Duncan Hendy, Content Strategy Manager at Kentico Software
Today, the reach of a truly engaged community is something no company can achieve on their own. Companies that allow others to interact with their brands and advocate on their behalf not only encourage loyalty and enable the quality content creation, but also increase their reputations and grow mutual respect.
In an era of crowd sourcing and funding, user-generated content (UGC) makes perfect commercial sense. Digitally perceptive consumers are happy to take guidance on what to share, yet only a small minority of brands provide any guidelines on what to write. The ability to provide guidance on what UGC the company embraces can help businesses spread their message further and let others be their mouthpiece.
There are two great types of UGC today—content generated by consumers themselves and content generated by employees. These forms of brand advocacy increase credibility and allow businesses to gain actionable insights into the way their brand is perceived. However, before any Asian business rushes to transform its community into a digital marketing force, it is prudent to provide consumers with some background on the company’s values and guidance around content.
Shoppers of the World, Unite
Telling a business’ story from a user’s perspective means potential customers can start to imagine how they can relate to a brand and make it part of their lives. Consumer generated social proof such as blogs, social media posts and testimonials promote a product as something that is valued and trusted on a consumer level and allows consumers to promote their perspectives in their voice coming across as genuine and open.
A helping hand
Businesses should consider a brand bible. A brand bible helps consumers understand a company’s values and aspirations as well as giving them access to the correct logos and other useful resources. It also gives them a sneak peek behind the scenes into what makes the brand tick—like a trusted confidante. Moreover, the important word here is guide, not dictate. The brand bible merely allows them to align their understanding of the company and their perceptions.
There are two great types of UGC today—content generated by consumers themselves and content generated by employees.
It empowers them to communicate their thoughts more clearly and to feel connected and valued on an emotional level. And emotions sell.
Many people humanize brands and stand by the brands value. If consumers have the opportunity to engage and feel a part of something, it makes them feel special. Think of your favorite brand and imagine if they asked to hear your story. How much more connected would you feel? Would you become an even better customer? Chances are you would tell anyone who would listen, share the brand’s story more often and buy more. It explains why UGC and brand advocacy goes hand-in-hand.
But what should it contain?
Ideally, a brand bible should contain the company vision, mission, promise, values, personality, and tone. These are the elements that hold a company together. It is also important to include a language and copy guides such as copy tone, writing tips and tricks, style samples, social media suggestions, and editorial guidelines. And don’t neglect graphics. Giving clear guidelines about logos, graphics and color suggestions can empower content creators as well. It is important to stress again that it is a guidebook, not a rulebook. Any business that starts imposing restrictions on their brand advocates and faces the danger of losing their trust.
Collaborate, not regulate
User generated content should be something that represents the consumers’ values not just the company’s. But the two should share some of the same values, the problem is—how do you regulate it? It is easy to spot spamming, but in the initial phases when communities are still establishing themselves, keeping a closer eye on the content is necessary. However, it should not feel like you are policing them. When your community reaches the stage of self-regulation, they tend to govern themselves, which is ideal and shows that they are effective bard advocates.
Best Friend on the Payroll
And don’t forget employee advocacy. Invite employees to be an active part of the businesses communication strategy, not only to encourage participation but also because employees are trusted as a voice more than just the company. Employee advocates can help boost online engagement and reach new online audiences. But to do this, companies must make employees want to share content. As part of their personal development, staff should be encouraged to develop their personal brand, supported by the company that provides them with content that they can tailor to their audiences.
You're Gonna Need Someone on Your Side
Put simply, businesses can thrive (or barely survive) based on the strength of their advocate community. A strong, well-informed advocate network can increase a brand’s reach and credibility, while disaffected consumers can ruin a company’s online reputation. It is vital that Asian businesses gain a better understanding of UGC today and support consumers and employees alike with appropriate guidance to advocate effectively.
Founded in 2004, Kentico Software is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner headquartered in the Czech Republic with offices around the world. Kentico has 1,000 digital solution partners and powers 25,000 websites across 100 countries.