How To Grow Your Business Using UGC
For many businesses, experienced existing users have now become a powerful unofficial channel to help resolve queries and solve problems for fellow customers
User generated content (UGC) started life as the best thing since sliced bread, with vastly overstated powers. After its inevitable journey on the hype-cycle rollercoaster, UGC 2.0 has now emerged stronger than ever, and is one of the cornerstones of the content marketing renaissance as well as the building block for significant chunks of any business's digital footprint.
Here is a look at seven key use-cases:
Brand creation and advocacy
A brand launch used to be, you rolled out distribution to as wide a network as feasible, and then bought as much media as you could afford to blanket those markets to generate trials. Today, instead of the high-risk, high-return circus, it is feasible to light small fires in promising niches, and fan those early-adopter flames with user content and social networks. Oneplus made terrific use of these early fan tribes during their launch phase, driving buzz with 'invite codes' that existing users could pass on to others, effectively making them brand ambassadors. The Oneplus user forum transformed into an ad-hoc social network that made the discussions visible to a larger group of curious potentials.
Promotion and activation
Instead of forcing folks to write inane slogans, enabling them to use their creativity actually provides great content that can drive action. Star Movies asked its viewers to share their love for films by sending in true-fan stories and testimonials for its blockbusters. The best of these, with poems, songs and more, written, have turned into a national brand campaign that drives tune-ins to its blockbuster slots. HaikuJam, a platform for users to collaborate with strangers to create short poems, has been effectively used by brands like Ginger Hotels to drive lifestyle-congruent promotions.
Categories like FMCGs have traditionally spent lots of research money on usage behaviour studies. Now, very often, all it takes is a rigorous scan of the blogosphere/youtube to get first-level results, because that's where the makers, hackers and remixers document their work, generating use cases or features that you may never have planned for. Lego created fan-history when it embraced its most outspoken hackers by inviting them to Lego HQ to brainstorm on the next generation of Mindstorm robots. Brands across domains have followed their example.
In a crisis, especially on social media, every word that the brand utters online is pounced upon and deconstructed. At such a time, independent voices that pipe in with support, can make all the difference in diffusing the situation. Users in this case can be first responders, advocates and amplifiers with their own personal content.
The power of the five-star rating in driving you towards pressing the 'Buy' button is now well established. Reviews and usage commentary on social media, as well as the responses of verified buyers, has now become a vital signal to choose a particular phone, restaurant, hotel, movie, car, or bank. This is probably the easiest UGC process to get going, because the ROI on this probably the easiest to establish.
CRM: social bonds
When a few of your users with an emotional attachment to your product or service, find others like themselves, it leads to the formation of a community centred around their common love, where a lot of useful conversations and content start getting generated automatically. The community also serves as a magnet for new users. Typically, this effect would have been limited to celebrities or cult brands (say, the Enfield Riders' Clubs etc). But with the tribe-gathering power of digital, that power of the brand-fan is felt in categories like beauty products, foods, tech and fashion.
For many businesses, experienced existing users have now become a powerful unofficial channel to help resolve queries and solve problems for fellow customers. Unlocking this content can take a lot of design, but once the channel gets created, it can be an asset that provides value in perpetuity. The Dell user forums are probably one of the most well-known cases , that helped the brand fight back on support issues, ultimately becoming a profit centre.
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