In 1999, Keanu Reeves took the world by storm when he fought intelligent machines in a Matrix-style trench coat. Neo singled-handedly made kung fu and trench coats the epitome of cool before Y2K. In 2009, Burberry launched one of the best user-generated campaigns in the history of online marketing. The Art of The Trench showcased happy customers in trench coats and gained Burberry a 50% increase in online sales that year. Now, in 2019, trench coats are still an iconic garment. While Neo may have made trench coats cool, British military officers first wore the Burberry trench during the First World War. Even then, the Burberry epitomized rank and prestige. So, yes, user-generated content can increase conversions. In fact, it’s one of the most powerful marketing weapons at your disposal.
Today, people increasingly rely on fellow consumers to guide their purchasing decisions. In fact, a whopping 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends. Central to this trend is the increasing popularity of user-generated content (UGC). For its part, UGC can play a key role in a restaurant’s ability to increase conversions.
What exactly is User-Generated Content (UGC)?
UGC encompasses different types of content written, created, or produced by consumers, as opposed to brand representatives. The most common types of UGC include:
- Product reviews written by verified buyers of consumer products.
- Testimonials provided by consumers who desire to share their experiences about a particular service.
- Social media posts centered around a person’s experience with a product or business.
- Forum posts about specific items written by members of the forum.
- Case studies that detail a consumer’s journey with a business or retailer.
- Videos that capture a person’s experience with a particular business.
- Blog posts that summarize a customer’s observations or opinions about a particular product.
Why Consumers Create User-Generated Content
Many reasons exist for why consumers choose to create content about brands. All in all, consumers create content for a variety of reasons, from the desire to voice their opinions about a product to the need to engage meaningfully with a brand. Here are just a few:
- Some consumers are part of online forums that exist to provide members with honest assessments about consumer products.
- A modest number of consumers enjoy creating unique content for their own websites and blogs.
- Others create UGC because the brand resonates with them. Read about Brita Lynn Thompson’s winning entry in the Starbucks White Cup Contest. Brita wanted to create art for a brand she trusted.
- Another group of consumers are simply eager to share their positive or negative experiences with others.
Trust: The Power Behind Brand Loyalty
“50 percent (of study respondents) indicated that they wouldn’t trust a product’s branded website for an unbiased assessment of a product, and 61 percent were less likely to trust product reviews paid for by the company selling the product.”
– Nielsen and inPowered
Consumers place little trust in brand-generated content. They believe that companies have few incentives to produce unbiased reviews of their products. Today, modern consumers overwhelmingly gravitate towards UGC to learn about companies and their brands. The human connection sparks a very important element of interest, but it also does something else: inspire trust. In the marketing world, brand loyalty is unquestionably linked to trust. How you respond to a bad online review, for example, speaks volumes about your brand. When customers see sincere efforts on your part to remedy errors, trust is borne. Read how Zappos inspires trust with its flower campaign and unique brand of customer service.
User-Generated Content Lends Authenticity To Brands
The majority of consumers crave authenticity in brand messaging. In particular, consumers appreciate businesses that are upfront and transparent about their product offerings. Contrary to expectations, they don’t expect perfection. In fact, consumers appreciate the slight imperfections in UGC because they highlight the content’s authenticity. There are many ways UGC brings authenticity to brands, including the following:
- Videos have a “real” street vibe because they’re prepared by actual consumers, as opposed to highly compensated videographers.
- Written content generates more visceral reactions because it’s written from a buyer’s perspective.
Don’t believe us? Think about YouTube videos: chances are you’re familiar with the content of at least one viral video from the last year. In fact, viral YouTube videos are so popular that CBS has cataloged the top ones from 2018.
“While it’s easy to get hung up on creating high-quality content, it’s important to remember that sometimes a shaky YouTube video can actually convert better than a million-dollar ad campaign. That’s because for today’s consumers, authenticity is much more important than looking professional.”
– Sprinklr, American Marketing Association (AMA)
How User-Generated Content Increases Conversions For Restaurants
If you’re not certain what can be considered UGC, think #InstaFood – probably one of the most prolific uses of social media for restaurants in history and directly related to the UGC for restaurants topic. UGC increases conversions for restaurants in two key ways. First, rave reviews give consumers a reason to check out new restaurants. Patrons who post UGC are often eager to spread the word about a restaurant’s great food and service. So, restaurants with favorable UGC will enjoy a higher number of conversions.
