Why should my brand leverage User-Generated Content? (UGC)

As my journey is nearing the end in my class at WVU, I was trying to think of what the most important topic I learned about. Big picture: strive to create long lasting, personal relationships with customers. Better yet, think of your clients as partners.

First, trust needs to be established. It is easier when corporations are transparent. “More and more customers are turning towards companies that have honest and noble intentions. Transparency is the key to gaining consumers’ trust and helps you engage in meaningful dialogue with current and potential customers.” UGC

Consumers like UGC

Fast forward & your brand has loyal customers. Now it is time to use them! “Internet users love user-generated content. UGC allows online users like us to speak up, share their personal values and opinion and connect with like-minded people and the brand. If we didn’t like UGC, Facebook would have a hard time getting to 1.19 billion monthly active user.”

Businesses like UGC

Here are a few more reasons to utilize UGC:

  • “Better understanding of target audience: UGC can help you understand what services they are looking for and what issues they run as they progress through their consumer experience.
  • More site engagement: UGC allows you to develop and enhance your relationship with consumers as they engage on your site. americanbaby1
  • Increased customer satisfaction: Allowing users to ask and answer their own questions increases the likelihood users will find what they’re looking for on your site.
  • Stronger community: Creating open forums or a community message board will allow your consumers to occupy your professional online environment in ways that support open-discussion around anything that has to do with your company.
  • Increased time on site: Creating opportunities for consumers to express themselves and their thoughts on a given subject or product typically increases the amount of time they spend within a branded environment.
  • SEO benefits: More content means more search engine indexing and more search visibility around target key phrases and concepts that are significant to your business.
  • Increased social SEO indicators: Since UGC often speaks directly to social audiences, it’s the perfect complement to any social SEO campaign.
  • Trustworthy content: The vast majority of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, so adding a reviews element can helps consumers trust your product more.”

Emerging Media + UGC

The great thing about user-generated content is that it can be used on a number of digital marketing techniques. Like what, you ask? Oh, anything!

  1. Storytelling
  2. Social Media
  3. Mobile advertisingfrito-lay-do-us-a-flavor
  4. Games Advertising – Advergames
  5. Campaigns, Contests, Giveaways
  6. Product launches
  7. Attempts to steal customers from competitors
  8. Awareness for causes
  9. Seasonal products
  10. Inspiration for new campaign (from customer reviews)
  11. Corporate website

As you can see, this content is more the useful to marketers. Connect with audiences so they will want to help you. For fun, here are a few campaigns that utilized UGC.

What are other examples of user-generated content being leveraged?

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So, we shouldn’t post negative reviews online?

True story: a man and his son stayed in Hotel Quebec in 2013, they found beg bugs, the man left a review online, and the hotel sued the man. I get why the hotel would want the review taken down, but that leads me to believe that online reviews are manipulated and unnatural.

What really grinds my gears is the fact that consumers are encouraged to leave reviews. I recently stayed one night in Charlotte, NC when I went to Carowinds. When I got back and checked email, I had one from booking.com asking me for my review of the hotel.

Helpfulness of Reviews Local-Consumer-Rev-1-600x365

I don’t know about you, but I do turn to websites such as Yelp, Google+, Facebook, etc. when considering buying a product or using a service. According to SearchEngineLand, “For nearly 9 in 10 consumers, an online review is equally as important as a personal recommendation. With word-of-mouth still the most popular way of recommending a local business, this stat highlights the value of a positive review. However, this trust comes with a caveat. There is almost a 50/50 split in what drives trust for this 88% of consumers. For one half, this trust will only be granted if there are multiple reviews to read. For the other half, this trust is dependent on the reviews being authentic. In this case, quality is equally as important as quantity.”

In a 2007 study by Sen & Lerman, it states “our experimental study subjects also reported that they were more likely to consider using consumer reviews for utilitarian products (than hedonic products) in their decision-making, implying that overall consumer reviews would be more persuasive for utilitarian products.”

The quote above basically means consumer reviews are used more when one is searching for products for practical purposes to fulfill their needs, versus products consumed for luxury purposes.

