The success of a brand lies firmly in the hands of the people who matter the most — the consumers. Business 101: the customer is always right — an obvious statement, but in a world dominated by social media coverage and an ever-more skeptical audience, this truth is now determining the future of marketing technology. Consumers have more power than ever to determine how a brand is perceived, for good or ill.
Over the past 20 years, I’ve seen the advertising and marketing industries involved in more than a little soul-searching, as the landscape has shifted with new technologies and trends. Just as you get on top of digital integration, the figures paint a picture of doom. 60% of digital marketing spend is reportedly being wasted, with 56% of display ads failing to reach their audience. The rise of ‘adlergic’ behavior is now well documented, with ad-blocking software on 615 million devices worldwide. Hitting us where it hurts, further reports state that 96% of people believe the advertising industry does not act with integrity.
Consumer expectations have changed, massively, especially among the millennials. There’s an expectation of transparency and authenticity, and a desire for an emotional connection — a relationship if you will, between brands and consumers. Social media has enabled this new dynamic to flourish, with 74% of people turning to social networks for product reviews, and 73% of millennials seeing it as their responsibility to share product or brand experiences. Consumers are driving brand narratives like never before — proclaiming support when they’re happy, and venting when they’re not, for the whole world to hear.
This climate has seen Influencer Marketing thrive, with fifty percent of marketers turning to influencers to generate leads and drive sales, inspired by the promise of 11X higher ROI (over traditional forms of digital marketing). But even this domain of ‘personal endorsement’ is facing a backlash, suffering from disingenuous and outright fraudulent behavior.
Influencer fraud, in the form of bots or buying followers, is now in the spotlight, with data from anti-fraud company Sway Ops revealing: “A single day’s worth of posts tagged #sponsored or #ad on Instagram contained over 50 percent fake engagements.” Queue even more demand for transparency and authenticity from brands.
Whilst endorsements from mid-level or celebrity influencers may have lost confidence, the power of the micro-influencer is on the rise. 59% of marketers rank consumers, their number one fans, as the most effective type of influencer. Tellingly, social media users with low numbers of followers (1,000 to 5,000) boast higher engagement rates than those with higher follower numbers. The trend translates into sales too, with non-celebrity influencers proving 10x more likely to drive purchases.
Don’t Panic, It’s Organic
Organic consumer chatter creates a sense of authenticity around a brand, whilst simultaneously improving SEO, and boosting revenue and sales. Organic, or user-generated, content, is the best answer to creating genuine supportive relationships between brands and consumers. Everyday social media users are defining the success of brands, by providing the most valuable marketing that exists.
Every picture, video, tweet and blog post forms an online community that mobilizes word-of-mouth for the digital age.
UGC seems to tick all the boxes. It’s hyper-targeted; it keeps brands on-trend and relevant in our short-attention-span world; it’s a trustworthy alternative to celebrity endorsements or fraudulent Influencer Marketing; consumer-endorsement lends credibility; and it builds a community, giving fans a sense of connection and belonging.
In our data-driven world, UGC offers something even more valuable, if harnessed correctly. UGC has the potential to feed your brand with the most relevant, real-time, demographic-specific insights available, helping to shape marketing decisions like never before.
A Matter of Ownership
Worryingly, nearly 99% of UGC is owned by the social platforms where it is posted, not by the user who created the content, and not by the brand whose campaign they’re supporting. In order to truly benefit from UGC, and in order to monitor and monetize UGC campaigns — brands need to reclaim control.
Queue the emergence of UGC platforms, creating an environment where user-generated-content can be tracked, monitored, channeled, and where content and data ownership is in the hands of the brand. Consumer loyalty, as we know, relies on trust, trust that can only be found by building a fair, reciprocal relationship with a brand.
Add into the mix the qualities of immutable data and verified transactions, and UGC and social media platforms on the blockchain can finally enable brands to give back to their fans. The tokenization of UGC is the real game-changer, as it turns content creators into micro-influencers, allowing them to be rewarded for their brand support, whilst brands continue to reap the rewards of an active online community.
All in all, the brand receives the most up-to-date data and insights, stays relevant to their fans, builds a global community online, and connects with the people that matter most — the consumer.
Read More: Marketing Trends: Rise of the B2B Consumer