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Not too long ago, content marketing proved to be one of the biggest digital trends of 2014.
Companies have been scrambling to set up content strategies ever since the word got out that having one not only boosted sales and brand loyalty in the Millennial market, but also immensely impacted their SEO rank. Unfortunately, some businesses struggle to regularly concept interesting, engaging articles for their followers — especially if they don’t have huge budgets to maintain their strategy.
Some businesses found they don’t need to create content as often anymore, instead leaving that task up to their followers with a plan called “user-generated content.” And it’s been wildly successful. User-generated content (UGC) is original published content sent in by contributors (often real fans of your brand) in the form of videos, pictures, social media posts, articles, etc. Brands then feature the UGC on their website, social media pages, and even traditional media, in an attempt to increase brand loyalty and spark conversations with their target audience that drive sales.
While your company may argue the inconsistent quality of the content, the statistics that come with UGC make it pretty hard to go against it. An infographic from Crowdtap states it influences purchases 20 percent more than all other media types. It also concludes social networking, peer reviews, and conversations with friends — all forms of user-generated content — largely beat out traditional media platforms when it comes to trusting sources of product info. In fact, UGC is 50 percent more trusted than other media and 35 percent more memorable.
After seeing the facts, incorporating user-generated content into your digital strategy should be a no-brainer, especially if you’re trying to appeal to a Millennial audience. If you need some help getting started, here are a few ways you can appeal to Gen. Y with user-generated content:
1. Fuel Word-of-Mouth on Social Media
Successful brands don’t just talk at their fans, they collaborate with them. Word-of-mouth largely stems from social media. In fact, Millennials are spending five hours per day looking at UGC created by their peers. More companies than ever are now adopting practices that put their social media pages in the hands of their fans — their own content merely serves as a catalyst to spark initial engagement. Through engaging questions, fun competitions/contests, and visual storytelling, brands leverage social media to encourage as much UGC as they can.
The coffee-maker Keurig, for example, encourages fans to post stories in alignment with their brand voice — giving away brewers to their biggest advocates. The video details how 91 percent of conversations about the brand are positive, due in part to their incredibly engaging content strategy. Doughnut chain Dunkin’ Donuts also shows how to create a buzz with their fun, easy contests and fan spotlights — among other methods of getting UGC. Instead of making their promos and contests about them, they create fan-centric, share-worthy, and often very visual campaigns that are inspired by the behavior of their fans.
In your own digital strategy, use your creativity to find as many unique ways as you can to encourage lots of user-generated content. Your brand is one of the most integral parts of getting and maintaining business, and the promos, campaigns, and content you produce should reflect the personality of the audience you’re targeting. Have a clear goal you want to accomplish, and try to create a campaign that generates as much buzz as possible in order to reach it. It’s important to think long-term when crafting your goals, since relationships with fans don’t happen in an instant.
2. Get Influencers Behind You
There are people out there who make a living creating original content with the intent to reach the Millennial audience. Eventually, these creators build wildly loyal followings, many in the millions. Brands often build relationships with these influencers in order to promote their product/service either directly or indirectly through their content. This act is called “influencer marketing,” and it’s secretly becoming a widespread phenomenon — especially on platforms like YouTube and blog sites.
Many companies are adopting the practice of influencer marketing in their strategies, the most recent addition including a big campaign from Ford to promote their 2014 Fiesta. The auto giant sought out 100 influencers (who they called “agents”) who had huge Millennial followings and captured the brand voice that the Fiesta was trying to convey. They gave out 100 Fiestas to their agents and told them they could do whatever they wanted with them for six months, having them document their experience with the car on every platform they’re a part of. The campaign was a hit — the combined reach that the 100 influencers had successfully engaged a massive Millennial audience and led to huge increases of sales for the car.
In your own brand, successfully reaching out to influencers can be tough — especially since large brands are willing to pay absurd sums of money to the people they enlist. If your budget can handle it, influencers have the resources and reach to concept, create, and share quality content that their followers love and trust. That being said, their recommendations carry tons of weight, often making influencer marketing a win-win for both parties involved.
Do a little research and find out which influencers capture the voice of your brand. Once you have your list, reach out and show them the value of working with your brand. Then, using the combined strategic creativity of the influencer and your company, figure out a way to incorporate your brand into their content. It could come in the form of a blog post, video, social media post, or photo — just make sure it’s interesting and shareable to achieve maximum success.
3. Don’t Discredit Peer Review Sites
User-generated content sometimes doesn’t come directly from your brand’s pages — instead, getting posted on review sites such as Yelp. Online reviews make up a considerable chunk of UGC and highly influence purchase decisions in Millennials. In fact, 68 percent of them trust reviews of products/services that come from their peers — that’s higher than those who trust reviews coming from professional sites and publications (although not by much). Online reviews matter more than you think, and it’s important to consider them when crafting your content strategy.
An astounding four out of five people reversed purchase decisions based on negative peer reviews they found online. Therefore, combating them with positive reviews is crucial in preventing a decline in sales. That’s not to say you should create fake profiles to make your own positive reviews, but encourage your fans to post positive reviews of their experience with your brand. If the results are poor, offer a small incentive (free item, discount, etc.) to not only encourage participation, but also keep them engaged and build loyalty.
How else can you appeal to Millennials with user-generated content?
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