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How User Generated Content Can Help Brands Succeed in Today’s Connected World The following is a guest contributed post to MAW from Robyn Croll, Director of Customer Insights at SmartFocus. 

Attracting and keeping your customers’ attention is not easy. You need to identify the right audience at the right time, make the right offer, using the right content. It is a huge challenge that occupies marketers’ thoughts and minds constantly.

There are analytics and segmentation tools out there that help marketers hone in on their key audience, ensuring the most engaging email content hits a customer’s inbox at the optimal time of day, while ensuring that those messages and recommendations are contextually relevant – in the moment when a customer open them.

In simple terms, it’s all down to the content…because if that doesn’t deliver, all of the technology in the world won’t get your customers excited. And more importantly it won’t get them to buy your product.

Above all, your content needs to be relevant. And what’s more relevant than seeing how someone like you looks like in that outfit you having been longing for? Or where families just like yours have spent their summer holiday? Your customers want social proof that your product fits, behaves and delivers as your branded messages claim. And with over 77% of consumers saying that user generated content (UGC) versus branded images provides that proof, brands need to find a way to deliver on this.

UGC can help resolve the issue of generating new content as well. Many of the brands that my team and I work with are often faced with the choice of reusing the same images or limiting communications. Brands such as Starbucks White Cup Contest and National Geographic’s Wanderlust have shown how consumers are thrilled to share photos showing how they engage with the brand, and provided a wealth of genuine social proof.

starbucksEmail still is, and will continue to be a powerful way to speak with your customers – if it’s done right. But as we continue to spend more of our time on social sites, brands need to follow suit.

In the US, people are now spending over 50 minutes every day on Facebook, Messenger and Instagram – that’s a whopping 25% increase from just 2 years ago. And it makes perfect sense – in an increasingly time crunched world we need to be creative in finding time to spend our friends, families – even our kids – and the easiest way to do that is on social media, with Facebook continuing to lead the charge.

Facebook is where we share where we’ve been, what we are doing, look for advice, recommendations… and make purchasing decisions. In the recent ‘back to school’ period, my Facebook’s feed was full of comments about the best/easy/nutritious lunches to pack, where to get backpacks that would last, and ways to get kids back into the school rhythm. Facebook knew what my peers – and people that ‘look’ like me – were interested in.

Selling on social media has clear benefits and when UGC is integrated the results are extremely attractive – 300% increases in click-through rate, 50% lower cost per click and 50% lower cost per acquisition. For brands to be successful, they have to find ways to become a part of the conversation and not jump in and interrupt it. Strategy and the right technology are essential to successfully integrate UGC into the customer journey.

Smart marketing tools provide marketers with the technology. Curating, storing and adding UGC to email using an easy to use dashboard makes it easy for marketers to constantly grow their library of content and include the social proof of their brand – with a mixture of customer and branded wording – to engage customers and email subscribers. The very best tools enable marketers to leverage the power and reach of Facebook, and use UGC to connect with different segments of customers along different stages of their journey.

Regardless of what a brand sells, marketers are focused on acquisition, retention and reactivation. Using Facebook to drive a specific strategy has been largely unattainable until now.

Let’s say you have been able to identify a segment of customers who, based on their purchasing behavior, are your most loyal customers. Some may engage with your emails but most likely not all do. Smart marketers will look at this group and come up with three strategies – how do I keep them loyal, how do I engage with them outside of email – and how do I find more people just like them.

Using specific language and UGC, ‘loyals’ can be part of a personalized and targeted conversation, on the channel of their choice. And leveraging Facebook’s wide-ranging list of attributes, finding new potential lookalikes, driven by your custom segment provides brands with a very strategic way of finding new potential high value customers.

UGC is a powerful way for marketers to build relationships with customers, encouraging them to tell the brand story in their own pictures and words. These stories then become the social proof that encourage their friends and others who look like them to become your customers. Customers win because who doesn’t like telling their own story, and brands win because who doesn’t like being the story?

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