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Engaging the youth through user-generated content

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Hemal

Today’s on-demand economy spells out how brands are being driven by their consumers. Brands and consumers are interacting in different ways across multiple touch points in today’s digitally enabled interactive environment. In an era of a hyper-connected population, social media has emerged as a primary channel for customer engagement. Brands across sectors are finding new ways not just to inform, entertain and inspire their audience, but to stimulate dialogue with them and develop relationships. Today, one of the most compelling online marketing scenarios for weaving together content, search and social media is user-generated content.

Crowdsourcing and user-generated content go beyond being just a production tool for companies. They don’t only function as a source of funding or an opportunity to dip into a pool of untapped talent to solve real time problems. They are, in fact, very effective marketing tools. Brands across the board are leveraging them as methods to generate content, drive campaign virality and conduct cost-effective market research.

The emergence of user generated content stems from the large number of people who are constantly voicing their opinion and engaging with brands and people on social media. Today, the consumer segment that is inextricably linked to this interactive digital space is the youth. They make up the most, demanding, dynamic and unpredictable consumer segment yet. When it comes to them, at a fundamental level, brands must do one of two things; make their lives easier or more exciting.

So, how does a brand stand out in the overrun competitive battlefield, break through the clutter and earn a customer’s loyalty? The key here is for brands to not be passive, but take an active stand to connect with this audience.

It is important for marketers to go beyond the digital basics and recognize social media’s potential for customer interaction and retention. While building the ‘right’ engagement platform, the focus has shifted from who the brand knows to what the brand knows about them. Marketers need to use the digital landscape to actively listen, engage and respond to their customers. They need to take stock of everything that effects their audience digitally, socially and environmentally in order to effectively engage with them.

This generation expects products and services on demand and they want choice – they are beginning a new journey as independent consumers and are defining themselves through the brands they choose. If their expectations aren’t met, they’ll move on quickly. Also, this is a generation with an incessant need to share their experiences with their peers via social media. Brands need to leverage this very characteristic and use engagement to harness their customers’ potential as influential brand advocates. Engaged customers have the potential to authentically endorse a brand to thousands of people instantly.

Through user-generated content, brands can seamlessly participate in relevant consumer conversations. They should aim to nurture their customers as individuals with their own stories, rather than conduct anonymous transactions. User-generated content is sharable, creates conversations, brings together onand offline realities, harnesses creativity and is credible to a brand’s target market.

We at Fastrack have conducted many such campaigns with an aim to tap into the youth’s natural desire to create and share, thus resulting in increased engagement levels, content created specifically for the brand, and an increased number of brand advocates. Campaigns of this nature allow our audience to become an active and direct part of our brand story. Harnessing real time brand users and turning them into digital brand ambassadors is also key to creating aspirational appeal.

Our latest campaign for sunglasses, Springers invites our audience to be a part of a crowd sourced look book which will be available on the campaign microsite (www.fastrack.in/springers). With this, we aim to engage our audience and allow them to experience the product first hand, while increasing foot falls to our stores.
User-generated content allows customers to have a sense of continued interaction with a brand thereby making the brand more approachable, its campaigns more authentic and its consumers more loyal. When user-generated content strategies hit the nail on the head, they are much more powerful than traditional advertising in terms of brand relevance, resonance and top of mind recall. Develop a recipe for inclusion of your consumers in your brand story, and you are on the right track.

However, a key challenge that emerges within the youth market is that as soon as something becomes mainstream, it has already moved on. It is imperative that marketers have their finger on the pulse of this dynamic segment, and constantly evolve to remain relevant to them. By investing effort, time and money to build a meaningful relationship with this segment, brands can gain new customers for life. That being said, sometimes all it takes is a hashtag.

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