I was recently asked what technology or innovation in digital marketing that I was most excited about. Although I am biased in my answer, I am always excited to see the results when technology can provide both innovation, and results in the bottom line.
There are many successful case studies of brands leveraging user-generated social content to tell their stories. Early adopters have been rewarded with deeper relationships with influencers, powerful website and marketing content that is so captivating to their audiences that they are staying connected to the brand website longer.
The longer that eyes remain engaged with the content, the more meaningful the experience will be in learning about the product, service or experiences that a brand offers.
The technology behind user generated content marketing is not new. However, executing the strategy around the technology to fully leverage the thousands of images and video content being created around every brand, product or experience, is the key to ensuring that an investment in technology or software generates the return on investment that it should.
How to un-tap the power of social media
There are hundreds and maybe thousands of pieces of content being created and shared about your brand every day. Consider the amount of social content being posted and shared by these two popular brands, just in the last 30 days:
This is the “visual word of mouth” that the socially connected consumer has created, and that wise marketers have untapped in helping them to reach, capture and retain both new influencers who will be their best brand ambassador’s, but also more engaged customers – at the point of transaction.
What should marketers be thinking about when determining a technology platform and strategy to capture and un-tap crowd-sourced content as part of the marketing mix?
Photos, videos and brand stories are being created and shared by Instagrammers, top influencers on Twitter and YouTube stars who have an engaged community of followers en mass. Rewarding influencers with a shout out, a follow, or a reward, and featuring their content alongside other brand messages is a means of not only generating good content – but also in building an army of powerful brand ambassadors.
The future of influencer marketing is to be able to build and engage with a wider net of influencers, who may have niche communities and a smaller audience as a whole – but powerful content and more targeted reach. Marketers must find a way to manage and measure this in order to gain reach.
Social Media Contesting
Social media contesting works to engage new Fans on Facebook, but are these leads being nurtured and developed into a perspective customer or brand ambassador? How do you determine a return on your investment when the transaction or lead generation has occurred outside of the brand web asset?
The idea is to pull the contest to a landing page on the website instead of running it through Facebook or YouTube, and manage both the content assets, as well as the entries to ensure that the lead generation you are looking for is not simply lead gen for Facebook. Leverage social media channels as the powerful marketing vehicles they are – and drive your customers back to the point of conversion.
Nova Scotia tourism was recently named by SKIFT as one of the Top 25 Destination Websites in the World, with a specific mention of the creative use of crowd-sourced content.
Managing permissions and rights for images and videos
All UGC marketing platforms, or social media aggregators of content worth looking at should have the ability to pull in and re-publish social media content and provide an automated permissions request built in. Outside of the obvious reasons to obtain permissions to use content posted on Facebook or Instagram, asking permission also gives marketers the opportunity to initiate a conversation with posters of content, encourage more content submissions and increase the number of shares. This also allows the brand to build an arsenal of images and videos that can be re-published to become part of the brand marketing strategy.
Adding fresh social media content to the website will immediately improve the stickiness of the website and keep customers close to your point of conversion longer. Consider nurturing relationships with professional photographers who use Instagram as a means of promoting themselves. Work with them to showcase their work – and tell your story. Follows and shares are the currency of the social media economy, and content creators will be thrilled to be recognized and supported by your brand.
Social data asset development and management
Sourcing photography and video production from vendors can be an expensive hit to your bottom line. In addition, research shows that user generated content is more engaging and more trusted than professionally produced content. It is important for marketers to start to build asset libraries of user generated social media images and videos to add into the marketing mix to keep it fresh and vibrant. In addition, keeping image and video assets sorted and categorized by content type increases marketing automation and efficiency.
Lead capture and measuring ROI on social media
Many companies struggle to find their ROI from social media, but believe it or not, you can gauge the return on your social media investment. By using technology and analytics, marketers are now able to track conversions on a sign up, App download, purchase, or page visit as a means to measure the impact that social media content has on their sales.
They key is to use social media channels as marketing tactics to drive users back to the point of conversion, not send them back out to Instagram once you have the customer on the website.
SEO and Website content
Website bounce rates, time on site, and average number of pages per visits have been illustrating to marketers for quite some time that websites are not engaging or as good at closing the sale as they once were.
Consumer user behaviour has changed, but most brand websites have not kept up to ensure that their storefront is engaging to a new kind of customer.
Consumers spend more time on Social Media channels than ever before, and less time on websites. By showcasing social stories on the website, visitors are able to engage and share social media content from the website, and are more likely to remain on the website, instead of bouncing out to Facebook or Instagram. By giving users a similar experience they get on Instagram or Facebook – brands will keep customers on the website longer, and have the chance to further engage them to sign up or buy.
In addition, “Social signals” – or referring traffic back from a social network have also become a key factor in Google’s search ranking. Marketers need to continue to add links to social media posts to encourage users to go back to the website and engage with the brand. By providing similar content on the website, marketers can capture and retain that lead longer, and also increase the amount of fresh SEO friendly content added to the website.
What’s next in the technology behind UGC marketing platforms?
Personalized delivery of social content upon returning to the website, within marketing messages – and in emails.
This can be done now with platforms such as Hashtagio, allowing brands to tag and categorize UGC content to be searched and re-published at any time, to any place.
Automated tagging of visual content via AI technology
Although this is the not so distant future, I would caution that many brands are not even fully leveraging crowd sourced content now. There are only a few brands that are fully un-tapping the potential in injecting social stories into the marketing mix. Testing how crowd sourced content can impact the website performance and sales should be the first step before investing in automating the tagging of content.
It is the curation and categorizing of the content itself, as well as the implementation and measurement of success that is more of a priority for most brands.
Technology and marketing automation are on the minds of marketers more than ever before.
Keep this advice in mind when researching solutions for managing user generated content, or any other software or technology for that matter. Software bells and whistles will not be the key to tapping into the power of crowd-sourced content. Take the time and deploy resources to the right implementation strategy. The results will be improved efficiencies in social media marketing, proven ROI and of course, increased sales.
Alicia Whalen is a blogger, speaker and Chief Evangelist for Hashtagio the platform pulls in social content by Hashtag, Location or @handle. Content is tagged and searchable and can be republished on brand websites, in emails, and in other media. The Hashtagio UGC marketing platform provides automated rights management to obtain permissions to use images, and advanced analytics to brands build direct connects with Instagrammers, tweeters and Youtubers. Hashtagio is a social data asset management tool, a UCG marketing platform, and a website marketing automation tool that allows brands to fully leverage social media stories.