Over 95 percent of users read their texts within five minutes, thanks to mobile Short Message Service (SMS). Most of these users also create user-generated content (UGC) for social media and websites on a consistent basis.
This synergy can offer significant marketing potential for your business if you know how to harness the power of UGC. Today, we’ll look at proven steps you can take to engage your target audience and enhance your SMS efforts using UGC.
We’ll look at:
- Building trust in your brand through SMS communications
- Attaining high-quality UGC
- Sending UGC to existing opt-ins
- Inviting new customers to opt in
- The power of social proof
- Motivating sales and affirming purchases through UGC
- Collecting influential reviews and visual UGC
- Avoiding risks associated with UGC
But first, let’s go over why it’s so important to connect with consumers via SMS.
Connecting With Your Target Audience via SMS Marketing
The buyer journey is becoming increasingly omnichannel, making it imperative that brands connect with shoppers on their mobile devices, as this is where a good deal of their time is spent. How much time? The average consumer spends more than four hours a day on their phone, and with the current pandemic, that number continues to rise.
Additionally, consumers are actively engaging with content while on their phones. In fact, nearly 99 percent of all SMS messages are opened. And 56 percent of consumers prefer to share product feedback with brands directly through SMS. It’s estimated that more than half of all sales will soon occur over mobile, making this the optimal time to get serious about reaching your target audience using SMS marketing.
Building Trust in Your Brand Through Well-Received SMS Communications
Now that we’ve established why reaching consumers through SMS is beneficial, let’s talk about the role of user-generated content in these SMS initiatives. UGC in the form of customer ratings and reviews is considerably more effective than spending money on native and paid advertising. This can be attributed to the growing distrust that consumers express toward corporate marketing campaigns.
Users are wary of texts from self-promoting businesses that tout how amazing their products or services are. They have also seen enough fake reviews to distinguish them from truthful feedback.
To build trust in your brand from the first text, consider that the most well-received messages are those that present authentic experiences of actual customers, as well as deals or promotions that benefit the user on the other end of the text.
Since today’s consumer is more apt to trust the opinions of their peers, text messages containing UGC in the form of customer reviews and feedback will garner a more positive reaction. To increase your brand’s credibility and boost conversion rates, incorporate original, relatable UGC into your SMS efforts.
Leveraging Your Audience’s Shopping Habits and Preferences
If you’re already shifting your focus to SMS marketing, you can enhance your marketing campaign through user-generated content, improving your ROI substantially. Created by your customers, UGC in the form of images, video, and texts that include testimonials, reviews, ratings, and posts associated with your business or brand can leverage the habits and preferences of your audience for increased revenue.
Many online shoppers take the feedback of other customers into account before deciding on a brand to purchase from. Specifically, more than 90 percent of users report seriously considering reviews in their decision to purchase a product or service. When contemplating a purchase, mobile users often check the following feedback from other customers before doing so:
- User ratings and reviews on Facebook, Google, Yelp, and other platforms
- Video testimonials or demos
- Photos of the product or its results
- Articles and blog posts about the brand or product
- Influencer opinions and buyer’s guides
The amount of time consumers spend on their mobile devices continues to increase, and during this time they are actively engaging with content. Meet these users where they’re at by offering them UGC that verifies their decision to shop your brand from their phones.
By incorporating user-generated feedback into your marketing strategy, you can take your brand’s SMS marketing campaign to the next level, improving conversion rates in the case of new users and boosting the rate of converting existing customers into repeat customers.
Here are some specific steps you can take to engage your target audience and grow your SMS efforts using UGC:
Step 1) Attain High-Quality User-Generated Content
Encourage loyal customers and clients to share their testimonials in the form of user-generated content. The most effective way to request UGC is by offering content creators something of value in return for their feedback.
If your target audience includes anyone over 20 years of age and under 60, then your viewers are also individuals who control their household’s purchases. And many of these purchases are the result of online shopping.
