I recently stumbled across an excellent article on Neil Patel’s marketing blog about user-generated content (UGC). I’d like to use that article as a jumping off point for what I’m going to write about today.
User-generated content is, in Patel’s own words, “Content created by individuals rather than brands.” This includes testimonials, reviews, tweets about your products, videos customers create of themselves using your products, and unboxing photos they post to social media, among other things.
Given that 63% of Gen Z customers (and most older ones, too) prefer to hear from real people instead of brands, as we’ve written about in the past, it’s increasingly important not to rely solely on advertising for promoting your product.
“People trust real people, not brands.”
That’s how Patel put it on his website. Sounds familiar!
It should be intuitive at this point, but most customers are more likely to trust organic content rather than traditional advertising.
People like seeing verification from someone who hasn’t been paid to say nice things about a business. It’s more “authentic.”
How can you really trust something if you know the person saying it was paid to say it? But if someone takes time out of their day to say it for free, they must really think it, which means it must really be true. User-generated content validates the claims you’re already making about your products, because presumably the users are unbiased, outside sources.
“It humanizes your company, helps people connect to you on a deeper level, and shows (not tells) your audience that your product will deliver on its values.”
Couldn’t have said it any better than Patel, there. We’ve talked previously about “being a human” or “showing your human side.” UGC does just that.
How do you get UGC?
Well, one time-honored method is asking customers for reviews and testimonials. If you treat them like humans, they’ll often be willing to reciprocate. You can also ask people to tell their friends and neighbors about your business – even in the digital age, word of mouth is one of the best ways to build brand awareness.
How does employee advocacy fit in?
It’s pretty clear that a lot of the reasons that make UGC a valuable marketing tool also make the case for employee advocacy or employee ambassadorship. These include:
1. Marketing by individuals, not brands
Your employee ambassadors are real people. They’re interacting with your audience as representatives of your company, but also as real people. If you give them the freedom to “be themselves,” your audience will recognize that they’re not all the same. Buyers will implicitly trust someone who appears honest and authentic more than they trust branded advertising. Which brings us to…
2. Organic content
The key to making employee advocacy work is not scripting it. Let your workers decide when, how, and what to post on their own. It’s not organic from your audience itself. But it’s organic from your workforce. And especially if you give your advocates freedom to speak their minds, people will recognize that they aren’t reciting a script. Meaning they’ll trust what your advocates say.
3. Humanizing your brand
Letting your employees share videos, photos, posts, articles, and other content they’ve created gives faces to your company. Especially if you let your workers “let their hair down.” We’ve written about how audiences are hungry for stories. Your employees can provide those stories.
Employee advocacy could even help you get user-generated content
It isn’t a stretch to suggest that if you let your workers become digital ambassadors for your business, they might begin to develop online relationships with members of your audience. (Not that kind of relationship! Business relationships.)
This means that your employee advocates could even ask some members of your audience to create their own UGC for you. They could solicit reviews and testimonials, or just pose questions on social media like, “What do you like best about our products?” or “How old were you when you first tried our product?” Or they can even post a status asking for employee shoutouts, where your customers can personally thank members of your workforce.
Imagine if one of your line-workers or cashiers or engineers started a hashtag campaign where your favorite and most loyal customers could post on social media what they liked most about your company.
Brands already do something similar, but not many brands let their frontline staff or design team go out and initiate these campaigns on their own.
I’d also be willing to bet that, if you ask enough of them, some of your employees can come up with their own novel and innovative ways to combine the best of user-generated content with the best of employee advocacy.
That’s the beauty of both forms of content marketing: they’re decentralized. Which means you’ve got so many more minds thinking about how to generate high-performing content. The more people you have applying creativity to coming up with ways to promote your business, the better.
The possibilities from UGC and employee advocacy are many. Which is why it will take crowdsourcing to fully exploit them all.
Organic, real-people content is the wave of the marketing future. Which is why we recommend you combine employee advocacy with user-generated content to reach the widest audience possible in diverse ways.