How to Use UGC to Earn and Keep Loyal Customers

Customers aren’t loyal to brands. They’re loyal to great experiences.

Sure, your product may be outstanding, your service unrivaled. But unless strong connections are built with customers, you don’t stand a chance in today’s disruptive marketplace. The wild, wonderful world of the Internet makes it easier than ever for shoppers to compare options and see what peers have to say.

Smart marketers are inviting those consumers to invest in the brand story as co-creators. With billions of people plugged in to social media, it’s surprisingly easy to do. But first, here’s what you need to know about using UGC to build a loyal following.

1. Know What Your Audience Wants

    It’s not unusual for brands to focus on customer acquisition, but this is often their downfall. After all, unless new customers stick around, brands are only going to see short-term gains. To mature, companies must prioritize relationship building – and that can only happen if marketers understand how customers think.

    The big takeaway of recent research is that more than half of consumers distrust brand advertisements. On the flip side, Neilson surveys indicate 92% of consumers trust personal recommendations – and that number is on the rise, increasing 18 percent since 2007.

    This means your brand isn’t really what you say it is, but what your customers say it is. “This has never been more apparent than with the success of Aerie’s #AerieReal Instagram campaign, GoPro’s #GoPro campaign or the rise of vloggers like Casey Neistat,” marketing executive Dana Cordova notes. By asking customers to share personal, relevant content, those companies accomplished more through social media than they could have through any formal advertising.

    In the end, it’s real-life endorsements that solidify brand messaging, and when customers see their feedback is valued, brand loyalty becomes not just a purchasing habit, but a meaningful experience.

    2. Give People Compelling Reasons to Post Stories, Thoughts, and Experiences

      One thing we know about modern shoppers is that they seek emotional value from brands. Three-quarters of millennials – keep in mind, this is the demographic holding the world’s largest spending power –say they enjoy the shared experience of events. It’s a sense of belonging and fear of missing out that drives many purchasing decisions today.

      That’s why Forbes contributor Zsuzsa Kecsmar says, “A safe bet for brands looking to instill loyalty in millennials is to reward sharing behavior.” This can be accomplished by uniting fans under a hashtag campaign, issuing participation badges, hosting contests and giveaways, or highlighting customer content on the brand’s digital properties.

      Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” Campaign worked beautifully, with fans posting pictures of coke bottles bearing their names and names of friends and family all across social media. As Wily Global Marketing Manager Nicolina Savelli observed, “Coca-Cola was basically saying that if you have a name, you’re part of our community, and that’s something that can be shared globally.”

      For stand-out results, offer a human touch by creating opportunities for customers to be heard. Social media is an ideal space to achieve this kind of emotional connection, and with longterm benefits, too. According to a study by Ipsos MediaCT, UGC is 35% more memorable and 50% more trusted than brand content.

      3. Let Customer Success Stories Communicate Brand Value

        Telling customers who you are only goes so far. True value shows them what you do, and the best way to do that is through customer testimonials.

        Some organizations approach this step bashfully, unsure they will even find any customer stories to feature. Trust us. Unless your target audience is a sleepy Amish town, your followers are online and they’re talking. Inc. Magazine Editor Danielle Sacks describes the state of marketing this way: “The Internet has turned what used to be a controlled, one-way message into a real-time dialogue with millions.”

        In fact, there are now billions of users active on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media networks. With that kind of digital immersion, there will always be someone in your target audience eager to contribute, so find and feature those authentic testimonials. Doing so not only communicates how much you value consumer input but also gives prospective customers a genuine picture of how your product looks and works in the context of real life. As Forbes contributor Janice Chou says, “Whether you’re ‘regramming’ someone wearing your brand’s latest collection or publishing a blog post of reviews and testimonials, explain how other shoppers can be inspired by this customer’s ‘success’ story. Point out how they can recreate that cool ensemble or benefit from your services just like this other person did.”

        TwineSocial’s aggregation and display platform makes it easy to automatically find, curate, and display this powerful UGC. And while having a ton of great content to use is great, don’t worry if you’re just getting started. Focus on one great story at a time. Invest in quality, and quantity will follow.

        4. Share UGC Everywhere

          Prominently featuring hard-earned UGC feels organic and helps customers connect not only with the brand, but with each other. This sense of community is what ultimately drives further content creation and helps to build an ongoing, engaging brand story.

          UGC can and should be repurposed and offered all along the purchasing path, too. 

          “It’s not enough to simply share a screenshot of a user review or retweet a customer’s positive post about your company,” the Forbes Communications Council advises. “UGC must be incorporated purposefully and meaningfully to create that strong connection with customers.”

          For starters, transferring UGC to social media hubs is an absolute must for consumer-minded brands. Social media walls are like buzz factories. You’ve probably seen them on websites – when brands collect and showcase UGC from actual customers. But social walls can be physical, too, and when they appear in stores, on stages, and throughout venue halls, brands build even better connections.

          You will need a social media aggregation engine to legally retrieve posts from the major networks. These platforms allow marketers to search specific keywords, hashtags, and accounts, collecting and moderating only the most relevant UGC. The idea, whatever the topic, is to create a high-tech visitor experience that delivers the brand story in a relational, meaningful way.

          Done well, integrating UGC from product discovery to checkout sends a powerful message: people just like you are using this product and you should be, too.

          5. Use UGC in Marketing Materials to Build Social Proof

            Weaving organic UGC – like candid reviews and customer photos – into advertisements, digital catalogs, retail displays, and virtually any marketing tool adds authenticity to brand messaging. Thanks to the development of the content permissions module, brands can now turn earned content into owned content. Publishing rights makes it possible for brands to transfer social proof to ad copy, live events, and anywhere they need extra sway.

            So how do you promote brand loyalty without being overly promotional? Give the microphone to the people who love and know your brand best. Consumers respond best to peer influence, so don’t break your back (or bank) producing only “official” material.

            Want to explore what UGC integration might look like for your brand? See how the world’s most sophisticated marketers are optimizing fan content through a free trial of TwineSocial today.

            For more ideas on how to promote shared enthusiasm around an idea, product, or community, check out our solutions gallery. Then, kick off your own success story with a free 7-day trial of TwineSocial. Let us know how we can help!

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