Users between 20 and 60 years old are in the habit of sharing their buying experiences online in the form of posts and tweets. They are also familiar with writing product reviews on major shopping sites and contributing their opinions to buying guides.
These online shoppers and content creators may upload photos and videos of them using, wearing, and singing the praises of their favorite service or product. And these brand enthusiasts can be your ambassadors if you encourage them to create content on your behalf.
A successful SMS campaign inspires its customers to share their reviews. To motivate your customers, offer them something of value in exchange for their feedback, and suggest that they respond in the form of user-generated content. The most popular incentive offered to customers for any feedback given is discounted pricing in exchange for an honest rating.
There are several effective versions of this offer, including:
- A cash voucher to apply against the next purchase
- A gift with the next purchase
- A personalized thank-you and invitation to provide feedback
- Discounts such as 10 percent off the next purchase
Show your online shoppers that your brand respects their time by making it as effortless as possible for them to leave reviews. This can be accomplished by including the site link in text messages, allowing the customer to simply click the link and submit their content.
For the highest SMS engagement, seek out quality content. Any UGC that is part of your SMS efforts should align with your brand’s values and resonate with your audience. The most effective user-generated content is creative and compelling.
Avoid including blurry photos. And forego any video or text that contains the labels or logos of competing brands. That being said, the UGC that makes it into your SMS marketing campaigns should not be so polished that customers find it unrelatable. Striking a balance is the name of the game.
UGC Types to Benefit SMS Marketing
There is an abundance of user-generated content out there, but not all UGC types will benefit all organizations’ SMS efforts. Get familiar with the various types of UGC and select one or two that make the most sense for your brand to focus on:
Ratings and Written Reviews
Data reveals that more than half of users ages 25 to 54 check brand reviews before making a purchase. This age group also relies on text messaging as their preferred form of personal communications, and does most of their online browsing and shopping from a mobile device.
If this demographic describes your target audience, then you need to be aware that they are in the habit of creating and consuming content on their cell phones. While written reviews are always in style, an image or video is more likely to stand out and is generally easier for users with short attention spans to digest.
Images and Videos
Less effort is required to click on a video than to read a review, making videos appealing to the multitasking masses. A video testimonial is also more believable than a written review that we are to assume came from an actual customer, making it more persuasive.
Users who check reviews are looking for details about their peers’ impressions, including any customer service interactions and experiences tracking online orders. A short and sincere video clip that delivers a brief but compelling story about customer satisfaction can provide these details and engage your audience.
If your feedback process includes allowing consumers to upload images of products they’ve purchased, be prepared to screen content for appropriateness before pushing it through to your SMS list. Many companies don’t have the resources to screen high volumes of content before sharing it, and choose to team up with a moderation company for more comprehensive content moderation solutions.
Step 2) Send UGC to Existing Opt-Ins
For brands in the beginning stages of integrating UGC into their SMS marketing campaigns, start with your mobile audience, as they have already opted into your SMS communications. These customers or potential customers are currently engaged with your brand, and will be receptive to your message.
To generate repeat business when you reach out to mobile users SMS, demonstrate to these opt-ins how your service or product has met a need or solved a problem for their fellow users. This message from a Health and Fitness Coach is an impressive example of messaging to opt-ins:
Step 3) Invite New Customers to Opt In
In order to leverage the power of SMS marketing campaigns, customers need to opt in and provide contact information to receive texts from your brand. Once they do, you can share and request reviews and ratings via text, capitalizing on the high engagement rates and mobile-optimized experiences that SMS offers.
Opt-in pop-up forms are a popular tool for attaining email addresses and building your subscriber list, and this same approach can be utilized for building your SMS audience. You can invite new customers to opt-in on your website’s homepage, and a creative way to ask for mobile numbers is to pair email and text messaging opt-in requests.