The understandable, yet contradictory Nondisparagement Clause

According to Blank Rome (counselors at law), “In its simplest form, a nondisparagement clause seeks to prevent a customer or receiver of goods or services from posting negative reviews about a service provider or vendor by outlining the financial repercussions for any violation. The impetus behind companies inserting these clauses is the popularity of review sites like Yelp.com, RipoffReport.com, Dine.com, TripAdvisor.com and Amazon.com—coupled with the increasing number of people turning to such sites in choosing which companies to do business with. Because a poor review can be financially devastating, businesses want to prevent clients from bad-mouthing them—even if the criticism is true.”

indexWhile I completely understand businesses not wanting negative reviews online, is that not more candid? Consumers know that businesses aren’t perfect and it is taking the point away from online reviews if consumers are not allowed to express the truth of their experience.

To review or not to review?

Pretend you are bug man at Hotel Quebec. Even if you were given another room to compensate for the bed bugs, would you still feel the need to report the issue? You want other consumers to be aware of the problem, but at the same time, you don’t want to get sued from the hotel.

How to not get sued after leaving negative reviews online according to JD Supra:

  • “Before you vent online, sort out your facts and opinions (and understand what each will mean in a defamation claim)
  • The best way to avoid being sued for posting a negative online review is to not post one in the first place
  • Consider insurance”—mainly for people who leave a lot of online reviews!

Sometimes, it can feel impossible to NOT leave a negative review if a business delivers a bad product or service, especially if staff is rude. However, is it worth it if you get into a legal dispute? If it was my business, I would take the reviews seriously and fix the issue instead of taking legal action against a consumer.

 Web

Do you feel it is ethical for corporations to sue consumers over negative online reviews?

The down low on SEO & Why your business should engage

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are used more than ever in business today. According to Fund Mojo, “Search engine optimization is the process of improving the ranking of your web pages on search engines’ organic or unpaid search results pages (such as Google, Yahoo and Bing) for search queries related to your business, brand, product or service.” SEM is internet marketing that a business pays for, such as Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. By using a PPC advertisement, your will increase your businesses visibility on Google and other search engines, plus you only pay when someone clicks on your ad!

Organic v paid

While paid search engine ads are wonderful, I am choosing to focus on SEO, how businesses can increase web visibility without a fee.

SEO Ranking Factors

When attempting to get your businesses in a higher rank for certain keyword/key phrase searches, take note of these factors:

  1. CONTENT: “The major search engines are focusing on creating the best possible user experience, which means sites that offer relevant information stand to gain the most visibility. Investing in original, quality content creation is essential to SEO success in the current search climate, and the benefits of producing visitor-friendly content go far beyond rankings.”
  2. LINKS: “Links vote for your content as worthy reference material, thus you receive testimonial link value. Earned links are like gold to a search engine, and unearned links are worthless. Avoid buying links at all costs.” Having good, linkable content on a webpage is important in SEO.
  3. Title Tag:“The title tag has consistently been one of the most critical ranking factors, and remains so for 2014. Your title tag is likely going to the be clickable text that appears in search results, making its optimization important for reasons far beyond SEO; it’s one thing to rank highly in search results, but if your title tag isn’t enticing, it won’t get clicked.”SEO factors
  4. URL: “It provides informative signals that help search engines understand the content of a page, it’s purpose, and it’s target market.” To improve rankings, it helps to add keywords, avoid capital letters, let Google know of changes in URLS, and only use hyphens, not underscores!
  5. Social Media: “As social media growth continues and Google counts social signals as trusted votes for all domains, we’ll continue to see the importance of social platforms continuing. We don’t expect social media growth to falter anytime soon.” Google+ is the most important social media tool for SEO as well as Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

For a useful SEO periodic table of all important factors, go here.SEO-learning

Importance in Business

Even if your company cannot invest in paid search engine ads, definitely invest time on free SEO techniques. I mentioned a few above, but there is much to learn in the world of SEM. “In today’s competitive market SEO is more important than ever. Search engines serve millions of users per day looking for answers to their questions or for solutions to their problems.” Also, think of the trust you have for search engines. I ask Google so many stupid questions, but it always figures out what I am searching for!

How storytelling will help your business engage with customers

Once upon a time, marketers would allocate a client’s advertising dollars towards print, TV, and radio spots. These days, marketers get to have all sorts of fun. Not only should corporations have their own website that is maintained, but there are many other avenues such as blogs, videos, advergaming, and social media. (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+) Instead of pushing content towards consumers, marketers today are using engaging, compelling content to pull in customers.

