As every entrepreneur knows, an idea gets your business off the ground, but getting the word out and developing a loyal customer base is what keeps the lights on. Making the most of your marketing budget is a challenge that most startups face. Where do I spend? What do I spend on? How can I get the most ROI?
For most, social media is the first initiative because of the ability to reach large numbers of people in a short period of time for a nominal cost. It generates results, too.
A recent study found that 76 percent of U.S. consumers purchase products after discovering them on social media.
But most entrepreneurs don’t have the means to hire expensive influencers or celebrities to promote their products or services. And in today’s world of sponsored content, consumers are weary about the authenticity of direct promotions.
An industry 2018 Trust Barometer Report revealed that 60 percent of people no longer trust social media and find that immediate friends and family are better for recommendations than influencers. As a result, startup brands need to find ways to organically appeal to audiences to spread the word about their businesses.
One of the most successful ways to do this is through user-generated content (UGC). UGC is powerful because it’s typically organic, shared by way of word-of-mouth and makes customers feel engaged with your brand, which ultimately increases loyalty. It puts the power of marketing into the hands of the consumer, and your business is the beneficiary.
In fact, 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from peers over any other form of marketing.
Because your customers are your best brand ambassadors, when used correctly, they can become an extension of your marketing team.
Take, for example, Hyatt Regency Scottsdale’s luxury resort and hotel. When guests (some of whom are social media influencers) come from all over and post about their stay on social media, the resulting attention really boosts the hotel’s ratings. By creating a user-generated content opportunity, the resort increased its bookings.
Here are three ways you can leverage your startup’s own user-generated content:
Identify key micro-influencers within your community
Studies have shown that micro-influencers (those with 1,000 to 10,000 followers) have the highest engagement rate of any influencer type. That means that the followers who see their posts are actually paying attention to and interacting with them, which equates to more meaningful exposure for your brand.
Sometimes micro-influencers are keen to promote a brand for a barter exchange, too. So, the cost can be minimal, depending on their influence.
Start by identifying those with a solid following that align with your brand. For example, if you are a fitness brand, look for influencers with a decent following within the health and fitness space.
Create engaging promotions or contests
This classic marketing tactic remains very effective, even in the digital world. The chance to win is motivation for most consumers to snap a quick photo or send a short tweet, especially if a caption template is provided.
Count each post made as an entry to the sweepstakes. The best part? Online contests are extremely easy to create, manage and execute. There are dozens of sweepstakes-hosting platforms that can be tailored to any kind of marketing campaign.
You can push this method to the max by using a contest platform that allows multiple entries via different types of social sharing, from Instagram to YouTube to Pinterest.
Invest in good prizes too, something worthwhile that your customers will be aching to win.
Create special moments
Giving customers an opportunity to talk about your brand (either in real life or online) helps generate buzz and further increases visibility. There are a couple of different ways that brands can do this.
First, utilize the visual aspect of Instagram. A reported 80 percent of users on Instagram follow at least one business (of the existing one billion accounts on the platform). Since Instagram is a visual platform, think about creating images that translate into memorable moments.
Consider encouraging your customers to share customer experience stories using your products or services by, for example, posting an Instagram Story on “Customer Appreciation Day” in order to receive 20 percent off their next purchase.
Today’s consumer is wary of traditional marketing tricks, so they need to feel as if they are in control of the message. Social media is the best way to reach customers and prospects, especially when you are a startup with limited resources.
However, getting consumers to advocate on your behalf requires some initiative. With the right tools to create user-generated content, you’ll see your community thrive, especially if your customers feel they are in control of the message.