How Brands Can Build Trust with Their Consumers Without Influencers
Adam Dornbusch, CEO and founder of EnTribe

Over the past decade, social media has become a core part of many direct-to-consumer brands’ marketing strategies. Boosting followers and posting quality content became a priority, and the rise of influencers presented an opportunity to reach consumers through a public figure they knew and trusted. Influencer marketing has since taken off, with brands expected to spend more than $4 billion on sponsored posts this year. However, brands should now question the return on investment (ROI) of influencer marketing because it could hurt their relationship with customers.

A recent study found that 85% of consumers find influencers inauthentic and/or unrelatable, and 64% report seeing sponsored content every time or almost every time they open social media. As a result, consumers are experiencing “influencer fatigue,” meaning brands need to find alternative ways to build trust and resonate with new and existing customers. An effective means of doing so is through user-generated content (UGC) campaigns that leverage content created by actual customers. Not only does UGC bring much-needed authenticity to marketing campaigns, but it also helps strengthen the brand-customer relationship at a fraction of the cost.

Authenticity Matters

Consumers’ perception of a brand transcends even the largest marketing budgets, and today’s consumers value authenticity and transparency. They no longer trust products or services promoted by an influencer with #ad or #sponsor attached but instead want to hear from everyday people (friends, family, peers) that they recommend a brand and their product or service. In fact, 85% of consumers reported they would prefer to see brands share content from actual customers, and by doing so, 84% of consumers would be more likely to trust the brand, and 77% would be more inclined to purchase their products or services.

Implementing a UGC strategy that leverages photos and videos created by customers allows brands to put their customers’ voices and authentic content at the center of their marketing campaigns, which will boost brand reputation and trustworthiness.

UGC Doesn’t Mean Sacrificing Quality

Customers are more likely to return if brands provide them with opportunities to showcase their experiences with their products. Nearly two-in-three (65%) consumers between the ages of 18-44 would be more loyal to a brand if they requested and used their content in marketing initiatives. This desire among customers to provide brands with content presents an opportunity for brands to turn their customers into a loyal army of micro-influencers that can act as an extension of the company. When sending the request for content submission, whether that be via email or a note in the package, brands should provide clear instructions for the type of content they’re looking for to ensure it meets brand guidelines and can be used in marketing materials. This can include directions on what to avoid in images, lighting type, preferred backgrounds, etc.

To further incentivize customers to submit quality content, brands should also make it easy to upload the content via a widget or provide a specific hashtag to include (if it’s a social media contest) as well as provide a reward such as brand swag, reward points or a discount on a future purchase.

Sourcing content from customers creates a sense of community between them and the brand, which improves trust and makes these customers feel heard and valued. Implementing a UGC strategy will strengthen the brand-customer relationship. Because of that, customers will be that much more dedicated to submitting high-quality, brand-approved content because it offers a win-win for both parties. Brands get the authentic content consumers are demanding, and participating customers get to be featured in marketing materials and receive a reward.

Streamline the UGC Process

A key component of a successful UGC program is efficient management of the content to keep it organized and easy to sort through. One of the best ways brands can achieve this is by turning to a UGC platform that allows companies to store and search for specific content easily, retain the rights to publish said content, and reward the creator who provided the content. Features offered through these platforms include embeddable personalized widgets, immediate rights clearance upon content submission, content tagging features for easy organization, direct-to-consumer communication tools, options to share content with third-party vendors securely, and more.

Using a quality UGC platform is an essential part of a brand’s UGC strategy to improve the experience for both themselves and customers. For example, sharing a widget that has customers agree to terms and conditions and providing their basic information before uploading keeps the process simple for them. On the backend, brand marketers are able to track, organize and share content easily, and also easily communicate with creators and track who is most active.

As more brands start to emphasize their customer retention rates, companies will need to evolve their marketing strategies to keep up with consumer preferences — which starts with prioritizing user-generated content. In addition, UGC programs breathe authenticity into brand marketing initiatives, which will strengthen relationships with existing customers and build awareness and trust among new ones.

Adam Dornbusch is the Founder & CEO of EnTribe, one of the first SaaS platforms to help build a community of creators for brands. EnTribe enables access to fresh content by connecting brands with all the active members of their community, and boosts customer engagement by bridging the gap between what brands want and what they share.