The Future of User Generated Content

September 17, 2015

The Value of Social Impressions: Return on investment. Buzzword? Marketing strategy lynchpin? Flag? It’s a sales saying as old as time: “what if you could spend $100 to make $500? Is that something you’d be interested in?” If you’re met with this proposition, run. While metrics are critical to understanding the return of your sales and marketing efforts, there is a danger in letting data mute the core of your business: your customers. This article focuses specifically on the type of marketing that happens organically through social media, specifically the power of social impressions.

Relinquish Marketing Control:

Search for the job description “social media manager” and you’ll find requirements such as fluency on different platforms, writing ability and some graphics expertise. Putting the fate of your social media in the hands of one “expert” is a risky business. Nobody really knows what they’re doing. A growing trend among marketers is the focus on user generated-content because it puts the control in the hands of consumers.

Some Customers Weren’t Meant to be Caged:

There’s a certain level of caution as brands open the gates to their customers. Some of those concerns include the following questions:

  1. What if we get negative reviews?
  2. What if customers submit information outside of our brand story?
  3. Why do we need user generated content?


Let’s address these concerns head-on:

Negative reviews:

Opening the door to user generated content brings your brand beyond closed conference rooms and humanizes your product or service with the same light as reviews. True, with reviews come the negative, but studies by companies like Zappos have found that brands responding to a negative review or negative brand experience quickly and sincerely actually leaves the customer with a higher level of brand loyalty than before the problem.

Out-of-bounds on brand:

If you decide to run a user generated content campaign and receive off-brand submissions or a jab at your product or service, great! Use it to inform your team. Some of your best product ideas can come from listening to customers.

Why user generated content?

User generated content matters because it’s unfiltered and authenticated by customers. Consumers look online at what other people are saying. The evolution of user generated content shows that brands empowering users have come out victorious. Take the Real Montana campaign through The Audience Awards. As a catalyst, the campaign generated 8 million social impressions. That’s more than two percent of the United States population.

While brands continue to pour money into direct mail, television advertising and out-of-home, there’s a disconnect with how customers are getting information and where brands are spending money. Nearly half of all advertising spend is spent on television. But as you’ll notice below, digital advertising spend is increasing at a much faster rate (digital’s 13.8% compared with TVs 1.7%) and is only expected to continue growing. If you’re in the business of direct mail, you may want to find another business.

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The Value of Social:

What doesn’t get measured here is the value of organic impressions, meaning, pull advertising. It’s not a push notification, it’s not a pop-up ad and it’s not a cold-call. Organic social shares happen when a fan or a customer shares your content to their audience. It could be an audience of ten or it could be an audience of ten thousand. Though the promise of viral videos is akin to grabbing a cloud, engaging your audience in your brand through a user generated video contest is the spark igniting the flame. Social sharing and social impressions is the gasoline.

The other big trend is the trend toward mobile. According to 44 percent of all video plays happened on a mobile device this last quarter. As phones increase in size and bandwidth, so too do the capabilities of the users. Pushing play on a smart-phone just a couple years ago meant a five minute wait time followed by hiccups and freeze frames. Now, video streams beautifully on an HD screen through data networks without missing a beat. This changes the way marketing professional look at video. Vine, Snapchat stories and Periscope are changing the control brands have been comfortable maintaining for decades.

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Marketing and Branding 2015:

As a business owner, marketing consultant or social media strategist looking at the digital marketing landscape, investing in user generated content should be a priority in your marketing plan moving forward. Social impressions have literally surpassed the capabilities of digital marketing. Learn more about The Audience Awards and the potential of running a video contest.




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