My guest on today’s #DigitalPR Twitter chat is Alicia Whalen (@Alicia_Whalen_) co-founder of @HashtagioSocial
Alicia has been an advocate of using consumer-generated content (UGC) in the PR and marketing mix for the last ten years. Here are a few stats that show why UGC is so important to the Digital PR mix:
- Fifty-nine percent of millennials say they use UGC to inform their purchase decisions about major electronics. That’s followed by cars (54%), major appliances (53%), mobile phones (46%), hotels (45%), and travel plans (40%). (Crowdtap)
- Seventy percent of consumers place peer recommendations and reviews above professionally written content. (Reevo)
- Twenty-five percent of search results for the world’s 20 largest brands are links to user-generated content. (Kissmetrics)
- Eighty-six percent of millennials say that user-generated content is generally a good indicator of the quality of a brand or service. (Bazaarvoice)
- Brand engagements rise by 28% when consumers are exposed to both professional content and user-generated product video. (comScore)
Q & A on UGC and Digital PR with Alicia
Q1: We’re talking today about social aggregation. What exactly is social aggregation and how does it fit into Digital PR?
A1: It’s curating #UGC from social media channels by hashtag and @Handle and then pulling that content into a hub on the brand website. There are many ways to aggregate and inject social media content that go beyond just one social hub though.
Q2: Recent research shows that brands are publishing more content, but engagement is down. Why does UCG work better than branded content as a Digital PR tactic?
A2: Great Question: The recent @TrackMaven study says 35% more content is being published by brands, yet engagement is down 17%. Just broadcasting more and more content that your audience doesn’t care about is not an intelligent way to approach the need for Digital PR.
#UGC works better because of the #Socialproof consumers see as real – in photos, reviews, videos from others like them. Authentic reviews and user-generated content is more important than pushed-out marketing messages. A 2015 comScore study showed that engagement rises by 28 percent when there is a mix of UGC and branded video content about products.
White noise is the challenge. The quality of branded content (or lack thereof) affects the degree of engagement. Consumers have more choices, and are delivered more content than ever before, which can make it hard to guide a customer down the #pathtopurchase or to encourage brand engagement.
Q3: Why has UCG suddenly burst onto the Digital PR radar – it was not even a category for marketers last year?
A3: @CMIContent reports 78% of B2C Marketers plan to use #UGC in their mix in 2016. Why? Marketers understand consumers trust social content from others like them. To adapt to that, brands must take social chatter and inject it into the place of purchase on their own online properties rather than rely on “rented” social assets.
Brands don’t own their real-estate on Facebook, Instagram etc. They need to leverage that social content, so they can use it to draw customers to their site and guide them down the funnel.
The changes in the Instagram algorithm speak to that challenge and Twitter is also changing the algorithm this week to only show us Top Tweets of who we follow. By curating quality content from #UGC, marketers can use this insight to see what content works. A “rented” channel can change anytime and you are at their mercy.
We only need to look at #Facebook as an indication.Brands have to pay to reach their own followers. This is why brands should not rely on social channels only to fully leverage UGC.
Q4: What are consumers looking for today?
A4: Relevancy, Authenticity, Interaction, Truth. Which leads to trust. Consumers want a feeling, a connection and don’t want to be sold.
Q5: Switching questions as we are on the subject of trust. What exactly is social proof and how does it tie into UCG and Digital PR?
A5: We know that 70% of consumers rely on online reviews from multiple sources including social media. Social proof and accuracy in Digital PR and marketing messages is more important than it has ever been before. Consumers will validate a brand by looking at “authentic” reviews, images, video testimonials before purchase. Seventy percent of consumers place peer recommendations and reviews above professionally written content. (Reevoo study) “Even a stranger’s opinion is more valuable than a company’s sales messaging” says this report.
#UGC has added a new layer to the concept of #SocialProof Brands must not only participate in social media chatter, but listen and respond. I see far too many brands pushing out content in the old broadcast mode. 78% of people who complain to a brand via Twitter expect a response within an hour. There is layer of transparency in #UGC that brands can show and leverage when they listen and respond.
Q5a: Do you think brands are afraid of engagement?
“They do not want to truly engage and they do not want to lose control.” Jeffrey Hayzlett
A5a: I think that most brand marketers and Digital PR folk know that they need to engage, the confusion lies in how to do it. It’s easy to publish. It takes time and a willingness to be open and communicate to respond.
Customers are no longer funneled through company-controlled channels. They can put the word out through social media channels and brands are being forced to pay attention. Beyond CRM,
#UGC is now an essential part of the Digital PR and marketing mix, so understanding how to leverage it is key.
Q6: All brands want more sales. How can using aggregated UCG drive people down the sales funnel?
A6: Some examples will help to illustrate how social media and user-generated content in a Digital PR program can drive sales. @VisitNovaScotia pulled #visitnovascotia tagged Instagram photos into a social hub.
In the first six months, viewers clicked through photos on the Traveller Photos social hub page to continue their path to over 150 different pages on NovaScotia.com. No other single page on the website came close to driving traffic further into the website – and to multiple pages. This UGC hub drew an impressive 43% in return visitation, making this page one of the top 10 most visited pages on the NovaScotia.com.
User’s stay on site like, share and click through to other pages instead of leaving. The bounce rate on this social hub is 3.94%!
Visitors click on a photo and then get guided further into the site to pages where they can book a trip.
@WestJet is another good example. They’re known for their #WestJetChristmas social media campaigns and in 2015 took the campaign to new level by adding a social hub to their Digital PR efforts. Using social media aggregation 31,000 photos, videos, tweets tagged by city, were re-shared from that social hub located on the brand website. The goal was to leverage positive sentiment from #WestJetChristmas and drive visits to the brand website and engage them there.
By injecting over 31,000 pieces of content into the hub on their own website they could measure the impact of the Digital PR campaign. Over the course of the campaign, the integrated social hub of content boosted the following activity on WestJet’s campaign landing page, compared with past Christmas Miracle campaigns:
- 182% increase in website visitors compared to last year
- 63% increase in time spent on the site compared to last year
- Over 6 times as many page views per visit over the previous last year
- 300% increase in traffic to the WestJet Christmas campaign landing page
Thanks to Alicia for her time and insights.
We do a #DigitalPR chat every Friday on Twitter. Each week I interview an expert in some aspect of social media and Digital PR. the chat is at 10 am Pacific, 1 pm Eastern.
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