The Storytelling Power of People: How To Treat All Customers Like Influencers

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Whether it’s a sandwich shop with a graffiti wall, a gym with top-of-the-line custom equipment or a doctor’s office with gourmet snacks in the waiting room, businesses spend a lot of time, effort and capital crafting a unique and enjoyable brand experience within the four walls of their venue. Here’s the problem -- while regular customers appreciate the experience, that valuable piece of your brand’s message never travels beyond the front door. Potential customers miss out on the fun, and you miss out on an opportunity to attract them with what may be the most unique and exciting part of your business.

This is why user-generated content (UGC) is so important. Thanks to smartphones and social media, businesses now have the opportunity to extend their in-venue branding much farther than the constraints of a brick-and-mortar location. Here’s how harnessing UGC will help communicate your brand’s story to people who haven’t even ever walked through the door.

Emotion

Each time a customer posts about your business, they are telling the singular story of their experience in a space. Since the human brain is built to be most receptive to information that follows a narrative structure, the emotions that the post carries become more salient and lasting than the emotions communicated by a brand. This salience is even more impactful if the post contains faces, as people are far likelier to respond to faces than other images.

Transparency

In 2018, consumers are wary of marketing and demand transparency. When they see a post from a customer, however, they see a true story involving a real person, rather than something created to target their wallets. No matter how well intentioned your marketing efforts are, people will always meet UGC with more trust and more openness to buying into its message.

Variety

A business only has so much money for marketing, which means it’s limited in the range of experiences and atmospheres it can broadcast to represent the brand. Customers, on the other hand, have unlimited power to share and promote businesses by posting about them on social media -- and they represent every experience a business is capable of providing because they are the ones who have had those experiences. Additionally, this content not only communicates with your audience, but also the network of those who created the UGC. This results in frequent and diverse exposure of what your business has to offer -- as long as you keep your customers posting.

How To Encourage Posts

Of course, UGC can only be effective if your customers are actively participating in it. If you’re struggling to gain traction with UGC, here are a few ways to encourage it:

• Social TV. Give customers their 15 seconds of fame on the TVs within your venue by showcasing their social media posts in real time. This “jumbotron effect” makes customers so excited at the chance to see themselves on TV that it will become the reason more customers post on social media from within your venue than ever before.

• Contests. The chance to win is enough motivation for most to snap a quick photo. Each post counts as an entry to the sweepstakes. You can push this method to the max by using a contest platform that allows multiple entries for different types of social sharing.

• Incentives. A simple quid pro quo will always guarantee an increase in desired behavior. Offer a reward in exchange for posting on social media. The ROI in marketing value will be worthwhile, and your customers will feel like you’ve given them a great deal.

• Instagrammable Decor. If there is one thing people love, it’s a cool backdrop for their photos. Whether it’s a flashy sign, a brightly colored wall or a quirky piece of art, this will help you become a social media destination as customers flock in specifically to post about your business.

UGC is an incredible way to extend your business’s unique and valuable in-venue experience beyond four walls, transforming the venue itself into a valuable marketing asset. It’s simple, low cost and effective. That said, it doesn’t happen on its own. Try different strategies to find what works best for your customers, and don’t be afraid to get creative. It will be #WorthIt.