Once you enable email capture pop-ups on your homepage, you can arrange to have a mobile number capture pop-up open after a viewer provides their email address:
IMAGE: Lascana Screenshot – Mobile Number Pop-Up
You can also streamline the opt-in process by enabling a pop-up that captures a user’s email and mobile number at the same time:
IMAGE: Specialized Email & Text
If you have existing customers that aren’t already signed up for mobile alerts, but are email subscribers, you can include a mobile number capture pop-up in upcoming e-newsletters. Send targeted campaigns to subscribed contacts based on their previous purchases.
For instance, you can send emails to customers who have purchased Product A asking for a review of the product in exchange for a coupon:
IMAGE: Passion Planner – Review to Receive Coupon
At the end of the email, consider requesting the mobile number “to save on this and other top-rated products!” or receive a special offer:
IMAGE: Lascana – Text to Get Special Offers
Step 4) Never Underestimate the Power of Social Proof
Social proof, or social influence, is the idea that individuals will follow the actions of the masses. The assumption is that since so many others behave in a certain way, the behavior must be correct. Or in the case of online shopping, the purchasing habits of the masses must be correct.
97 percent of customers affirm that reviews factor into their buying decisions and 92 percent of consumers experience buyer analysis paralysis when there are no customer reviews to validate their selection. These figures just reinforce the importance of collection and distribution of customer reviews via text message.
Your brand’s presence online most certainly affects conversion rates, so remove any reason for your shoppers to hesitate by offering social proof. You can deliver proof by linking to your website in text messages, but that’s just the beginning.
Display customer content at key conversion points across your site, such as your homepage. This may be as basic as displaying a banner at the bottom or your homepage featuring a recent client testimonial.
All your efforts to drive consumers to your website through SMS campaigns will be a waste if your site is not mobile-friendly. For a mobile-friendly site, focus on the following:
- Keep your website design simple
- Make website speed a priority
- Make your button sizes large enough to function on mobile
- Use large font sizes
In addition to displaying a review or two on your homepage, it’s recommended that you create a customer testimonial page on your site, dedicated to happy consumers and their feedback, so viewers don’t have to visit a third-party site to access reviews. The testimonial page should make it apparent that your customers enjoy using your product or service. If it does, your conversion rate will thrive!
You can also offer social proof by linking to influential customer reviews on Google, Yelp, and other directory pages in SMS texts. To turn your customer content into sales, take the initiative to collect and leverage ratings, but be as genuine as possible.
A Word About Negative Reviews: Honesty is the Best Policy
Your customers should feel free to share their content on the social channels that resonate with them. If a user that never posts on Instagram is suddenly touting your brand’s accodlades in their Instagram story, and you in turn push that UGC through to your SMS list, it can weaken the integrity of your brand. By encouraging them to post on sites they frequent anyway, your customers may connect new shoppers to your brand by linking to your social media accounts.
Many businesses are concerned that the negative reviews found in user-generated content will damage their brand’s integrity, but it’s fake reviews that can cause the most harm. If your volume of customer feedback is high, a few mediocre reviews are inevitable. What matters more than a dazzling (but suspicious) array of 5-star reviews is the amount of legitimate reviews and your company’s overall credibility.
Consumers are less likely to trust a brand that only displays 5-star reviews because they are aware that no service or product can please everyone, so don’t be afraid to present users with honest evaluations of your offering. By showcasing a range of star ratings on results pages and in on-site searches, you can transform browsing into a sale, again and again.
Don’t ban honest reviews that contain mixed feedback. Do weed out any reviews that you believe are unfounded or fake.
Step 5) Motivate Sales and Affirm Purchases through UGC
Once you have a steady stream of user-generated content flowing in, you can send SMS offers featuring this UGC to anyone who has opted in, as this brand has:
IMAGE: Real Shoe Picks
IMAGE: Real Review
And be sure to combine the real reviews with a mobile-users only offer. Doing so expresses your appreciation for their business and helps build solid brand loyalty:
IMAGE: Shop his Picks
Whether your organization offers software, pet grooming, or an online dating service, placing a time limit on promotions and discounts will motivate users to lock in their savings by acting quickly.
