Given the recent news that Pinterest has hired its first COO as part of its plans to launch a public offering, it’s an exciting time for user-generated content (UGC). Pinterest is a living example of the increasing power of UGC, having been valued at around $12.3 billion (that’s £8.85 billion). With 300 million users expected this year, the platform’s growing popularity reflects the market’s appetite for consumers to engage directly with brands. If you’re asking yourself about the market’s potential, the numbers speak for themselves.
Over two billion people use smartphones across the globe. There are now 3.58 billion internet users, two billion people active on Facebook and 1.17 billion people using Google Search. The potential for UGC as part of your brand and marketing strategy is exponential, and the success of Pinterest tells us that the need already exists.
The digital world provides brands with unlimited opportunities to connect with audiences, yet there is often an underlying sense of unease from consumers. They increasingly feel like their privacy is at risk and that they are being stalked by advertisers. This also comes with a lack of transparency. The trend towards programmatic – with these technologies accounting for 72% of display advertising spend in the UK – has made the advertising world so murky that most people can no longer understand it.
There are however opportunities to connect with audiences in a way that doesn’t come across as intrusive. Marketers should not be so focused on churning out placements of algorithm-led content. People trust the opinions of likeminded individuals over and above a brand ’s message. A staggering 93% of people read online reviews before buying products or services. The authenticity, credibility and personality reflected in genuine customer reviews, enable brands who harness this content to create personalized connections with audiences.
So why don’t marketers carry that into their advertising messaging?
Advertising that focuses on repurposing customer reviews, photos and videos has been proven to be inspiring for audiences. Link it, both creatively and mechanically, with your digital domains that host user-generated content. It gives customers and prospects all the information they need to know about a brand, its products or services.
It really is simple to do. And it’s foolproof.
Take Personalization to the Next Level
There is still a fine line to tread between engaging audiences with content that is personalized and overstepping the mark – and coming across as plain creepy.
The retargeting advertising strategies, in particular, can often mean consumers are served with the same ad over and over again just because they happened to search for a particular product once. But, it’s important for marketers to be much more strategic than this if they want to develop those long-lasting, meaningful relationships with customers.
Let’s take car advertising, for example. If someone once researched a white Toyota Prius, instead of plastering the same white Toyota Prius across the web, advertisers could introduce personalized ads with content based on which ‘people like them’ may also be interested in instead.
After finding out even a little bit of information about this person – for example, whether or not they are a parent – advertisers can begin being a little more original with the types of products they target this person with. So instead of trying to sell the person a new car, maybe this new dad might be interested in baby car seats, or accessories for the car that keep children entertained?
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Adverts regarding these other likely interests could be strategically placed in view of targeted consumers, enabling them to be targeted with authentic, relevant product ads instead of repetitive, irritating ones.
Additionally, automotive brands can serve up user-generated-content of customers driving the relevant cars or using the relevant car. Better still, show a person a good review from someone just like them – a fellow parent, or commuter, or weekend tourer.
When we add all of these elements together, we stumble onto a new kind of personalization – one that’s not just about data and algorithms, but about culture and ‘tribes’. That’s the kind of stuff brands should be looking for. It feels more natural and, if given a chance, it’ll be a lot more effective.
Save ‘Creepy’ for Halloween – Add Real Value Instead
Time and time again we hear of the perils attached to digital advertising: the intrusiveness of being followed on the web, the need for brands to be more strategic in the way they approach audiences and an ever-increasing retaliation against those brands that don’t invest in advertising that is authentic, credible and ultimately trustworthy. And yet despite this having been a problem for years, the problem still persists.
It’s time we changed the record.
While advertisers should, of course, continue to invest in the platforms that give them access to such large and valuable audience segments, this investment needs to also be balanced with personalised advertising efforts, including user-generated-content such as the kind generating so much (p)interest, that builds brand connections and enables a more authentic user experience. Those that do this well will reap successes from hugely effective campaigns.