One of my favorite marketing techniques that I’ve learned about in my emerging media journey is storytelling. According to a blog post on Hootsuite, “With the growth of social media, a storytelling approach to building a brand is critical. We know that stories are inherently social and social media is about making connections.” We (consumers) would much rather learn about a brand through a story rather than through facts and figures.  Effective Content

Why is Storytelling a powerful tool for business?
Stories put our brains to work. According to an article on Harvard Business Review, “We discovered that, in order to motivate a desire to help others, a story must first sustain attention – a scarce resource in the brain – by developing tension during the narrative. If the story is able to create that tension then it is likely that attentive viewers/listeners will come to share the emotions of the characters in it, and after it ends, likely to continue mimicking the feelings and behaviors of those characters. This explains the feeling of dominance you have after James Bond saves the world, and your motivation to work out after watching the Spartans fight in 300.” Essentially, if we are moved by a story, we are more likely to go along with the sales pitch within.

Few Helpful TricStoriesks for Stories
1. Show, don’t tell your story.
2. Have relatable characters, specifically tailored to your audience
3. Provide some context to understand the story and create the mood of your video
4. Appeal to the senses—visuals and sounds
5. Create conflict and a resolution
6. Consider the most effective point of view to your audience
7. Use engaging content that will pull on our emotions—we want to establish a connection with media
8. End with a resolution, we want audiences to end the story with a positive feeling

A familiar, yet effective storytelling example is from Dawn dish soap. I’m sure you remember seeing the video of someone using Dawn to clean off a duck, but what you may not know is that due to its success, Dawn now has a web series dedicated to saving wildlife. Stories can be made about almost anything, for a few more storytelling examples, click this link.

What brand has won you over with their engaging storytelling?

Create Buzzzzzz, Go Viral

So you have this company and you want consumers to talk about it, share it, and come back for more. Something like that anyways, right? We see all these great viral marketing campaigns out there with brilliant ideas, yet how do we create our own idea?

I would love to know the answer to that as well. However, I am learning some helpful tips and tricks that I wanted to share.

First and foremost, viral marketing is all about getting people to share your content whether it is a Facebook or Twitter post, a blog, or video. It is just getting people to pass along your content and message.

viral-marketingHere a few tips to potentially go viral, or at least get a few people to share your content:

  1. Be authentic – If you want to make a splash, be yourself. If is so much easier to connect and engage with someone if they are not trying to please everyone. According to Webtrends, “If you’re okay with going viral and being disliked or even hated a little, you might decide to surprise your audience or comment on a controversial issue. When strong emotion is sparked from viewing a piece of content, people naturally want to share it to see how their friends will react about it too. Good or bad, it can still go viral!”
  2. Be engaging — Make your introduction interesting, (for blogs) Leave readers with questions (blogs/social media) and include stories when possible. According to KissMetrics’s blog, “You can use an anecdote in your introduction or have a story woven into your blog post. Stories can also help clarify a point. When possible, add a story to your blog post. It will make it more engaging and may also help the reader learn.”
  3. Don’t blabber— people like things short and sweet. If you have content that seems pointless when you re-read your post or webpage, take it out! Bigger does not always mean better.
  4. Give things awayAccording to my Professor, “”Free” is the most powerful word in a marketer’s vocabulary. Most viral marketing programs give away valuable products or services to attract attention.”
  5. Use Humor and Contests—“Contests are wonderful for spreading the word about something. If you can give away something of value, you can get people to like your Facebook page, follow you on Twitter and even require them to have to tweet about the contest or post it on their Facebook profile to pull even more people in.” (Webtrends)

In the video below from Entrepreneur we will get a few more tips on how to create buzz with no budget:

While creating buzz and going viral may not have a formula to follow for success, it can be fun and company’s should let their hair down so us consumers can get to know them! Just for fun, this website discusses 15 viral marketing examples.

Does any particular company come to mind when you think of “viral?”

Advergaming –it’s a thing!

So, advergaming is a thing! Until my journey in Emerging Media & The Market, I had never heard of this term, but there is much to learn of this if you dig a bit online.

What is Advergaming?

advergaming

According to zodal.com, “Advergaming is the use of interactive gaming technology to deliver embedded advertising messages to consumers. Advergaming incorporates branding directly into the gaming environment.” I am not much of a gamer these days as there isn’t enough time in the day, but I enjoyed various video/digital games growing up and into my early twenties. Needless to say, as I am interested in emerging media and video games, advergaming is intriguing to me.

In a study on responses to an advergaming campaign, “Researchers tend to regard in-game advertising as an extension of product placement, in which the desired meaning transfer occurs when consumers associate a conditioned stimulus (brand) with unconditioned (game) features. Here, the positive association and feeling from game play transfer to the sponsor’s brand, and result in a positive brand attitude.”