Second, UGC increases conversions by boosting a restaurant’s SEO ranking. Here’s how: Search engines generally prioritize new, relevant content. So, a fresh influx of original content surrounding a brand is bound to inspire interest. The result is an increase in conversion rates. Think about this: 80% of Instagram accounts follow a business on the platform. Unsurprisingly, hashtag UGC campaigns are extremely lucrative. They have a 4.5% higher conversion rate than any other type of content on Instagram.
UGC provides authentic details about what patrons can expect at a restaurant. Most importantly, the content is written from a consumer’s perspective, thereby helping to increase traffic and brand loyalty.
“User-generated content (UGC) in the form of images, videos, and reviews conveys valuable information about what a diner can expect from a locale. UGC also serves as free advertising for featured restaurants. User content helps brands cultivate a loyal online community of followers, and also drives foot traffic to restaurants.”
– Tessa Wegert, Shutterstock
How Demographics Influence Platform Selection
Authenticity is important to members of all demographic groups. However, 3 key groups stand out in terms of platform selection: Millennials, Generation Xers, and Baby Boomers choose very differently when it comes to social media. For instance, Millennials spend more time on Instagram and Facebook Messenger than any other platform. They’re also more likely to use SnapChat than other demographic groups. Here are some other key findings to consider for restaurants that cater to these demographic groups:
- Pinterest is more popular among women than men. In fact, 85% of women see Pinterest as an inspirational platform. The main power behind Pinterest? Women aged 25-54, who are responsible for 80% of household purchases.
- LinkedIn is more popular among college graduates and consumers with higher incomes.
- WhatsApp is used more frequently by Latinos than other groups.
“Photos are also the most common form of UGC created by Millennials, according to Statista. Product reviews are another popular form: They make up 29 percent of the UGC which is created and shared. This is important, as Millennials and Gen-Z use “visual” as their way of communicating — hence the popularity of Snapchat, Musical.ly and Instagram.”
– Travis Wright, Marketing Land
How Restaurants Can Reward Customers Who Create User-Generated Content
So, you get it: UGC is great for business. But, how do you go about motivating your customers to create UGC? Ideally, customers should generate UGC on an ongoing basis. The bottom line? Rewarding customers who create UGC is one of the best ways to motivate continued interest in your brand. The rewards offered should reflect the nature of your business and should be designed to encourage brand loyalty. Here are some ways you can reward customers who create UGC:
- Feature their content in your restaurant’s newsletter or on your website
- Offer a guest blogging spot to customers who provide the best written content
- Provide a discount or gift card to the customer who posts the most useful content each week
- Offer a prize to the top video post each week
User-generated content is organic marketing with a high ROI. Take, for example, Coca Cola’s “Share A Coke” campaign, which premiered in 2014. That year, Coca Cola emblazoned 250 of the most popular names in America on the front of its 20-oz Coke bottles. Millions of Coke fans rushed out to purchase bottles with their names or the names of their loved ones on them. Once they found them, many posted their stories on social media. The reward? A chance to be featured on Coke billboards all across the country. Ingenious? Yes. Coca Cola repeated the campaign in 2018, with a unique twist.
How Social Media Campaigns And Contests Increase Conversions
“People want to connect with their food and those that serve it. But for this bond to exist, brands must demonstrate transparency. It’s easy to hide behind canned copy and a logo, but this approach leaves users feeling as though you are hiding something. A humanized marketing message increases customer loyalty and satisfaction.”
– Total Food Service
Pew Research indicates that over half of all internet users regularly create and share videos and photos online.So, restaurant owners should definitely capitalize on the UGC trend. Using social media to encourage this type of UGC is one of the best ways to help increase conversions. Here are some key points to remember to help spur conversions:
- Keep track of the types of UGC that are currently trending
- Center your social media campaigns around the most popular types of UGC
- Keep customers engaged and enthusiastic by introducing special campaigns and contests to name/create new dishes
- Track competitor campaigns, and implement rival campaigns to capture market interest
How 9Fold Makes A Difference
With its uniquely authentic flair, UGC plays a larger role than ever in boosting conversions. When managed properly, UGC can be a game changer for restaurants seeking to expand their reach and increase their profit margins. We invite you to contact us at 9Fold to find out how you too can employ UGC to increase conversions. With our proven system, the average restaurant can convert 25% of third-party online orders after the first 90 days. Increasing revenues is easy with the right experts at your side!