Let’s go back, just a few years.
Social platforms, in theory, enabled brands to have discourse with their customers/fans/advocates. The thing is that 90%+ of brands found themselves to be socially inept as they hijacked this new opportunity by simply talking about themselves.
The old adage that great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about things, small minds talk about people and then there are those people that just talk about themselves, went unheeded.
In other words the vast majority of brands use/used the new platforms as a one-way form of advertising to push their own agendas.
In the meantime Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising (2013) cites “recommendations from people I know” and “consumer opinions posted online” as two of the most trusted forms of advertising.
These are the most formative moments that shape our initial thinking towards products and services. It is these persuasive junctures that brands struggle to be part of either because they lack the finesse or because they want to control the conversations. Usually both.
So the opportunity of how brands can credibly align with user generated content (UGC) moves in to centre stage. When you consider the associated benefits of UGC it’s a wonder that the opportunity has not been widely capitalised upon.
Here are some enviable upsides from a brand’s viewpoint; enhanced brand loyalty, increased audience retention, extends reach, adds personality and reduces costs. From a customer’s stance UGC adds appeal to a brand, builds trust, attracts like-minded customers and enhances loyalty.
The newer generation of companies formed since we all became truly connected, since the internet was widely adopted and since social media became an everyday part of our lives; (eg. Facebook, Amazon, Zappos, Google & Red Bull) rarely advertise preferring to use people as their medium.
People who have strong affinities with certain interests are more likely to share and more likely to be influential when sharing about that interest.
When it comes to millennials (generally viewed as people born from about 1980 to 2000) last year’s Ipsos Millennial Social Influence study revealed that millennials trust UGC just as much as professional reviews.
UGC is also 20% more influential when it comes to purchasing, 35% more memorable and 50% more trusted than other types of media* (*includes traditional media & other non-UGC media)
So let’s summarise today’s advertising challenges
- The audience we must reach today is social, local and mobile
- They produce large volumes of authentic, user-generated content every day (70 million photos and videos are posted to Instagram each day, alone)
- Social media’s organic reach is declining, as early players seek to monetize their channels
- There is a shift from reliance on paid media towards investing in media that is earned and owned.
These aggregation platforms enable brands to harness the influence of user generated content to form their very own channels.
This was always the social media end game; where brands put less reliance on renting space on other people’s media and begin to integrate content on their own medium.
And so the brand becomes a medium.
As Jonny Mole VP for Global Partnerships @ Shuttlerock succinctly captures “As the volume of content has exploded and attention spans have shortened, captive audiences held hostage by the medium no longer exist. As humans, we now set our own filters, we tune into those we trust or care about most and our ability to ignore comes at the peril of those that have commanded our attention for so many years.”
What this means is that we’ve moved from a finite number of channels to an infinite number.
This is a genuine game changer as the traditional role of brand, marketing teams and their partners is changing.
The change is away from telling people our stories towards empowering customers to tell their story, for us. So instead of talking at audiences create experiences worth sharing. In turn earn the right to share their voice, then curate the story they tell.
As Brian Solis so nicely puts it “We are in a new era of marketing & service in which your brand is defined by those who experience it.”
This is reinforced by Fiona Allen, CMO of Simplot, who recently commented upon the role of CMO’s “It’s a leadership role ultimately, but what you’re trying to lead is changing and it’s not about traditional marketing anymore,” she added. “It’s far more reaching – it becomes more about the experience, and less about the products and services.”
Here’s a good example from Jucy Rentals. Jucy has created its own channel, using Shuttlerock. Check it out here
A great seasonal example is from snow victoria
Both are live streams of, google friendly, consumer opinions that can be drawn from Instagram, pinterest, blogs, youtube, flickr, google+, twitter and LinkedIn using hash tags and keywords. Also in the mix there are partner and brand-curated promotions and the ability to direct upload via email or email reply upload options, in turn building a database.
The killer application is the ability to capitalise on the power of UGC and readily generate a call to action whether it is buying, enquiring or booking. Click on any of the Jucy posts, with a vehicle in it, to see how easy it is to enquire about that specific Jucy rental vehicle. Likewise click on any of the Snow Victoria posts to receive package information.
In a nutshell Shuttlerock and their ilk have enabled a direct link from influential UGC straight to an accountable call to action including e-commerce!
For me it closes the loop between “what could be” (advertising) to “what is” (reality); in turn making the proposition of driving around Australia or hitting the slopes a good deal more compelling.
(This article was first published in AdNews on 31st July 2015.)