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How to make the most of user generated marketing

18th Oct 2016
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Attracting and keeping your customers’ attention is not easy. You need to identify the right audience at the right time, make the right offer, using the right content. It is a huge challenge. To me, cutting-edge marketing revolves around three things: content, context and crowds. Therefore, a modern marketing platform needs to help marketers ‘do’ those things quickly, efficiently and cost effectively.  

Marketers are constantly looking for ways to access new customers. The sure fire way is of course to advertise to those customers who are more likely to purchase their product and buy their services.Marketers need to look for solutions that support contextual marketing from top of funnel acquisition right through to retention marketing, including content for such marketing.

Advanced marketing platforms are able to do this through the power of data, managed in real-time. This enables brands to contextually advertise on social media to anonymous users based on lookalike attributes and on what they understand about them. It’s widely acknowledged that in a multichannel, connected world, more content is needed for marketing moments that convert. The best platforms provide this through content curation, content management and user generated content (UGC).

Structuring around the customer

For the last decade, brands have been focused on channel rather than customer. However, some of the most advanced companies are moving beyond a siloed approach in order to create customer-centric organisations. Staff look after new and returning customers, so whether they are coming into store today, or interacting through live chat tomorrow, they always get the same experience. There’s a lot of talk about how you provide the same experience digitally as you do via your bricks and mortar stores, but in my view it comes from structuring your company that way.

Most notably House of Fraser and John Lewis have changed their marketing organisation to be less channel-siloed and much more cross-channel, and therefore customer-focused in its approach. That’s true for many marketers, but not all. Thankfully there are solutions that provide an answer and can create vast quantities of marketing output, triggering those contextual moments at the touch of a button. That means it doesn’t matter what channel the customer interacts with: what they see is based on their behaviour in real-time.

User generated marketing

User Generated Content (UGC) is fast becoming one of the most trusted forms of marketing; from YouTube stars promoting products to companies paying people to ‘sell’ their content on social media, it is a form of marketing that is growing and driving measurable results for many brands.  

Using on-open live UGC in email results in 43% increase in click-through rates, up to 3x conversion rate improvement, and 86% consumer trust rating as an indicator of product/service quality. UGC is 50% more trusted than any other content[i] and can help to drive maximum returns for any campaign by combining UGC with brand content, resulting in a more authentic, personalised and connected customer experience.

Let’s say you are an automotive brand, and your Facebook advert appears in someone’s Facebook feed using UGC - a photo that someone has taken with their car brand in it. Because that fits stylistically much more into the person’s timeline, it’s going to get higher engagement. The stats say customers trust user-generated content 80% more than brand-created content.

With this in mind and using this solution, my team have been increasing engagement in social ads by a factor of two, three and sometimes four, when UGC is used at scale. Where brands were able to do five or 10 campaigns a month they can now do hundreds, all massively populated for them – and that encourages conversion.

It’s not just cars either; let’s say a holiday company wants to create a series of images of people on beautiful beaches. Some systems now use deep-learning algorithms to find beach images across social media and distribute that content to any digital channel, from email to mobile, in-store displays and websites. It’s that commitment to content across channels that really separates the top marketers and marketing tools from the rest.

A golden age of data

I’m often asked if I think life has got harder and more complicated for marketers. My answer is I think we’ve gone through a step change when it comes to marketing. Earlier this year, we carried out researchthat asked for marketers’ pain points. Unsurprisingly the number one pain point every marketer came back to was data, and their access to the vast amounts of information therein.

The good news is the most sophisticated marketing clouds now give access to that data – we’re entering into a golden age where the question is about what you want to do with it, and what problems you want to solve with it. That’s going to change on a case-by-case basis for all marketers.

What I’ve noticed in this golden age of data and marketing technology is that things are now resource-light, but the output you can get is very much greater. Personalisation means it takes less time to send out way more successful and varied email campaigns. Understanding data and acting on it should take less time than just looking at your data as a whole.

A huge opportunity

The challenge is also a huge opportunity, this idea of the proliferation of content, and how marketers can both leverage that while dealing with the fact that customers are potentially seeing so much content from competitors.

The challenge, as companies require more and more data, is how they are able to access that in a meaningful way. Rather than pushing companies to this single customer view, marketing solution providers need to try and encourage a first step with the single marketer view, so that marketers can see every touchpoint their customer has interacted with, every ad they may have been exposed to, and every offer they interacted with.

Being in possession of that information is a source of constantly changing energy, leaving the machine to do the work and find the next best content to provide to that customer. The challenge is about the influx of data – the ability to stay on top of it and make the most of it and deliver the best possible outcome. Then, coming back to content, being able to use your own brand content as well as UGC for your own purposes. We live in a world now where content is currency. Our platform, if you like, provides a bank for our customers to input into and withdraw output from.

Kym Reynolds is a senior marketing advisor for SmartFocus.  SmartFocus is an innovator in messaging and communications, enabling the world’s largest brands – including Nestlé, Mercedes-Benz and House of Fraser – to understand and connect more closely with today’s connected consumers; whether that be via web, mobile, email or social channels. Through The Message Cloud solution, SmartFocus genuinely listens to and learns from customers using patented algorithms and unique location-based marketing tools. Using The Message Cloud, SmartFocus customers have the rich data, intelligence and the tools for contextually unique engagements, through any digital channel. http://www.smartfocus.com/en/contact?SF012

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