User Generated Content – Why Companies Will Make the Most of it in 2013

User Generated Content –These three words were being bandied across in marketing and social media circles last year. What is UGC and why are marketers making a huge deal about it? How does it empower the new-age marketer? Is user generated content the new currency—gold— in social media and marketing? The importance of user-generated content in the world of marketing, branding, and advertising is its capacity to influence purchase decisions, brand affinity and brand loyalty.

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Here are the answers. User generated content was a big trend last year, a trend that is not a one-off affair. This trend is worth tracking because it represents a radically new definition of what constitutes value to the consumer. Co-creating with one’s consumers is an important one to watch not because content and experiences will be co-created by the consumer but because tapping into the ‘collective experiences, skills and ingenuity of hundreds of millions of consumers’ around the world is a complete departure from the inward looking marketing model which is so common to many brands and corporations around the world. For decades, these consumers have been saving up their insights and rants about the stuff they consume, simply because they didn’t have adequate means to interact with companies, or with other consumers for that matter. User Generated Content helps customers with direct influence on what companies develop and produce for them.

If content is king then, UGC is the content maker! UGC is content that is generated by people who visit your site. It is pretty straightforward. Forum entries, reviews, blog posts, comments and social mentions are among the types of content that can be generated by users. Be it entertainment, communications or e-commerce, consumers are increasingly in charge of the creation, distribution and consumption of digital content.

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afaqs! Campus spoke to 40 experts to find out their One Big prediction in the Digital Marketing space in 2013. Also, Paurush Sonkar, Deputy Chief ManagerL&T General Insurance predicted that Marketing will be powered by UGC this year.

Big news organisations like BBC and CNN have been using User Generated Content to plug the gaps that their own journalists can’t cover – by submitting photos, videos and updates on breaking news. Contribution of user generated content (UGC) by the wider public or ‘citizen journalism is a common phenomenon.

Its benefits are that the audiences witnessing incidents can post eyewitness accounts on the Internet as soon as they happen or send reports and photos to the media. It provides inspiration to any brand wanting to turn its customers into ‘reporters’, sending in findings, observations, and suggestions. And as this model is spreading like wildfire, expect more consumers to ‘get’ and enjoy the concept. Sauvé marketers have caught up with the trend looking to leverage the web as an effective marketing and communications channel. The continual rise of social media, Google’s ever-changing algorithm, quality and fresh content play a central role in empowering the new marketer who relies on user generated content which can help companies rapidly scale and promote original content in a way that benefits both the company and the readers.

The advantages of UGC are massive; it paves path for a solid organic ranking, better SEO, it is highly cost-effective and very quick and easy to set-up, it also encourages and enables online visitors to enhance marketing, increase your site’s retention, bookings, enquiries, repeat visits and browsing time. This allows visitors to upload their own testimonials, reviews and experiences to your website that breeds loyalty and significantly enhances the interactivity of your site for online visitors.

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2011 – 2012 was about companies understanding what UGC is all about. Companies shared that user-generated content is part of the new marketing paradigm, but more than half of companies have yet to fully recognize this very fundamental transition in marketing. However, many marketers predict that 2013 will be different and companies will officially seek UGC. Building marketing campaigns around user-generated content will be an important new ingredient in the marketing mix.

We have put together a bunch of reasons why companies will officially pursue UGC for 2013 and beyond:

Reason One

Explosion of Social Networks

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With the number of people on social networks continuing to explode (according to eMarketer, there will be 114.5 million user-generated content creators online by 2013), the opportunity for brands to leverage content created by consumers in marketing efforts will continue to grow. The impact and power social media has when it comes to content sharing is massive; this is an understatement. UCG campaigns are huge drivers of social engagement. We have millions of tweets about our brands, thousands of Facebook ‘Likes’, hundreds of thousands of check-ins on Foursquare. Pinterest and Instagram are adding even more to social-media data deluge – very visually.

Here’s an interesting info graphic to demonstrate the same.

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Reason Two

People look to others for a sense of reassurance and validation from people like themselves or Using Social Validation as a Marketing Tool

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This sense of connection has been a driving force in the success of crowdsourcing and the harnessing of user generated content (UGC) in driving consideration and product sales. Campaigns created with crowd sourced content are novel. This has created a new channel allowing audiences to change their role from mere onlookers to participants. This multi-channel dialogue can empower fans to be a part of the experience. Companies and media organisations will look to use UCG in their marketing mix. Apparently 95% of the people need social validation before making a decision. Given that social validation is so rampant, it only seems natural to talk about it in terms of business marketing. Certainly reviews and client/customer testimonials serve this purpose. However, social media is playing a larger role in social validation each day.

Reason Three

Content sharing has evolved in the recent years

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As newer smartphones showcase better camera technology, consumers are responding by creating and sharing better content with friends and network. Instagram, Viddy, YouTube, and Pinterest represent just a handful of companies who have skyrocketed to success based on sharing user-generated content. Many Indian companies like Mouthshut.com, freshlimesoda.com, sulekha.com, shaadi.com and naukari.com are great examples of sharing user-generated content.

Reason Four

UGC is an opportunity for true brand development

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Brands use user-generated content to get authentic experiences andopinions from their audience, be it good or bad. A negative comment could really be an opportunity for brands to see where there’s a problem and also a chance to interact with someone that took the time to engage you online.

Reason Five

Companies and brands will figure out more practices for utilizing and leveraging user-generated

1.Brands will respond and engage more vehemently with people.

2.They will understand customers and their audience and will know what tools to provide and use.

3.Brands will be realistic with regard to what to expect from their users.

4. Brands will be realistic and will expect to have the good with the bad.

5. Brands and companies will recognize and reward active content users.

Reason Six

Bespoke Lifestyle of the new consumer

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Today’s consumer doesn’t settle for anything that is run-of-the-mill.

He/she seeks something different; something is custom-made, tailored to his/her needs, something that is concierge or made-to-order. This guarantees goods, services and experiences that are tailored to their needs.

Amazon does it the right way!

Amazon has partnered with Facebook to bring a new layer and add an offshoot into product recommendations.

Now Amazon users will be able to link their Facebook account to their Amazon account. At the outset, this will allow Amazon to show you recommendations based on your Facebook interests and activity.

Let us know how your brand uses UGC in its marketing mix? Is your company looking forward to this new marketing paradigm?

Disclaimer: All links/image posted are on third party websites. Copyrights as applicable.

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