It was 2009 when I came across CNN iReport asking people to ‘tell their stories and discuss the issues that are important to them’. This was the first time I was introduced to the concept of a brand prompting its users to create content for them. Whether the brand would use the content and how they would use it, however, was completely up to them. But, there I was, ready to share my perspective in form of pictures and stories.
From a one-way conversation to a two-way conversation
We’ve come a long way from a non-interactive one-way communication approach adopted by brands to connect with their audiences. It’s been a heavy shift to make – from brands dictating trends through traditional platforms like press releases and print advertisements – all the way to brands encouraging customers to create content that they can leverage for their own brand authenticity.
This significant shift from brands creating an unattainable ‘aspirational imagery’ to be more approachable has everything to do with how important it is to have substantial customer conversations today. Better yet, brands need a purpose and a consumer-focused strategy to fix an identified issue – whatever that may be. How is this being achieved? With the help of User-Generated Content. Once brands started moving towards a two-way communication strategy with their customers, the quality of customer lifecycle and loyalty to the brand has been given way more emphasis.
It’s all about consumer behaviour. Brands don’t spend thousands of dollars or even millions just to get that one transaction. Today, brands focus on the customer’s post-purchase journey.
Three-way conversation between brands, consumers, and potential consumers
Having spent the last few years monitoring the world of marketing, a three-way conversation is on the rise. Its been proven that two-way conversations are a fantastic way to engage with customers since it results in ‘highly personable and almost natural interactions’ with the brand. Now, brands are beginning to use this conversational approach integrated with UGC to further attract potential customers.
A brand that instantly comes to mind is Rihanna’s Fenty that launched a couple months after Kim Kardashian brands made headlines in 2017. Note that Fenty Beauty is currently on all social media giants: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
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Simply put, Fenty Beauty’s use of UGC projects authenticity and has led a to higher engagement rate when compared to its tough competitors. Not only is its content strategy on point with a clear message that resonates with a lot of people – a cosmetic line for ‘any culture, any skin tone, any race, any religion, anybody can wear it’ – its strategic use of UGC (with a super glam exclusive hashtag #rihgram) gives new life to the brand’s overarching message. No wonder, Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty has earned even more attention on social media than giants like Kylie Cosmetics and Kim Kardashian’s KKW Beauty. Leveraging fan-made content – essentially word-of-mouth in this day and age – and strategically customizing it with the knowledge of content strategy, brands can reach their full potential to not only establish loyalty in customers, but also reach new customers.
It takes customers a few minutes to give feedback on products they use, and brands are recognizing this. Chief marketing officer at Foreo, a company that makes beauty devices adds that “brands now build a following based on reviews and comments”. In fact, recent research reveals that customers who engage with UGC are more than twice as likely to make a purchase than their peers.
It’s not just cosmetic brands, a major reason for the fast expansion of K-pop’s fandom is because of how Korean agencies have repurposed fan-made content like compilation videos, vlogs, fancams and reactions to create a sense of anticipation, competition and needless to say, engagement among its fans. Today, how brands want customers to engage with them is changing. Brands of all sizes are experimenting with the way they want to create and use three-way conversations by integrating it with their marketing campaigns – all to reach their potential stakeholders.