User-generated content (UGC) has traditionally been treated with a fair degree of sceptism by media and marketing agencies. The main reason for this is because it can’t be controlled – at all. This wasn’t a train smash back in the days when the worst consumers could do was write letters to newspapers or consumer magazines. These days, consumers have much bigger and more accessible public platforms and their voices carry a lot more weight.
Jillian Ney is a big fan of UGC, especially as it relates to opportunities in social media. Specifically, Ney looks at the potential consumer reviews have to uplift brands in the social media sphere – provided companies take advantage of them.
In an article on Social Media Today, Ney says, “From an academic standpoint, consumer reviews support the decision making processes through the provision of in-direct product experiences which offer a first impression of products and services before they are consumed.”
The bottom line is that consumers don’t believe marketing spiel. They’re also getting good at spotting fake reviews, which many companies attempt to fool consumers into thinking their products or services are the bomb.
Reviews provide you with a no-holds-barred view of what people think of your company. But it’s important to note that consumers don’t necessarily write those reviews on your website or Facebook page. Instead they might go to consumer-orientated portals or mention you in their personal blogs.
In South Africa, Hello Peter is a very popular consumer complaints site. It provides for compliments as well as complaints, but you can guess what it’s most used for. What’s nice about Hello Peter is that it provides some stats for brands and consumers to use as they see fit, such as compliments vs. complaints ratios and conversion ratios.
South African brands take Hello Peter very seriously. Some companies – those that receive the most complaints – have people monitor the feed continually so that they can respond to complaints almost immediately.
That’s how it should be done, but if you can’t afford to have one of your staff monitor brand mentions all day the least you can do is set up Google alerts so that you’ll know as soon as your company is mentioned anywhere online.
Set up alerts for as many variations of your brand as possible so that you don’t miss anything.
In addition to finding out what people think of your brand, Ney lists two more benefits of consumer reviews:
- Innovation: Use reviews to improve on services and products that already work. For instance, if you find that that the add-ons for a particular product (free delivery, extended warranty, etc) receive a lot of favourable reviews, you might want to consider adding similar benefits to other products. You’ll also need to find innovative solutions to problems that result in a lot of complaints.
- Competitive advantage: You can see what people think of your competitors by setting up Google alerts for variations on their brand and product names. In this way you’ll get an idea of where you stand in the market and also find out what you could be doing better to change the status quo.
UGC and reviews can no longer be taken lightly and monitoring them should be part of any comprehensive social media strategy.