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User-Generated Content Is How You Get Your Customers to Sell for You User-generated content is on the rise because people trust reviews from their friends more than anything.

By Aaron Orendorff Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Denys Prykhodov | Shutterstock

Let's start with the bad news: You are not your company's best salesperson.

In fact - no matter how effective your training, incentive or marketing programs may be -- nobody within your business is as good at selling as your customers. This is why brands are taking advantage of user-generated content (UGC).

According to Business Insider, shoppers who interact with UGC are 97 percent more likely to convert with a retailer than customers who do not.

The science behind UGC on social media is built on the principle of social proof.

According to Yotpo, at its most basic level, user content marketing is based on a psychological response known as social proof. Social proof explains we are hardwired to learn from others to help us avoid making potentially harmful choices. For example, if we see someone else touch a hot pan and experience pain, we are probably not going to try it for ourselves.

Take the online retailer Chubbies. Chubbies' Facebook Page is a healthy mix of original content pointing back to their site, social-friendly shares, which heavily reflect their ethos, and UGC.

A recent Shopify case study highlights what Chubbies got right. "Rather than pictures of the founders in skimpy shorts or professional models with rock star-like features, Chubbies wants real men to show off their retro shorts known for their forgiving elastic waist bands."

To do that, Chubbies actively solicits, and shares first-hand UGC:

Image Credit: Chubbies

As a result, Chubbies doesn't talk at their customers; even less is the majority of their top-of-funnel content explicitly "marketing."

Instead, they lean on their audience to tell their own stories - through images, videos and words -- about the Chubbies' lifestyle. Leading with UGC across all their social platforms has amassed Chubbies nearly 1.5 million Facebook fans and over 272,000 Instagram followers - all for a men's shorts company.

Another brilliant example of UGC is the "Share a Coke" campaign.

screenshot-twitter com 2016-05-30 11-38-17.png

Image Credit: Yotpo

Coca-Cola produced personalized bottles of Coke with names on them, and customers were asked to upload images of themselves with the bottles to social media. Coke attributes this campaign to a two percent increase in revenue, which might sound small, until you consider that Coke's full-year cash from operations [in 2015] was $10.5 billion.

Related: The Rise of User-Generated Content

More recently, for a prize of €12,000, Coke set up a competition where customers were required to create a short video explaining why they enjoyed Coke. The IMC Director of Coke reported the result of the competition as six million online mentions with 92 percent cost saving efficiencies from new marketing ideas, all generated by their target audience.

Omni-channel marketing means bridging your sales and marketing avenues - most notably in-person retail with online content -- for one, seamless customer journey.

These hand-offs between brick-and-mortar shopping and online content have becoming increasingly vital because "82 percent of all shoppers check their phones while in store before making a purchase."

Related: 3 Ways to Supercharge Your Content Marketing Strategy

For instance, C&A, a large fashion retailer in Brazil, is one brick-and-mortar store that has identified the benefits of connecting offline and online initiatives. Understanding the need for social validation before purchasing offline, the retailer added hangers with clothes items that shoppers could "Like" in real time.

The result? One-thousand new fans every hour. Some of the collection was sold out in a day, and more than 1,700 blog posts were created from this initiative.


Image Credit: SmartInsights

If creating interactive hangers sounds complicated, there are two simple solutions that meet customers where they are.

First, adding QR codes to your in-store products that link directly to customer-review pages - like Best Buy does --anticipates retail shoppers demand for social proof prior to making a purchase.

Image Credit: SmartInsights

Second, you can also take digital advantage of your physical displays by "featuring consumer-generated content on screens throughout their stores." This is exactly what won Caleba's, an outdoor sports retailer, Digiday's Retail Award for "Best In-Store Digital Retail Experience."

Related: 8 Ways to Do Big-Time Marketing Without Spending a Fortune

In addition, as CIO reports, retailers can also "promote content sharing within stores by displaying [brand-related] hashtags on signage and on monitors and kiosks and encouraging customers to share content right then."

As hard as it might be to accept, you are not your own best salesperson. Your customers are. Knowing this means prioritizing UGC at two strategic levels: social media and omni-channel marketing.

Brands that focus their efforts not on selling themselves but on encouraging their customers to sell them can achieve what traditional marketing methods fail at: building trust, earning credibility and selling more.

Aaron Orendorff

Freelance Copywriter and Content Strategist

Aaron Orendorff is a regular contributor at Mashable, Fast Company, Business Insider and more as well as the founder of iconiContent where he’s busy “saving the world from bad content.”

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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