Here is a basic example I found on YouTube by AdGames:

Why Advergames work

Advergaming is successful because marketers can target a specific market in a personal way—an online or video game. For gamers who immerse themselves in the games they love, that the advertisement will fit in seamlessly.

In a study on advergames and brand attitudes, “Our results provide further evidence that the transfer of positive affect elicited by entertaining media content to the sponsoring brand likely involves a mental process that could improve brand attitudes. According to an associated network view of human memory, advergame features that increase the mental connection between game content and the sponsoring brand also should increase the ease of positive affect transfer, leading to a stronger relationship between attitudes toward the game and brand attitudes.”

Mcd

Not only is advergaming a thing that has studies based off of it, but it is an effective digital technique to reach consumers who play online and/or video games.

Have you noticed advertisements in any game (online or video) you have played? If so, please give examples!

Clues for Creating a Corporate Website

Why do we want consumers to go to our business’s website? To make a purchase or inquire about a service of course! In an academic journal on website design, “A recent study by Forrester Research indicates that high-quality content, ease of use, speed and frequency of updating are the top four factors contributing to repeat visits (Numbers, 1999). Yet, another study of 50 shopping sites run by US and UK retailers indicated a failure to satisfy the customer’s shopping experience on at least some of these dimensions (Kane, 1999).” Below are a few takeaways I came across after another week in Emerging Media & The Market.

  • Have a thoughtful website design: Before a consumer begins to navigate through your website, they will come face to face with the home page and make a first impression. “Choosing colors for a website is not about just choosing colors that you like- the colors should strengthen the website and branding of the business.”

what-is-responsive-web-design

DO use responsive web design in your website layout. This feature is what magically makes your website’s appearance change based on the device that is it on. As we are all on our mobile phones, tablets, etc. these days, it is a must to have your website look great in any device screen. For more on this, I highly suggest reading this article by Ethan Marcotte.

  • Make it easy to navigate: This one is a pet peeve. Yes, I may be impatient, but if my internet is working, a website needs to be functioning. According to Business2Community.com, “How fast the website loads, how crisp and sharp the page looks, how the page appears in different browsers and different devices, how the error messages look, how rounded or sharp the edges are, how easy is it to navigate the website and dozens of such questions need to be answered. Perfection should ooze from every part of the website. If this goal is achieved, you will do wonders to the reputation of the company.” Have your website consistent, divided into clear, accurately titled categories, and provide ALT text to images, especially to images that will lead visitors to another site. navigationPlease please make sure all your links are click-able. If I see neglectful errors, I am turned off from said website.
  • Quality Content: “Content, is ultimately what every user is searching for – in some form or another. It may be video, articles, wikis, blogs, or other social media, but it is all content, and the more of it you have, the bigger your slice of the Google pie will be. If you have more content than your competitors for a given search keyword, which site do you think Google is going to send its traffic to if its desire is to give the user the best results and experience possible?” (Ocseo.com) It is beyond important to understand your target audience. Why? You need to engage them with content on your website. If visitors read the content provided and agree with what they are reading, they are likely to make a return visit.

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Having an effective website is only the first step, make sure to promote your website to gain traffic!

Besides advertising with a search engine or using social media, what is another interesting way to promote a website?

Marketing to Millennials

While no precise dates are set, Millennials are consumers who were born between the 1980 to the early 2000s.  According to the Media Insight Project:

  • “While Millennials are highly equipped, it is not true they are constantly connected. More than 90 percent of adults age 18-34 surveyed own smartphones, and half own tablets. But only half (51 percent) say they are online most or all of the day.
  • Email is the most common digital activity, but news is a significant part of the online lives of Millennials, as well. Fully 69 percent report getting news at least once a day — 40 percent several times a day. millennial generation
  • Millennials acquire news for many reasons, which include a fairly even mix of civic motivations (74 percent), problem-solving needs (63 percent), and social factors (67 percent) such as talking about it with friends.
  • Contrary to the idea that social media creates a polarizing “filter bubble,” exposing people to only a narrow range of opinions, 70 percent of Millennials say that their social media feeds are comprised of diverse viewpoints evenly mixed between those similar to and different from their own. An additional 16 percent say their feeds contain mostly viewpoints different from their own. And nearly three-quarters of those exposed to different views (73 percent) report they investigate others’ opinions at least some of the time — with a quarter saying they do it always or often.
  • Facebook has become a nearly ubiquitous part of digital Millennial life. On 24 separate news and information topics probed, Facebook was the No. 1 gateway to learn about 13 of those, and the second-most cited gateway for seven others.
  • Millennials, however, do not worry much about privacy. Only 2 in 10 worry a good deal about privacy in general. And when asked about specific concerns, only 22 percent worry even a little about government surveillance; 30 percent worry even a little about corporate America knowing too much about them. The biggest worry, 38 percent, is identity theft.”

