How many Americans do you think own smartphones?
According to comScore, 79.1% of mobile phone users in the United States own a smartphone - that's nearly 200 million people.
Every day, these individuals create their own content - also known as user generated content - sharing more than 1.8 billion photos with their friends and followers on the Internet. About 80 million of those photos go to Instagram and 300 million to Facebook. Meanwhile, there are about 500 million tweets sent out every day.
The popularity of smartphones and sharing visual content on social networks presents a significant opportunity for brands to share user-generated content (UGC) related to their products. Visual UGC gives customers a pronounced role in overall messaging, while providing companies with an interactive way to spread the word. Businesses of all sizes are using this innovative visual marketing strategy to attract new customers and engage with existing ones.
As a small business owner, you too should consider this strategy - it's possible to make a name for yourself in competitive markets by making UGC an integral piece of your marketing strategies.
Let UGC do the work for you
Rather than investing significant resources in content creation, UGC allows smaller brands to let their customers do the work.
Taking advantage of social media's pervasiveness with an engaging marketing campaign, including a catchy hashtag, brands can attract customers who are more than willing to interact with and promote their offerings. Industries ranging from food and professional sports to fashion and travel can appeal to consumers' desire to share their own content. For burgeoning brands and companies, UGC provides significant benefits.
For example, not only does an image of a pair of new sneakers shared on Instagram get in front of the user's friends and followers - many of whom are peers and members of the same target demographic - it's a more trustworthy endorsement than other kinds of marketing content. UGC is earned media, and studies have shown that 92% of consumers trust it more than other forms of branded content.
Social media marketing and visual content strategies are prominent features of so many marketing campaigns already. When consumers see their peers and influencers they trust sharing their own photos and videos that hail the value and appeal of a company they may not know, it provides a powerful impetus to research it and become customers themselves.
How brands put visual UGC to work
The National Hockey League turned to visual UGC to capture the drama and excitement of the Stanley Cup playoffs to drive greater interest among casual fans. Rather than solely selling its product, the NHL let its fans showcase their own perspectives on the highs and lows that come along with a playoff run.
Fans responded by sharing more than 20,000 pieces of content with the NHL using the hashtag #myplayoffsmoment. The NHL's social team compiled the videos and photos shared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other platforms and shared the content across the Web, social media, television and arena Jumbotrons.
And it's not just giant, global brands like the NHL that have found success using visual UGC to promote their brands.
With fewer than 50 employees, SCOUT is a 12-year-old retail company specializing in tote bags, storage bins and other decorative accessories. As part of an initiative designed to enhance its website and overall e-commerce experience, SCOUT shared an easy-to-follow guide for consumers, with simple instructions for sharing content that included the "#scoutbags" hashtag on Instagram and Twitter.
The campaign was simple and designed to let SCOUT's satisfied customers advocate for the company.
The results were a 67.5% increase in Web sales generated from social traffic and 89% more time spent browsing gallery pages.
Brands are constantly seeking new ways to appeal to their target audiences. Taking advantage of the overall popularity of social media and smartphones has given companies a new avenue to share engaging content that supports their business goals.
Moreover, people are already creating this content, whether brands are integrating it into their strategies or not. Formalizing UGC's place in digital marketing campaigns gives brands the chance to turn customers into marketers.