There’s an adage that the average person is exposed to over 5,000 advertisements every day, with most of those ads a wasted effort. With advertising so completely entrenched in our entertainment, from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson hosting HQ Trivia to sponsored Snap filters, we’re reminded that we’re consumers first, and people second. This scenario makes it especially difficult to make a connection, as people ignore ads, block ads and pay for the pleasure of an ad free environment.
Worse yet, businesses counteract this by sending even more ads, in as many places as possible, making the defacto strategy volume instead of a truly people-based approach. This strategy doesn’t really work now and it’s not going to work in the long term. The brands that will survive aren’t ones that SHOUT, ALL THE TIME! Rather, brands that position themselves as “human, helpful and handy” will be able to cut through the soulless noise that is today’s marketing landscape.
Core to this people-based philosophy is developing trust with an audience through transparency and authenticity. In this scenario, the fastest, most effective way to build trust is by utilizing user generated content. With UGC — user generated content including ratings, reviews, customer photos, videos and social posts — brands are able to create and mobilize a community of advocates who are far more effective at marketing a brand than the brand alone. The effectiveness of UGC lies in a concept called social proof.
Think about a time when you discovered a new store or restaurant or dry cleaner. Or you’re in the market for new boots, looking for a new gym or need to switch dentists. Your next step is unerringly research. You ping people you know to get their advice and search for reviews online — always. Whether we recognize it or not, we seek social proof and affirmation constantly. The concept especially rings true in eCommerce, where the proliferation of disruptive brands like Warby Parker and Quip toothbrushes is leading to an exciting new wave of next-generation competitors. Unfortunately, the backdrop of this is that the costs of acquiring consumers are climbing and the struggle for retaining customers is real. Marketers are expected to do more with much less.
UGC can help balance the scales a bit. Known for its power in driving onsite conversion, UGC is a powerful asset across the entire buyer journey, particularly for discovery channels where people are looking for the immediate validation of social proof for any new purchase consideration. In search marketing, adding customer star ratings to Google PLAs can increase CTRs by 17% and lower CPC by 15%.
From a consumer’s perspective, what would instill more confidence: the product listing with a 5 star ratings from dozens of reviews or another listing with no ratings whatsoever? It’s the need for social proof elemental to all of us. It was also found that 77% of consumers say they trust other customer photos over brand photos. As a brand, taking ownership of the feedback you receive in any format, visual or written, and placing it at the forefront of your brand is one of the most powerful ways to show people that you’re “human.”
Displaying social proof anywhere a person is trying to assess a purchase makes you helpful. Then pay off your marketing promises with a superior customer experience to demonstrate how handy you can be to shoppers. Take the brand MVMT as an example. Not only was it disrupting a decidedly old-school industry, they were looking to create a watch-wearing market in a smartphone-wielding world. They needed to establish trust in the quality of their products and utilize the highest form of persuasion to promote a cultural change. This made the use of UGC mission critical from almost day one. The corporate Instagram is a living embodiment of this; it’s a mixture of professional and customer shots dating back years – the posts are even shoppable, with comments right below acting as instant reviews.
Brands need to remember that relationships are two-way. And as with IRL relationships, communication is key. User generated content can be the language that proves to consumers that brands truly see them as people too.