When your potential customers are searching for your services, they are most likely using digital channels to do that initial research. And while some people will find your site and convert immediately, most take multiple touchpoints before they call or fill in that contact form. So how can you make sure those touchpoints are both memorable and effective?
Try leveraging user-generated content (UGC). User-generated content, or the concept of “social proof”, has always been an important aspect of marketing. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, its popularity and importance increased by leaps and bounds. One case study by MarTech found that utilizing reviews and other UGC increased customer engagement by 50% on average!
The Customer Journey
As we mentioned above, it often takes multiple touches before the average person converts. But in order to optimize those touches and encourage them to take the next step in your customer journey, you have to know how people are finding you.
While 50% of internet users click on search ads at some point, they also come into contact with other ads in places like Facebook or Yelp. Use analytics (on your site and your social platforms) to help you determine how people are finding and interacting with your brand. Once you know where your potential customers are, you can focus on how to engage them.
When people are considering making a service-based purchase, they tend to research beforehand. The average person will engage with five ads, eight influences, and up to four providers during the research process. This creates more than 1.7 million targeting possibilities.
While that’s a staggering number, you shouldn’t let it overwhelm you. The best way to create highly relevant content and make connections with new customers is to leverage user-generated content and social proof in your marketing.
What Is User-Generated Content?
User-generated content is any content that is created by the customer rather than the brand. This includes videos, texts, pictures, reviews, and any other format where people express their opinions or share their experience with your company. Companies often leverage user-generated content by sharing it on social media, posting it to their site, or using it in a commercial or advertising campaign.
For product-focused companies, visual UGC is often the most sought after. Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok influencers can reach hundreds of thousands of people with one unboxing post.
For medical, legal, and service-based industries like roofing and HVAC repair, the most useful form of user-generated content is often reviews. When people are making large or one-time purchases like a new roof, they want to make sure they’re spending their money with the right company! Reviews from other, satisfied customers reassure us that we’re making the right decision.
A great example of user-generated content is customer success stories. A Facebook post about the amazing experience someone had with a specific doctor, an Instagram post of the finished kitchen remodel, a Google review praising the friendly plumber who fixed a busted pipe… Anywhere people are talking about your brand, you should be listening and leveraging that conversation in your marketing strategies!
Having Trouble Finding User-Generated Content? Ask for It!
Some brands naturally garner reviews, Instagram posts, and YouTube reviews. New technology, makeup, monthly subscription boxes with trendy packaging… people love to feel like they’re part of a trend. It’s a form of social status that reflects well on them as well as the company.
But when you’re a CPA or an ENT, you don’t always have people flocking to do the same. There’s no inherent social collateral in going to the doctor or having your AC fixed.
However, there is social capital in being an influencer. And when you ask your customers for their opinions, experiences, and stories, you are asking them to become an influencer for your company. And that feels good. People love to feel like they are being heard–like their opinion matters.
So give them a platform for their opinions! Ask them to post pictures of their newly cleaned floors, their patched roof, or their new patio. If your service isn’t visual, ask them to leave a review of their experience on Google, Facebook, or Yelp. If the story is especially compelling, consider asking if you can take a quick video or even set up a time for a recorded interview!
Still struggling? Try a few of these strategies.
Ways to Ask for User-Generated Content:
- Send follow-up emails after your services asking for feedback
- Make social posts asking people to comment about their experience with a specific doctor, attorney, or employee
- Run employee spotlights–people often comment on them with good experiences
- Reach out to people who have left glowing reviews and ask if they’d be willing to further tell their story in an interview or story
- Set up drip email or text campaigns that ask for reviews and ratings with links to the appropriate platforms
- Train your employees to ask for reviews and feedback on their performance when the rapport is good
- Ask employees to take pictures (with permission and with NO personal identifying information!) on the job and ask customers if they mind being tagged and commenting on it about their experience
- Start a series of customer highlights and find new subjects in the comments (people who say, “oh, I loved working with this company/doctor/technician too!”)
