Almost always, people seek the feedback and follow the actions of others to guide them in their purchasing decisions. Can you remember the last time you bought something online without looking at some product reviews?
You cannot deny the fact that the opinions of customers like you matter when it comes to making an informed choice. Unless you know a business very well, you want to make sure that your hard-earned money doesn’t go to waste.
This is where social proof comes in.
Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people rely on the wisdom of the crowd in an attempt to perform the right behavior. People don’t want to be wrong in their choices.
And with the internet’s massive collection of information, small businesses can persuade their customers to take action with just a click of a button.
Amplifying Social Proof with User-Generated Content
One way to incorporate social proof into your business is by leveraging user-generated content (abbreviated as UGC). UGC is any form of content that’s created by customers or followers of a brand.
Common examples are social media photos and videos of people happily interacting with a brand.
The reason why UGC works so well in increasing people’s confidence in a business and creating brand advocates is that they’re 100% authentic. After all, there’s nothing that can ease the worries of prospects better than real testimonies and stories of customers themselves.
Image source: Marketing Land
If you’re thinking to include user-generated content as part of your marketing strategy, now is the best time to do so.
In the next section, we’re going to explore twelve different ways you can encourage UGC to increase your social proof. That way, you’ll be able to raise brand awareness, boost people’s trust, and most importantly, grow your sales.
How to Increase User-Generated Content
1. Encourage your customers to leave reviews.
Studies show that 92% of customers now read online reviews. In addition, 88% of these consumers form opinions about brands after reading ten reviews.
Because reviews have become more important than ever, never miss the chance to encourage your customer to leave reviews and ratings of your products or services.
Are you selling on online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay? Is your business featured on local listings like Google My Business, TripAdvisor, and Yelp? Do you have a Facebook business page?
Customer review on Amazon
While not all customers would be willing to write reviews, it never hurts to ask them to leave a feedback. The more reviews you’re able to generate, the more convincing your offers become to potential shoppers.
The trick to effectively ask for a review is to make the process very easy. Eliminate all possible barriers and you’ll be surprised of the flood of comments you’ll receive.
Simply shoot your customer an email and leave a link to the review page from your message. It is best to solicit a review right after your customers have received their package. They’re more excited during this time and would be happy to share their experience.
2. Proactively respond to your audience’s complaints.
Customers love talking about their sentiments, widely expressing them on social media.
As soon as you discover complaints left by users of your product or service on your social media page, grab the opportunity to win their trust back.
Put in mind that negative comments aren’t necessarily bad for your business. Properly plan your response strategy.
Once you spot complaints, act immediately. You will need to check your social media pages and set up Google Alerts for your brand mentions on other sites and online listings.
Keep the conversation in the open to promote transparency. This will also help shine a spotlight on great customer service. If you’re able to effectively address your customers’ pain points, consider this a huge factor to grow your business.
Image source: Social Media Examiner
Not only will you attract new audiences, you’ll also improve your relationship with your existing customers.
Even if your customers are only asking questions and not really voicing out complaints, still respond and provide value.
3. Collect photo submissions and offer a reward.
I’ve mentioned earlier that photos are a common type of user-generated content. One effective tactic for you to solicit UGC is by running a contest or giveaway.
The usual process goes like this: A brand offers an enticing prize for the best photo that shows the customer using their product.
Businesses who are active on Instagram require participants to use a campaign hashtag that’s unique to their brand. These hashtags will help brands track their campaigns and increase their reach.
National Geographic is one of the brands that launched a successful UGC campaign.
To increase UGC and generate buzz on social media, they asked their audience to take snapshots of themselves, interesting places, and experiences worldwide. Next, users were to upload these photos on Instagram and use the campaign hashtag #wanderlustcontest.
Currently, the campaign has garnered over 61,000 UGC.
What was National Geographic’s prize? A Yosemite National Park photo expedition.
Below are the reasons why this campaign generated massive engagement. Hopefully, you’ll be able to apply these when you launch your own giveaway:
- National Geographic offered a prize that was clearly relevant to their brand and audience. If you were a traveler, you would definitely enjoy the photo expedition to Yosemite National Park.
- Basically, travelers already enjoy taking photos which are a common form of UGC.
- The contest was launched on Instagram, a social site that’s built for photo sharing.
4. Share fan photos during live events.
Twitter is known to be the perfect venue for featuring live events. Can you recall Twitter’s live streaming of Ariana Grande’s One Love Manchester?
Type into Twitter’s search box #OneLoveManchester and you’ll find a collection of photos, GIFs, and videos shared by fans.
Borrowing the same idea, you can organize your own live event, promote the use of an event hashtag, and republish on your business page great photos uploaded by participants in real-time.
Share exciting fan photos not only on Twitter but also on other image-based social media websites like Instagram and Facebook.
