CCO at TELUS International, a global customer experience provider powered by next-gen digital solutions.
Engaging, authentic and relevant digital content has the ability to create powerful connections between brands and consumers. But as I have discovered during my time as an executive at a digital solutions company, it’s user-generated content (UGC) — product reviews, stories or selfies of customers using the product, videos and images with branded hashtags — created by other customers, rather than brands, that consumers trust the most.
According to a study by Stackla, consumers are over twice as likely to believe UGC is more authentic than content created by brands themselves. In fact, nearly 80% say user-generated content “highly impacts their purchasing decisions” compared to 13% who say content from a brand is impactful. As such, UGC presents a massive opportunity for brands to drive loyalty, create better customer experiences (CX) and grow online communities.
However, not all content or product and service reviews are positive, flattering or appropriate. If left unchecked, negative UGC can quickly and severely damage a brand. According to a Pollfish study commissioned by my company and shared in a press release, nearly half (48%) of the 1,000 Americans surveyed say they view a brand as irresponsible “when they see inappropriate or inaccurate user-generated content on a brand’s owned sites and channels.” Over 40% say they lose trust in a brand and that inappropriate or inaccurate UGC makes them no longer want to engage with a brand’s community.
Given the significant negative impacts of inappropriate UGC, it’s even more critical for brands to develop and execute a robust digital strategy. Here are some tactics and best practices for brands looking to incorporate user-generated content.
Create a dedicated space.
Brands that create a dedicated, mobile-friendly space on their website where customers can leave reviews and ask questions are better able to capture critical insights and opinions. These insights can help brands create more personalized customer experiences and help with the development of new products and services.
As many consumers are already sharing reviews and opinions on public forums like Reddit, redirecting customers to your own site can help you better address, monitor and engage with their feedback and comments. It will also allow you to take a global approach to UGC and reduce the burden of research for customers still in the decision phase of their purchasing journey.
Within their own online community forums, brands can use rewards and gamification initiatives to incentivize customers to leave reviews or share content to offer unique, authentic and honest perspectives. Discounts and coupons, social badges recognizing participation in a community or social acknowledgment go a long way when it comes to motivating customers to share and feel recognized.
According to the same Pollfish study cited earlier, 53% of Americans say that when brands engage with them online by liking a post or commenting on a review, it makes them more likely to purchase from the company again, while 45% said it makes them more likely to engage with the brand’s community. Don’t miss the opportunity to show off your brand’s personality while delighting your customers at the same time.
Localize your reviews.
Another way to connect with your customers and personalize their experience is to prioritize product reviews and comments based on their location. One of the biggest benefits of being online is that it gives brands a global reach and access to a community representing diverse ideas, perspectives and feedback. Ensure consumers have the ability to filter and sort reviews and content that’s most relevant to them, and make it easy and seamless for them to search for information to improve their overall CX.
Keep the spam away.
Spam and fake reviews are off-putting for customers. Comments littered with off-topic links to unaffiliated sites can give consumers the impression your site or app isn’t secure. According to the same Pollfish study, half of the respondents say they only need to see inappropriate or inaccurate UGC on a brand’s website or app one to three times before they lose trust in it. Luckily, there are simple security measures you can take to deter spam. CAPTCHAs, for example, can help differentiate between real and automated users like bots. It’s a non-cumbersome approach to security — one that helps strike a balance between data security and CX.
Incorporate content moderation.
Security measures can help deter spam and offensive content created by bots, but your best line of defense is an experienced content moderation team who can help monitor your content and ensure the comments and reviews are appropriate. This can be in-house or a trusted partner that understands your brand’s values. Your content moderation team is the gatekeeper to building and maintaining your customers’ trust and well-being.
Negative feedback and reviews are a fact of life for brands, but it’s the response that counts, so make sure you do so in a way that makes your customers feel heard. According to the Pollfish survey, users who flag inappropriate UGC are most satisfied when a brand removes the content. Nearly half (46%) want a response about what actions the brand has taken, while 44% want the offending user temporarily banned. Content moderators can help offset the impacts of negative UGC and even turn it into a positive.
See the value and act on it.
Chances are, you already recognize the value of your customers’ opinions and feedback. The next step is turning that into actionable insights. Create a process to address any negative feedback or innovative customer suggestions, and ensure those reviews are shared back into your organization so you can respond immediately to customers and develop new products or evolve current ones. If leveraged correctly, user-generated content is a powerful tool that can create trust, build your brand authenticity and drive purchasing decisions.