According to Hubspot, Generation Y is not only the largest consumer group in US history, but we are changing what goes in to making a purchase. More than 8 out of 10 Millennials say that user generated content (the stuff of Instagram, blogs, Yelp, etc.) from complete strangers influence what they buy. As an avid reader of fashion blogs myself, I can attest to this. I am just as inclined (if not more) to buy a fashion or beauty product that’s been recommended by a blogger I’ve never met than something a friend uses or wears.
Of the world’s largest brands, 25% of their search results return user generated content from review sites, blogs, and social media updates. Brands should not only be aware of this, but actively cultivating this. They can do so by making it easy for customers to write reviews on their website and even asking them to do so (if this scares you, get your act together!). I always check reviews of products before buying something online. Brands should not be afraid to ask happy customers to write a review. My mom owns a franchise of Dream Dinners and has asked her best customers to write reviews of the business for a variety of reasons. This works because these customers know exactly what the business is all about and are more than willing to share how it works for them. Genuine feedback from happy customers means way more than any ad.
Of course, it’s impossible to talk about user generated content without addressing the amateur food photography fad that is taking over social media. Using apps like Instagram and Foodspotting, people everywhere are taking a second to document their meals, much to the chagrin of the chefs. I think these restaurants that are taking measures to ban food photography are missing the point. While it may be sad to watch a couple out on a date where one or both spend the entire time scrolling through a feed on their phone, the whole purpose of #foodstagrams are to share and recommend to others. Whenever a friend of mine has posted a picture from a local restaurant or coffee shop on Instagram or Twitter, I’ve added it to my mental list of places I’d like to check out. Word-of-mouth has always been the most powerful form of advertisement and user generated content is just one more method of that.