June 08, 2016

Let Your Customers Tell Your Story

Andrea Kowalski - Bailador Technology Investments

Establishing a presence across leading social platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn) is paramount for a business to engage with its customers. Yet, is this use of social media in a brand’s marketing strategy enough to remain competitive?

The short answer is No. One of the most powerful social strategies a brand can pursue is to let its customers tell its story.  State-of-the-art tools enable a marketer to harness the suite of photos, videos, tweets, comments and blogs generated by a brand’s customers and use this content across the marketing tech stack (website, digital displays, e-commerce product pages, email marketing campaigns and retargeting ads), increasing the likelihood of conversion to sale.

Why is social content such a powerful influencer in the decision to purchase? Think back to buying a car in 1995: recommendations were sought from family and friends. If the car of interest was beyond this trusted circle’s familiarity, a third-party ‘expert’ (typically in the form of an auto guide) may have been sourced.

Trusted peers or ‘experts’ in their field also had a great influence on the popularity of many brands, even when their opinion was not directly solicited. Richard Gere in American Gigolo launched Armani’s career in suits. Equally, Carrie Bradshaw, of Sex in the City, introduced shoe brands Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo to millions of women.

The world has changed a lot since the 1990s, but the underlying mechanics remain the same: a recommendation from a member of a trusted social circle or peer group remains the greatest authority in our purchasing decisions, and brands cannot adequately compete unless they harness this power.

In industry language, this content generated by a brand’s customers is referred to as User-Generated-Content, or “UGC”. A marketing strategy underpinned by UGC has two core benefits: (1) it provides a source of trusted third-party validation, increasing conversion through greater authentication, and (2) it facilitates in a more cost efficient creation of content.

Any business in any industry can benefit from the power of social content. The spectrum of businesses affected by the UGC phenomenon ranges from social savvy tech companies to legacy telcos, and includes everything in-between: the big banks, offline retailers, non-profit organisations, retail giants, government agencies, high-profile athletes, electoral candidates.

Leveraging UGC can be as simple as installing a widget on a website or app, turning on its head the often repetitive nature of brand-produced content and replacing it with a steady stream of fresh, personalised, content. However, the variety of ways a company can leverage UGC doesn’t stop here.

Brands can showcase products in real-life scenarios at the point of sale on an e-commerce site or can provide a link between an item in a celebrity photo and the Checkout basket, encouraging greater conversion (Social Commerce).

A brand can leverage the social reach of its own customers to generate mass campaign exposure through a multi-network social competition (Competitions), having the double benefit of encouraging customers to generate more social content. Brands can also incorporate moderated UGC in its ad units in real time, promoting the positive experiences of customers and increasing click-through rates in comparison to brand-produced content (Social Advertising).

The list of use cases is interminable. It comes down to the creativity of the marketing team and the capability of the solution to address probably the greatest challenge of an organisation’s marketing department today: the typical use of 17 different tools to deliver its marketing strategy.

There are a number of solutions that aim to address this challenge and leverage the UGC opportunity. Companies such as Stackla, Livefyre, Crowdtap, Chute, Olapic, and Curalate provide the technology that aggregates, curates, and distributes UGC across the marketing stack and all its tools already in place, though the offering between these companies can differ materially.

Stackla is particularly unique in this sector with its suite of “Plug-ins”, which provide one-click integrations to easily incorporate UGC into digital retargeting and Facebook ads, across preferred Content-Management-Systems and Social Media Management platforms, within Customer Relationship Management profiles, in broadcast displays and more. It also provides a simple solution to request the rights from the user to showcase UGC in campaigns, ad units, and competitions, enabling fully customised terms & conditions and privacy policies.

Stackla also provides a brand’s marketing team with full control over the content incorporated, through sophisticated rules engines and moderation controls, and the look and feel of its displays with built-in cascading style sheet (“CSS”) editing tools. A brand’s IT department benefits from exceptional control and flexibility in terms of customisation, due to the open application programming interface (“API”) approach with which Stackla has built its platform.

Hundreds of globally recognised enterprise customers use Stackla’s platform, such as Disney, Jimmy Choo, Universal Music Group, SKY, McDonalds, Toyota, Lenovo, Waitrose, Top Shop, The White House, UK Labour Party, helloworld, Crown Resorts, Vogue, Qantas, Unilever, Ford, Olgilvy, Starbucks, Amnesty International, Jamie Oliver, and Gordon Ramsay.

If you wish to invest in Stackla as it enriches marketing strategies globally, the only way to get access to it right now is through an investment in ASX listed Bailador Technology Investments (ASX:BTI), where Stackla is one of the seven digital companies in Bailador’s investment portfolio.

About BTI: BTI is an expansion capital fund focused on the information technology sector in Australasia. BTI invests through minority positions in companies that have a proven business model, established revenue base and excellent growth prospects. BTI always secures board representation and works closely with management and founders to support execution and expansion. BTI listed on the ASX in November 2014 (ASX:BTI).