A “Thank you for your purchase” box is expected to pop up on your site immediately after an online shopper makes a purchase, but you can keep the shopping momentum going even after the sale via SMS. Once a sale is complete, continue to generate excitement through UGC.
It’s a good practice to send both an email and a text message that confirms the actual order while affirming the customer’s purchase. A simple phrase like this one will do, and it can be tailored to many different sales applications:
“You have good taste! Check out what other customers are saying about this product!”
SMS Marketing Tip: Don’t forget to link from the message to the appropriate web page so the consumer on the other end can actually read more opinions on that product or service!
Step 6) Collect Influential Reviews and Visual UGC
Your brand can and should use SMS to collect influential reviews and visual user-generated content that you can in turn use to produce more SMS subscribers. As your SMS list grows with the assistance of UGC, you can use that existing list of mobile users to request more user-generated content.
How? It’s as easy as sending messages that ask customers to leave reviews and testimonials on your website (don’t forget that link to your site!) in return for a “Thank you” discount. “Share your feedback to receive 15% off your next purchase” will often do the trick.
Product giveaways are also a creative, fun way to engage your audience and obtain reviews. Ask customers to upload a photo or video to be entered to win a giveaway. Encourage users to view what other customers have shared before adding their content.
If you are selling a service, class, or event that requires clients to provide their mobile number upon registration, then consider running a social media-based contest and using SMS to promote it. You can create interest in the contest by sending text messages like this:
Reminder: Use your SMS list to announce the giveaway winners as well!
Drive brand engagement using text messages by sending impactful, affirming messages that encourage shoppers to leave ratings and reviews. As a result, your brand can continue to build more trust among online shoppers and maximize customer lifetime value.
A Few Last Tips on Growing Your SMS Efforts via UGC
#1 Personalize Your Message
The virtual marketplace can feel rather impersonal at times, but you can communicate to customers that you recognize them as human beings and not just a dollar sign. Show them your appreciation by personalizing your messages.
Although it can be tempting to be informal in text messages, always address the customer by the first name or preferred name they have given.
To customize each message further, reference the customer’s most recent purchase and ask the user to provide feedback on this product or service. You can also use their buying history to frame any incentive you offer. Since you want to encourage customers to explore other products or services that your business offers, ensure that your promotion isn’t too narrow.
#2 Avoid Risks Associated with UGC
Customers prefer to see products in a relatable setting rather than on a boring background, which is why user-generated content is so valuable. UGC allows brands to display their products in the real world.
When you share UGC via text message, it’s not hard to increase your return on investment. And ratings and reviews in the form of videos and photos are especially potent additions to your marketing content.
But UGC in the form of reviews does come with its own set of risks, so make sure to curate submissions, whether they be text, photo, or video. Be diligent about vetting submissions to filter out offensive wording or graphics. Additionally, reviews should be moderated for legitimacy and relevancy.
If you’re launching a new product, you might decide to stream real-time video promoting the launch and inviting the public to send SMS messages back. Find a professional company to moderate any live SMS to ensure that not one offensive message slips through.
Finally, be sure to moderate in-app chat among staff that messages customers about promotions, live-streaming text campaigns, and SMS content for social media by teaming up with an experienced moderation company.
Successful SMS marketing campaigns demand real-world feedback. To monitor the effectiveness of your marketing strategies, invest in a robust text marketing platform that includes metrics. Detailed analytics provide insight into audience behaviors and demographics, so you can better know your brand enthusiasts and cultivate more profitable engagement with them.
The online shopping world has gone mobile, and the barrier to market entry has never been lower. To stand out and succeed in today’s marketplace, offer value and ask for a witness. When you do, your customers will oblige.
By leveraging the power of UGC, you can engage your target audience and enhance your SMS efforts. And you will do much more than simply build an SMS list and cultivate profitable interactions in the process. You’ll create a community of mobile users who share their enthusiasm for all that your brand offers and stands for.
About the Author:
Joshua Buxbaum is the Co-Founder and Sales Director at WebPurify, a privately held company specializing in profanity filtering and image and video moderation services.