Not brand obsessed

Keeping these insights in mind, how do we get their attention? What is the best way to make customers out of Millennials? An article from the Online Marketing Institute discusses ways to get Millennials to shop online:

  • Make reviews a big feature of your product or service pages, and encourage or even incentivize review-writing for your current customers when they buy.
  • Make sure that reviews are easily viewed on mobile devices – millennials prefer to browse that way, but they won’t stick around if they can’t access reviews on your mobile site.
  • Proactively include testimonials and reviews in your marketing content and social media activity, and make it easy for customers to share and review your products or brand on social media. Almost 60% of millennials will make product recommendations when they have a very good, or very bad, experience.

WOM-screengrab_jpg

While Millennials may not be looking online to buy a house or car, they do spend time browsing for other items. Several factors go into a Millennial’s purchasing decision — and they lead to somewhat of a paradox. Millennials value the opinions of their peers more than other generations do. In an article from Nanigans.com, they share similar findings as I quoted above on Millennials.

Simultaneously, they trust the opinions of strangers when reviewing products online. Supporting the greater good is important to globally-minded Millennials, who are 3x as likely to wear socially conscious brands over luxury labels. That said, they are also more likely to pamper themselves with impulse purchases than any other generation.

As with any generation, it is important to truly understand their needs, desires, likes/dislikes, but it is also imperative to know what media is most used and what appeals to the group. The Millennial generation is now larger than the Baby Boomer and Generation Y groups, get in with them while you can!

Digital Media for a Cause

So a little bit about me—I have been participating in the Walk to Defeat ALS for 10 years now. I personally saw how ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) progresses in victims and it is terrible. I won’t get into the details and digress from my point, but I had to incorporate ALS into my blog as it is near and dear to my heart.  However, it is definitely relatable to emerging media—can we say #IceBucketChallenge? ICE

Fundraising can be extremely hard. You have to not only ask people to donate, but you have to keep asking until you make progress. It is especially difficult if the disease that needs funding is relatively unheard of. So how do we get the people’s attention? Digital media, of course!

According to 2014’s Digital Consumer Report by Nielson, “Americans now own four digital devices on average, and the average U.S. consumer spends 60 hours a week consuming content across devices.” Given that fact and the fact the non-profit charities, like The ALS Association, have restricted budgets, utilizing digital media is a cost effective way to reach a large audience.

With the ALS Association in particular, raising awareness is imperative. ALS can strike anyone and there is no known cure. The average life expectancy of an ALS victim is 2-5 years. Important things to take note of for charities:

  1. A strong call-to-action is needed. If you look at a shot of the ALS Association below, they have a scrolling banner with various strong calls-to action. When a visitor comes to the page, they know what the association wants of them. Also, notice the red “Donate” button on the side.
  2. Make use of a mobile app—this way participants can fundraise from their phones. “Mobile phones have reached a critical mass around the world, serving as constant companions for consumers regardless of demographics or geography.” (Nielson.com, 2013) If you look at the image below, you will see that smartphones are the most common around the world—very large potential audience!
  3. Make use of videos, consumers are viewing videos online more than ever. According to Accenture.com, “In particular, our research shows that watching online video on a tablet is growing dramatically. In 2013 a third of consumers are watching online videos on a tablet compared to just a fifth (21%) in 2012. It is showing strong use across all types of video content watching.”

In the video below, you will see Team Roxie, which began when a friend was diagnosed with ALS. The Ice Bucket Challenge became linked with ALS with a guy who knew someone with the disease was challenged to dump ice water over their head for a charity of their choice. For philanthropic organizations, it is important to always be aware of where you can find an opportunity to spread the word.

The social awareness, and success of campaigns gone viral, comes when these elements and more come together. “More things are connecting to the Internet than people — over 12.5 billion devices in 2010 alone. Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) predicts some 25 billion devices will be connected by 2015, and 50 billion by 2020.” Once a worthy cause has the world’s attention, it is amazing what we can do.

What are other ways you have seen philanthropic organizations utilize emerging media?