You’ll be able to use these pieces of UGC for the long term by organizing them into a single UGC album.
Feature the album on your website for new visitors to see. Once they discover your collection of authentic fan photos, they’ll see you as an interesting, authoritative, and trustworthy brand.
5. Use UGC to power your paid advertising.
Can user-generated content actually help your Facebook ads gain more eyeballs and engagement? Yes.
Since people are paying less attention to Facebook adverts and more on genuine organic content, consider using UGC to power your ads. Instead of seeing lifeless stock photos, your audiences will now see real users and customers featured in your paid campaigns.
Your ads won’t look like ads and this creates a seamless experience for everyone scrolling through Facebook Newsfeed.
This strategy provides you multiple benefits:
- Your adverts get a higher engagement rate – more likes, comments, and shares.
- Facebook will give your ads a high relevance score. You no longer need to increase your bid.
- You differentiate yourself from competitors that don’t use UGC in their social media ads.
6. Feature testimonials on your website.
Whatever you’re promoting on your website, customer testimonials (in any format) help affirm your credibility as a business.
Testimonials outweigh even the biggest promises you make about your product or service. Customers want to hear from individuals with the same sentiments.
Unless you’ve already established yourself as an expert in your niche, start soliciting testimonials from people who’ve used your product or service. You don’t need fifty testimonials, even three to five powerful ones will already do wonders for your website.
FreshBooks features their client testimonials on their homepage:
While you can simply put up a sign-up form on your website, it still pays to reach out to people – especially those you know had a positive experience with your offers or customer service.
Impactful testimonials share certain qualities or characteristics. They are:
- Specific– A great testimonial should be able to highlight a specific attribute of a product or service. Testimonials that read, “They’re awesome!” or “Great product!” are vague and do not address a paint point.
- Credible – Make sure that customer statements are accompanied by images. Also, it’s best that customers or clients use their complete names. If you’re a B2B business, client names should link to their websites.
- Short and sweet– People don’t have much time to read paragraph-long testimonials. Customers can already convey the value that your business brought in one to two sentences.
Showcase your testimonials on prominent areas of your website such as your homepage or case studies page. Other businesses create a dedicated testimonials page.
Video testimonials aren’t a requirement, though they’re definitely worth considering.
7. Display your social shares.
Social shares are another form of social proof that boosts a visitor’s confidence in your website.
Online businesses, big or small, have already joined the social sharing movement. The higher the number of shares a page of your site gets, the more likely it is to be favored and reshared by visitors.
The most obvious way to facilitate social shares is to add visible social sharing buttons to prominent location of your pages. Make sure that you enable the display of your share counts for everyone to see.
Social Media Examiner displays their social sharing buttons at the top and bottom of their blog posts:
Maximize your social shares by creating blog topics that people will actually want to read. Research trending and interesting topics by using BuzzSumo and checking out your audience’s problems on Facebook groups and forum sites. This will also help you craft your buyer persona.
Support your blog posts with compelling, relevant images. Make your post images shareable as well.
Lastly, you need to focus on writing better headlines. Strong headlines that clearly paint a picture of the benefits of learning a topic pull readers in. They encourage people to click through.
Though it may take some work to entice readers to share your content, more social shares attract massive website traffic and conversions.
8. Show how many customers you have.
Would you prefer buying from a business with only a few customers? A high customer base count sends the message that your offers are truly valuable.
When people see that you cater to a large crowd, they think that there must be something very special about you. The only way to figure that out is to join your loyal following.
You can feature your customer base count on your homepage like AWeber:
AWeber encourages visitors to try out their service by stating that they currently serve over 100,000 small businesses. At the same time, they delve into the specifics by mentioning how people can benefit from their service.
9. Ask thought-provoking questions on discussion sites and social media groups.
Do you know where your target audiences usually gather?
You can find them on discussion platforms and social media groups (like Facebook and LinkedIn). These are great places where you can easily collect user-generated content to be featured on your website.
For you to be able to get UGC, the first thing you need to do is to post a thought-provoking question that will surely get the conversation started. Of course, put up your question in front of a crowd that will genuinely take interest in your topic.
The best questions to ask are those that are open-ended. Ask something like, “What are your thoughts on (topic)?” or “What does (topic) mean to you?” Give your audience inspiration by answering the question first.
Once answers start rolling in, pick out the best ones and make them the inspiration for your next blog post topic. But before you do, reach out to these people and ask for their permission.
Businesses of all sizes are more likely to see success nowadays by tapping into user-generated content. The social proof in UGC gives potential customers big reasons to engage with brands and eventually buy from them.
Since user-generated content is based on conversations and building customer relationships, remember to properly communicate with your audience. Be there to answer their questions. Show your personality.
Apply one or more of these 9 UGC strategies and let me know the results as soon as you can. If you can suggest other ideas to increase your UGC, leave a comment below.