:: By Susan Agudo, Nicho ::
Selfies – photographs that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone and uploaded to social media – have been described as a “social phenomenon.” People love selfies and others hate them, but regardless of which end of the spectrum you fall under, it’s undeniable that selfies and other user-generated content (UGC) are powerful assets that can be leveraged across a brand’s marketing efforts to convert customers – turning selfies into sales.
Turning selfies into sales, which may seem like an overwhelming undertaking to some, can actually be broken down into three manageable steps: adapting to selfie social phenomenon, utilizing unique, branded hashtags to foster community and incorporating selfies and other UGC into existing marketing efforts.
Here are 3 actionable steps modern marketers can take to up their UGC game:
1) Accept and embrace selfies.
This may sound like it’s stating the obvious and you may have rolled your eyes after reading that sentence, but accepting selfies’ place in today’s society and embracing the potential it has to elevate marketing efforts is fundamental.
But selfies are just a fad, right?
Brands are often reluctant to incorporate selfies and other UGC into their marketing efforts because they don’t see the value or simply due to fear of the unknown. But once brands start to incorporate selfies and UGC, they will very quickly be able to see the value – according to a study conducted by Georgia Institute of Technology, selfies and photos with people’s faces drive almost 40 percent more engagement.
It’s clear that selfies aren’t going anywhere: technology, accessibility to smartphones and the widespread use of various social media platforms have ensured this.
Why should I care about using selfies?
Today’s always-connected shoppers consume media on a whole new level that it has changed their expectations of how they engage with brands. As a result, brands have been forced to evolve in how they interact with their customers. Selfies and UGC have given customers an insatiable thirst for authentic content – they don’t want to be sold to; rather, they seek experiences.
Ever notice that there seems to be a collective grumbling across the world wide Web whenever a platform makes an announcement about incorporating advertising into users’ social feeds? The biggest complaint is often that ads will ‘ruin the experience.’ There is much to be said about the fact that many have become so desensitized to ads that our minds automatically block them out or scroll past them without a second thought, leaving them to be, more often than not, an ineffective nuisance.
Not convinced yet?
With 92 percent of people trusting UGC over traditional advertising, creating authentic experiences is no longer a luxury or novelty reserved for brands with big budgets, but a necessity for all brands in order to remain relevant. The customer journey is no longer about methodically moving them through the funnel, but about creating seamless brand experiences from online to real life, and cultivating community.
2) Promote a unique, branded hashtag to foster community and turn fans into champions for your brand.
Social media humanizes brands and allows them to communicate with customers like never before. Many brands have already invested time and resources to build up and create content for their social channels, but can expand reach and engagement much further by promoting unique, branded hashtags.
Why use a branded hashtag?
Do a quick Google search for #beyhive or #belieber and see what you find. The music industry in particular is prevalent in creating community so engaged and tight-knit that names have been created specifically for artists’ fan bases, such as Beyoncé’s “Bey Hive” and Justin Bieber’s “Beliebers.”
A branded hashtag will allow customers to join the conversation and conversely, lets brands discover what customers are saying about them. Giving people a central place (the branded hashtag) to share a common interest (the brand) cultivates community and strengthens brand loyalty.
Show the love.
Customers are your biggest fans and it’s common to see people proudly post selfies displaying product and declaring love for their favorite brands. Brands that show appreciation or give recognition to fans that are championing for them gives fans a feeling of elevated status and validation. Showing appreciation or recognition to fans can manifest itself as commenting on a fan’s post or re-posting a fan picture. Simple gestures such as these go a long way to strengthen brand loyalty and increase the chances that a fan will shout out the brand again across their own personal networks.
3) Elevate marketing efforts with UGC.
Who better to create content for your target market than your target market? Eighty-four percent of millennials say that UGC influence what they buy. Think of UGC as a recommendation from a trusted friend – when deciding on which brand to buy, or what restaurant to eat at, people more often than not call on friends’ experiences and rely on testimonials of real people. In fact, 59 percent of people consult UGC before even making a purchase.
How or where I would use selfies in my marketing?
By incorporating selfies and other UGC into brand marketing efforts, content that potential customers look for to justify their purchase is already right in front of them. Nothing is more compelling than to showcase your fans’ own images of them using your product, on your website – and even more so when directly linking fan images to product pages or positioning the fan content right by the product’s “Buy” button.
In fact, people spend six percent more when UGC is on a brand’s website. These images truly bring brands to life by providing a narrative – told by real life people talking authentically about your brand.
Wait – there’s more!
Using selfies and other UGC doesn’t have to stop at a brand’s website. It’s becoming increasingly common to request rights to UGC so that those assets can be used in ad campaigns, emails or in-store displays. Brands have seen that ads that feature UGC have outperformed ads without it by an average of 25 percent. There are many resources and social media aggregation tools available for brands that make incorporating user content on brand websites and requesting rights for UGC easier than ever.
About the Author
Susan Agudo is the Accounts & Planning Supervisor at Nicho, a visual marketing platform that brings branded and user-generated content into one place. Susan is responsible for overall strategy, client satisfaction and quality of service on the delivery of allprojects, and has contributed to the branding for multiple Fortune 500 companies. In her free time you can find her bodybuilding at the gym or volunteering with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
You can learn more about Nicho here or follow @nichoapp on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.