What is UGC?
UGC is short for User Generated Content or content generated by users. A catchall term to describe all the online content created by visitors to websites as well as content posted on forums, review platforms and social media. In concrete terms it’s content generated online by a buyer referring to a product or service.
With the development of social networks it is now very simple and fast to share what you think of a product through status, comments, images, or videos. In light of this advertisers quickly realised the importance of UGC as regards purchasing behaviour, firstly with young people (18-30) when this trend first emerged, then later with all other categories of population.
Today UGC is all around us, whether reserving a restaurant, buying a new brand of yogurt, a new car, ecommerce, software for your business, a venue for a seminar, or a film to watch from your sofa on a Sunday evening, user generated content is there to help you choose.
Why is it so important?
If you believe that your business is not affected by the UGC phenomenon, here’s some facts that may change your mind.
- Buyers are very influenced by the experiences of other buyers: 85% of buyers say they have more confidence in UGC than in content generated by brands. Your own marketing content carries more weight in the eyes of your customers, but be aware that feedback from another user will always have more impact.
- People like to give advice, especially on social networks: 67% of people have “actively participated on social media over the past 12 months” and 7 out of 10 customers would post an opinion on a specialised site if asked to do so.
- UGC represents a low cost for advertisers. Producing a promotional video for a product represents a substantial cost for what is essentially a few hundred views on youtube. Efficient social media management and a few pointers on how best to engage with your customers to benefit massively from UGC is a better bet.
UGC Social Proof and the psychology of buyers
The fact that UGC can strongly influence buying decisions is directly linked to a psychological principle called Social Proof. Social Proof is a complex notion described by the psycho-sociologist Cialdini (author of Influence and Manipulation). This principle states that when in doubt one tends to adopt the attitude and opinion of the group.
There are many examples in daily life. While queuing in the supermarket, if a checkout is empty and others are half full, people in general will go to the busy checkout, given those people have made this choice, they will trust their judgement. In a public place where there are several exit doors, in general people will use the one open door to leave, even if that means they have to queue a bit, without even checking if the other exits are accessible. If everyone in the street is looking up at the sky aren’t you going to do the same?
Social Proof is based on 4 socio-psychological mechanisms which may be broken down as follows:
- Uncertainty: is what feeds the social proof effect, given an unknown situation that you can’t control, people tend to trust the experience of others.
- Similarity: the effect becomes more important when the person we trust resembles us, it’s easier to identify with them and then follow their lead.
- Expertise: social proof has more power when people around us appear to have more experience and knowledge of a situation.
- Number: the larger the group, the more individual will tend to acquiesce in terms of behaviour and decision-making.
The growing influence of Social Proof in the current consumer society is also the consequence of the abundant information generated by brands. The number of commercial messages to which we are exposed every day increased from 3500 in 2005 to 10000 in 2016. Information overload has reinforced buyer uncertainty on any product, the first motor of the Social Proof phenomenon. Given this uncertainty and over abundance of content, consumers turn to the most authentic sources: real comments from real people relating to real experiences and about real products, in other words UGC.
UGC adds social proof to sales
You already know that buyers are influenced above all by the experience of other buyers. On the internet users both like and have confidence in the opinions of other users. The real challenge is to develop and also master your User Generated Content for your product or service.
On the internet there are two types of channels that broadcast User Generated Content and depending on your business and your goals one or the other will suit.
- Social networks based on spontaneity and immediacy that promote short term buzz effects.
- Forums and review sites that facilitate the development of a long term online reputation
In 2016 the well-known web marketing site Kissmetrics published a reference report on the subject and recommended 3 methods for taking advantage of User Generated Content.
1 Aggregating mass opinion: businesses like Gap have adopted this practice by putting scores and opinions directly on products on their website instead of a product description. As well as providing a lot of marketing content this decision boosted conversion rates and sales. This is what happens when you allow customers to promote your product for you.
2 Leveraging the scalability of content: Every bit of content generated by a user has potential for viral marketing and can be reused at no cost. GoPro’s strategy is the benchmark: they repost and showcase the best videos and photos taken by its users to show the quality of their cameras and to develop its brand image.
3 Cultivating a confident community climate: businesses that gain most from User Generated Content are those based on communities of strong and engaged buyers. Community members become brand ambassadors and so contribute actively to content generation.
How could User Generated Content benefit the trade fair and exhibition industry?
User Generated Content is everywhere and unmissable in many sectors, but is still hardly developed in the sphere of trade fairs and exhibitions. Organisers are certainly active and performing well on social networks. But if a potential visitor or exhibitor searches for feedback about an exhibition he’ll find little or next to no User Generated Content.
However, the events market lends itself especially to the development of User Generated Content for the following reasons:
- An event is an experience and people like to share their experiences: people always have a story after an exhibition either about people they met there or about business opportunities, organisation of the event, conference content etc.
- Trade fairs and exhibitions rely on strong communities of participants and exhibitors. A trade fair is an ecosystem where a community of participants who share the same central interests (based on a shared sector at least) the same objectives and often the same outlook. The more the community is committed the more it will be inclined to recommend the event online.
- Word of mouth is everywhere. As described in a previous article (Unlocking the Customer’s Voice in the Exhibition Industry) decision making styles depend a lot on word of mouth when it comes to choosing a professional event. So User Generated Content is actually word of mouth online.
User Generated Content is a powerful low cost marketing tool which is useful for the exhibition industry. So organisers of trade fairs have much to gain from developing their presence at forums and on online review sites to capitalise on their community of participants every time.
If you are an events manager for conferences, BtoB trade fairs or exhibitions and you want to setup a User Generated Content strategy to boost your digital marketing, we have put together a harvesting programme to compile and assess online reviews for you. Contact Tradefest to obtain more information.
Tradefest is an online review platform for professional events trade fairs and conferences. We help organisers collect client opinions and to transform them into a tool for traffic acquisition and boosting sales.