company website content (16%) or news articles about the company (14%) when looking for information about a brand, product or service. In addition, 51 percent of Millennials also said consumer opinions on a website have a greater impact on their purchase than recommendations from their own family and friends!
Multiple SEO benefits
Investing in UGC increases the chances that your brand can break out of page two in Google’s search engine results. With Google’s Panda algorithm update, social SEO has become more important than ever. User-generated content helps increase social signals, which increases search visibility. When consumers share reviews with their social circles, they are boosting referral traffic back to your site, adding to your consumer base and increasing conversions.
For small businesses or large companies targeting a certain geographic area, online consumer reviews are also key to boosting your local SEO. Local SEO is the process of optimizing your website so that you can gain higher local search rankings. Google Carousel pulls up search results based on your geographic location and the number and quality of reviews provided.
If you search “gyms” from St. Paul, Minnesota, for example, Google will organize a list of gyms based on these qualifications. You can ask your patrons to write reviews by simply following up and inviting them to post an honest opinion, providing links your Google+ page on your other social pages, in your e-mails and on your website. Having a large number of organic positive reviews has become more important, especially as mobile and tablet search are key parts of the decision-making process. Remember, while Yelp reviews are a great resource for consumers, they provide very little SEO benefit.
Bonus: Millennials increasingly rely on online reviews to discover new brands and make purchase decisions. Studies have shown user-generated content has 20 percent more influence over Millennials’ purchasing decisions than any other type of media, with an average of 59 percent of Millennials trusting UGC.
Enhance customer service and consumer trust
Listening and responding to audience feedback builds consumer trust that, in turn, improves customer service and increases sales. Having direct, uncensored access to your community allows your brand to hear your audience’s feedback. Negative or positive, someone is mentioning your brand because they care and want to be heard by you.
Capitalizing on this free consumer feedback allows for quick, personalized resolutions to simple problems, all while allowing you to monitor and discover recurring issues you may not have noticed before.
Bonus: Directly responding to feedback (especially negative) on your website or social pages shows you value your consumers and are willing to solve problems. It also allows your brand to demonstrate authenticity by customizing each response.
User-generated content should be a cornerstone in your content marketing strategy. User-generated content drives traffic, brings operations and web design issues to light and increases consumer trust. When your audience talks to you, it’s essential for brands to talk back.
See the rest of our series on user-generated content here. Go ahead, take a look, don’t be shy: Key to Social Media Success: Unlocking User-Generated Content, How to Deal with Internet Trolls