These days, consumers are taking to social media in their thousands to discuss their brand experiences, but is anyone listening? Well, a savvy few are, but many brands are still locked in the mind-set of using these channels to broadcast and push content out to like-minded consumers. In order to work effectively however, social strategies need to go beyond this and truly engage in conversation – or as one of our digital team members is always saying – stop using a megaphone to communicate – use a telephone instead where conversation is able to take place.

With easy access to content creation tools at their hands, brands must accept the fact that consumers will eventually talk about them with or without their consent and that they will do it when and how they want to. In fact, we’re in an age where in social media the power really is to the people, and the way a brand behaves online, really can make – or break a business.

What is in a brands control however, is how they as a company manage their output and relationship with a customer. Social Media itself is an always-on listening tool, and the User Generated Content (UGC) is nothing less than a chance for brands to jump into the conversation and engage with their customers.

To tap into the right conversations, here’s what you need to do in three steps:

1) Keep your eyes and ears open

Being able to listen to the stories your customers are telling is key. A user story can sometimes be significantly more powerful than a multi-million-campaign promotion. A simple Instagram photo from a user who tagged #Burberry is not quite comparable to the reach and awareness of using David Beckham as an ambassador, but it’s an independent endorsement of your brand – plus it’s free!

There are several social media listening tools out there (free to use or not) that you can use to track and monitor mentions – take a look at Sysomos, Simply Measured and Brandwatch for starters.

2) Acknowledge UGC

The concept of a consumer spontaneously taking a photo and somehow including your brand is very impactful. Brands have to acknowledge the effort, and reward it.

When appropriate, jump on the conversation and engage with users, even if the mention is negative there’s still room for using humour or taking it as constructive criticism.

From a simple ‘like’, ‘favourite’ or comment, could be the start of an influencer relationship – there’s lots of ways to benefit from that content.

3) Make the most of it!

If you’re wondering where to find that content, you should definitely head to Instagram, the fastest growing network with the most engaged audience of all the mainstream social networks. According to the latest figures, Instagram is 58 times more engaging than Facebook and 120 times more engaging than Twitter.

Tools such as Olapic are trawling social platforms like Instagram and Facebook for product use and brand mentions, giving brands a wider context with which their products are being used. Brands can showcase consumer generated photos on their website or social platforms which can link through to their e-commerce page where users can purchase the photographed item.

It even allows brands like COACH to use UGC to initiate the launch of their campaign (with the hashtag #CoachFromAbove) and highlight spontaneous content they receive as a big part of their communications.

Remember folks - brand content is not just reserved for brands now, everyone can participate in it. We all have to consider it as an always-on research and development tool that can shape the future of brands. All we have to do is embrace it.


By Raphael Diai, Social Media Manager at Collider. 

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