For business owners or social media managers, developing fresh and new content can be a daunting task. But creating a fresh flow for posts across media channels is a necessity for any strategy! The goal is to develop content that reflects the brand and builds a community following. Most of the time you’re tasked with creating daily posts that engage your audience, creating dynamic graphics, finding topics of interest – yada yada yada. It’s a lot of work! But we promise, you’re totally overthinking it.
User Generated Content is LOVE
What separates big businesses on social media and smaller businesses on social media? The use of their audience base. Big businesses know that their audience is their most valuable source for credible, fan-approved content. This is known as User Generated Content (UGC). UGC conveys the very best parts of your brand or business. It’s authentic and is the very best proof that people are using your product or service in real life. And not only are they using it, they’re loving it enough to tell their friends! Businesses are able to use this as a source of positive imagery, quotes, testimonials, and experiences. Promoting your brand by standing behind your customers is one of the most transparent and honest ways to reach your audience.
For example, think of the photos you’d take while on vacation. You’re having a blast and snapping great photos of amazing things. Traveling can be a life-changing experience, and those photos are powerful! Travel companies, hotels, and destination spots are using social media to gather content submitted by their users and using those images to show you how much fun other people are having while using their products or services. And those photos depict real-life experiences. Notice the repetition there? Real.
92% of users trust earned media such as testimonials above targeted advertising. We’ve found ourselves in “an era of honesty” thanks to social media, and lucky for marketers, social media users are sharing their opinions and thoughts in ways that companies can leverage.
The argument for UGC has been made. But now the question is…how can companies gain easy access to that content?
Hashtags Bring UGC Together
It’s absolutely true that hashtags help connect the world. Through social justice movements and international news, hashtags pool together relative content.
National Geographic uses a hashtag to collect user-submitted photos of their travels, creating a sense of awe and inspiration among their followers. Using the hashtag #WanderlustContest, National Geographic tapped into a community of photographers, social media enthusiasts, and travelers who want to bring more visibility to their experience. Their goal was to attract users on Instagram, the photo-driven social media channel, to enter the contest. This equal exchange benefits the user and the marketer – giving exposure to users and re-enforcing National Geographic’s brand.
In this instance, users were entering a contest for a chance to win a prize. By using their hashtag, they were able to neatly analyze their submissions and create an online community where participants can browse other submissions. Users were able to see the hashtag and engage with other users – a win/win for building an online community and NG’s brand. They recognized what makes their audience special, garnered a buzz for their contest, and developed their strategy based around their designated hashtag.
Hashtags AREN’T Just for Contests!
Ideally, your business should offer an experience that sets it apart from its competitors. Be it your awesome customer service, amazing products, or hip atmosphere – your business needs to stand out.
Think of it this way: liveblogging and “livetweeting” is a new trend that affects hundreds of television shows, for instance, and their audience daily. Essentially, fans come together (mainly on Twitter) to react, in real-time, to the first telecast of a television show, . Users feel compelled to get involved, react, offer commentary, and it’s all thanks to the hashtag. For example, during the newest episode of Cake Boss, users will use #CakeBoss to react. This use spikes during live showings and will decrease when the television show isn’t running. The Cake Boss hashtag can be found being used on the show’s social media channels as well as by the fans, thus enhancing the digital reach of the show and integrating the user’s experience with their marketing strategy. Essentially, they’re making an every day occurrence into an event!
So how does a television show using a hashtag apply to your business? Simple! It creates conversation.
Hashtags give users the chance to start a conversation. It is easy, simple, and allows users to feel like their voice matters. It’s not uncommon to see hashtags promoted on advertisements now, promoted for connecting the brand to the users as well as users to other users. Gathering UGC can be easy, but the main goal is to create an online community where users contribute freely.
#LoveLakeland is a local initiative that promotes love for the city of Lakeland, Florida. In the hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, you’ll find many local businesses or residents who use the hashtag to promote the events of the city, positive experiences, and other reasons why they “love Lakeland”. This is not a contest or a timed campaign – it is an ongoing effort to create conversations and keep the community going strong. Since this is a community-driven hashtag, there is no “sole owner”, which allows businesses to take advantage of the content for their benefit. It increases the reach of their tweets, adds visibility and engages users.
Overall, it is important that your reasoning for using a hashtag should always go back to the user. This is what makes organic hashtags like #LoveLakeland so great – they have no timer, no cost, and gives users access to an audience they wouldn’t have had before
So, when you’re looking for a low-cost, quick, and constant source for digital marketing… think hashtags. By monitoring given hashtags and promoting their use, you’re able to gain valuable UGC. Fans and customers want to see the value in your business, so seeing other fans and customers happy and enjoying your services will speak volumes about your company.
Tap into your customers’ emotions. Sell feelings, not just a product. Sell experiences, not just a service. When you are making customers feel something, you are more likely to receive user generated content in return. How many times have you taken a picture of yourself at Disney World because you’re so incredibly happy? That feeling is unmatched and inspires actions – the kind your brand benefits from.
Choosing your hashtag should be simple, but your focus should be on the longevity of your brand. Build the experience with honesty, not obnoxious branded and sponsored content. Users on social media will engage with hashtags when they can relate and when they can integrate their lives with your brand.
So… get going! #GreatBlogPost #Awesomesauce #TotallyRelevantHashtagHere