- Incentivize customers to leave reviews by giving them discounts when they show you the posted review
Get creative! There are hundreds of ways to ask for user-generated content. It can feel like an imposition, but remember–people want to be heard. Everyone wants to share their story. Just give them the opportunity.
But once you have this valuable material, how can you best use it to your company’s advantage? Read on to learn more about how to work user-generated content into your marketing campaigns!
5 Ways to Utilize User-Generated Content Across Marketing Platforms
Once you have good user-generated content, the next step is figuring out how to use it! Think about your brand’s customer journey and establish the major touchpoints. You’ll want to communicate and showcase your user-generated content in all of these places–without being repetitive or overwhelming. Here are a few of our favorite strategies:
1. Paid Ads, Visuals, Copy, and Landing Pages
This may seem like a lot of options for one heading, but these four elements actually make up one comprehensive strategy. When you use Google Ads you use a combination of search ads and display ads that lead back to a specific landing page when people click on them.
You need to ensure that your customer success story–whether that’s an individual testimonial, a video interview, or screenshots of multiple 5-star reviews–is front and center. Keep the focus on the customer’s experience and offer a way for readers to contact you for similar services.
Make sure your branding and messaging are consistent across every step of the ad experience. Use consistent colors and fonts and quality UI and design to draw your viewer in, and engaging, readable content to keep them on the page long enough to convert.
2. Website + Blog
You should also be using user-generated content on your site and in your blogs whenever possible. Interviews with happy clients, project updates, before and after pictures, and experience stories can make excellent blog posts that you can then post to social! Use Google reviews, Facebook reviews, and Yelp star ratings on your website as social proof that instantly assigns trust and authority to your brand.
Whenever possible use full names and pictures (with their permission!) to add extra authority to your reviews and testimonials.
Remember, you can’t have too much user-generated content. Consumers are savvy. They know you’re trying to sell them your services or products. That means that they have to take whatever you tell them as an authority with a grain of salt. But the opinions and experiences of other customers are inherently trustworthy because they have nothing to gain. They lend credibility to your site.
3. Social Media
Ask for reviews on social media. Share posts by happy customers. Post before and after pics of major projects. Post customer highlights and employee spotlights. Social media is a platform designed for engagement–so make sure you’re taking advantage of it!
You can also reutilize the assets you created for search campaigns by running paid social campaigns as well. Lead users back to the same, well-designed landing page with Instagram and Facebook ads. Tweak the content to make it more engaging. Social allows you to use longer-format copy, so make sure you’re taking advantage of that to tell your story!
4. Google My Business
Google is the number one search engine in the world–90% of people use Google to research before making a major purchase or visiting a store. And when people search for services in their area, the first thing that pops up is either the Google Map Pack or local Google My Business results.
The first thing people will see is your star rating and how many people have reviewed you. Generating as much content on this page as possible can only benefit your brand. Ask all of your employees and customers to review your company on Google. Send them links to make access easy. Send reminder emails (not too often!) after services asking them to share their opinion. However you can, fill out this section of your digital presence.
5. Email Newsletters
Email is an excellent communication tool because pretty much everyone uses it. It’s also an easy-to-digest format that allows you to deliver important information in an eye-catching and memorable way.
You can use email campaigns to solicit user-generated content, but you can also use email to share your success stories. Send out customer highlights and testimonial videos. Create employee highlights followed by real comments from local customers. Answer FAQs left on your social pages or Google My Business page in a video or Q&A format. Showcase exciting before and after pictures and ask current clients to send in their own great pics!
How to Get Started
Surefire Local is an all-in-one platform that turns you into a marketing superhero at your business. Solicit UGC, craft compelling messaging, and disseminate entire marketing campaigns across all platforms from one, easy-to-use dashboard.
We provide you with the software to take control of your online visibility. And we guide you every step of the way with our experienced digital marketing experts, online training sessions, videos, and tips! Surefire Local keeps all of your digital marketing tools in one place and can be accessed from any device or browser. Attract new customers, increase operations efficiency, and take your marketing to the next level! Contact us to schedule a free demo today.