When brands are looking to launch new products and services onto the market, digital channels offer a cost effective way to support more traditional methods of communication and provide the capability of reaching an incredibly diverse audience of potential consumers.

While it's standard practice to promote your new product with beautifully written marketing prose and lavishly shot studio images, today's consumer is more influenced by their peers than the polished messages from big brands. That's why brands at the forefront of digital expertly mix their own branded content with content created and shared by their consumers and advocates. They understand that user-generated content (UGC) is credible and authentic, and when harnessed has the capability to persuade consumers to consider and purchase products.

Research from L2 Think Tank, suggests that while 93% of prestige brands have their own Instagram accounts, only 14% of them feature Instagram images on the pages of their websites. This represents a missed opportunity, because research from The Laundry discovered that Instagram images on websites achieve a 25% higher conversion rate than pages featuring only glossy brand photography.

So whether it's breaking news on Twitter, rave reviews on YouTube, aspiration on Pinterest or inspiration on Instagram, brands are discovering, curating and publishing UGC into their social, mobile and web channels to support to reinforce their new product messaging.

A recent example is Costa and the launch of their new concept store. The nation's favourite coffee shop pulled on its oven gloves and opened its first food-led concept store, Costa Fresco, in London. The specially designed store environment, features designated zones for relaxing and a new way of presenting freshly baked food. Specially trained staff advise, bake and serve the new menu of oven-fresh food, along with Costa's famous irresistible barista made coffee.

So what better way to promote their new concept store than to hear what their employees and customers thought of the new concept, by curating a range of UGC and mixing it with content created by Costa itself. In the example above, Costa created a standalone page on their website for Costa Fresco and then published great shots of the new range of food, drinks and the new store environment.

What's more, brands who feature UGC on their websites typically see longer dwell-times on their web pages and higher clicks on featured calls to action. This a a great way for brands to move people through to data capture experiences (e.g. sweepstakes), encourage mobile app downloads and even (as in Costa's case) get people to sign-up to your loyalty programme.

And, by embedding tracking codes within these socially-curated pages, marketers are able to understand which type of content performs best and then feature more of this in future iterations.

Additional research from Evercore established that brand engagement rises by 28% when visitors are exposed to both UGC and professionally produced images. Finally, comScore discovered a 7% boost in sales conversions when consumer created photos are featured at the point of sales.

So, if you're looking to launch a new product or promote a new service, take the opportunity to tap into the voices of your advocates and consumers. They'll give you the social proof you need to persuade consumers to consider your offering and drive commerce."

Top tips when launching a social media campaign:

1) Be authentic - not promotional

Avoid appearing overly promotional, because it won't appeal to consumers and definitely won't engage them to follow you. Instead try to tie your content into current events or cultural moments that are of interest to your audience. Not only responding to national holidays and cultural moments, but the thoughtful brand should also be in tune with major events happening across the news cycle, with an in-depth understanding of when it is and isn't appropriate to chime in.

2) Have a relatable hashtag

The name of the game in social media branding is subtlety. It's unrealistic to expect even the most ardent brand loyalists to frequently tout your brand's slogan in hashtag form. But by adopting more universal hashtags a brand is able to build a community around shared values. 

3) Include a call-to-action

As social media marketing becomes more and more sophisticated, brands need to be thinking beyond gathering likes when creating a strategy for building engagement. Successful brands always try to include a call-to-action in their posts to activate their followers. Whether that's "go to our site for more info" or "follow us for updates". 

4) Reward & recognise contributors

Run a contest or competition around a campaign hashtag with prizes and experiences as rewards. In this way brands are able to incentivise engagement, and improve loyalty, whilst capturing data on all participants.

5) Call-out collaborators or partners

Collaborate with creators that share a slightly overlapping fan base. Thanking your collaborators shows appreciation and strengthens your relationships, it also allows you to tap into their existing follower base that can help you build yours.


By Richard Jones, CEO and co-founder of EngageSciences

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