The ABC’s of UCG for Small Businesses

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Unless you’re somebody who really follows business trends, the term User Generated Content probably doesn’t mean much to you. Even if you’re an entrepreneur, UGC sounds like it’s something for Fortune 500 corporations to worry about, not your small business. After reading up on the subject, though, I’ve discovered something that might surprise you: UGC is something that everybody’s business benefits from – here’s why!

What User Generated Content is and How it Works

UGC is basically any kind of web content, whether it’s text, images, or a video, that’s created by internet users instead of a brand or an advertiser. That means that pretty much EVERYTHING on social media – as long as it isn’t created or sponsored by a brand – is UGC. When someone on Facebook or another social media site mentions a business or brand, that’s when UGC relates to that brand’s marketing strategy.

It’s a great strategy, too: millennials, the tech-savvy generation that makes up about a quarter of the U.S. population, trust UGC more than what they hear on TV or read in magazines. According to a recent survey, 84% of these young consumers rely on the opinions of other buyers when deciding which brand to trust. It’s why customer review aggregators like Yelp have found so much success – online customers put more faith in what strangers say than even their own family and friends!

Why it Matters for Your Small Business

You might be thinking that this only matters for the big brands who need young customers to look hip and relevant. If you run a hardware store, for instance, you might not see the need to go after a millennial demographic if hardworking adults have been relying on you for years. But whether we like it or not, the buying habits of these younger customers are changing the way we do business.

By 2017, it’s estimated that millennials will have more spending power than any other generation. That means that going after them isn’t just about being hip: it’s something every business will need to survive. Moreover, if you have any social media presence whatsoever, UGC is what you’re going for in the first place! If you’re only using your business’s Twitter account to talk to customers you already have, you’re missing a serious opportunity to grow your customer base and to build a firm relationship with the consumers of tomorrow.

The Benefits of UGC

So why do young people trust information that comes from strangers instead of brands? Part of the answer is that millennials value their own opinions and intuition more than they care about what brands say about themselves. That means customers don’t just want to hear other people’s opinions on your business – they want to give their own ones! The people who like your business will write good reviews and be the first to tell their friends how helpful you were because they’re proud of their independent buying habits.

And UGC isn’t just effective – it’s easy! Encouraging people to leave reviews allows your product to speak for itself. Instead of cooking up some big marketing plan or hiring a big-shot advertiser, you can let your products and services stand for themselves. You can also encourage social media contests to show how much you care about your customers’ opinions. For instance, hold a contest to find a new slogan for your company on Twitter, or a contest on Instagram where the best photo with your products wins a prize or store credit. All this puts your customers before your business by letting them do all the legwork for you!

I’ve told you what I know about user-generated content – now it’s your turn to use that knowledge and make your business grow! Don’t be intimidated by the big brands who use UGC every day. Any business can harness the power of UGC because it’s easy, it’s effective, and it really puts you in touch with your customer base. But don’t just take my word for it – start asking your customers what they think and get back to me!

 

Three lessons to learn from New York’s small businesses

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Did you know that over 543,000 businesses are started each month! That is a truly amazing number. As we are all starting up, I have found that we constantly face similar feats, but also the same struggles. Because of this, I believe we have a great opportunity to learn from one another.

If you have knowledge, let others light their candles at it.- Margaret Fuller

That is exactly why I recently took to the streets to visit many small local businesses in NYC. After speaking with them, I found some incredible and inspiring answers. I put together this list of Myth’s when starting a small business, so you can learn as much as I did!

Myth #1: I can create my brand’s identity after I started my company

When most companies think about their businesses, they often forget about creating a message for their brand. Too much time is spent thinking about how we’re going market our brand when more time needs to be focused on establishing our company’s identities. This is exactly what happened to a friend that I met on the train ride home the other day.

I met an entrepreneur named Michael, who happened to have started his own business about four years ago around a cooling system. Michael told me that his product never got to the place where wanted it to go,  and that he was currently only focusing a small amount of energy marketing the product. When I asked him what went wrong, he simply answered that the brand was not defined and it limited his product from ever taking off. He elaborated saying that hispartners couldn’t come to an agreement what the message behind the cooling system was. His partner wanted the cooling system to be just for everyday people, while he wanted it to reach out specifically for medical equipment. Thus, they had no clue who their audience was. Because of this, they never really were able to get to the next level in their business and his company is currently falling apart.

It’s really too bad because these guys seems like they had a great product but because they couldn’t establish their brand’s identity, the company didn’t make it.

Lesson to be learned: Establish your brand from the beginning

Myth#2 : I don’t have enough information, so I can’t get started

Many businesses don’t get started because they believe they don’t have the information & l resources to get started. Entrepreneurs want to have all the answers before they get started so if any problems come across, they’ll be prepared to solve them. While they would be nice, this would never be the case. This is exactly what happened to an accountant I met trying to start his own accountant firm.

Nick was working at a firm for 10 years, and was ready to start his own firm. Nick has been thinking about starting his business for over 6 months now. He has the financial resources to get his business started, so this was not why he has yet to take action. When I asked Nick what he was waiting for to start the business? He simply looked at me and said, “I don’t have the information to get started.”  I then asked how much information would he need to have to get started. Nick looked at me with a blank stare with no legitimate reason to why he has yet to start.

Many like Nick believe they need all the information in the world to get their business started, but that isn’t always true, as you often learn alot from experience.

Lesson to be learned: You don’t need to know it all before you get started. Learn by doing. Take your first action by going out talking to people who have been in your shoes, someone who is in the early stages of starting their own businesses. They will be a good resource to help you get started.

Myth #3: It’s bad to be the little guy

As I was walking around the East Village, I ran into a small pharmacy on  1st ave. Two doors from this pharmacy was a CVS and four doors next to it was a two floor Duane Reade. I happened to stumble into the small time pharmacy. When I asked where I could find band aids, and the pharmacists asked to look at the wound, so of course I showed him. The pharmacist got me a bandaid, and not only put bacteracin on my wound but he also personally placed it on my wound. Now talk about customer service!  He also gave me the band aid for free. Not only did I come back the next week to fill a prescription, but I also recommended my cousin who lived two blocks away from the pharmacy.

Lesson to be learned:  A way you can set yourself apart from the big brands is by forming personal relationships with customers. In turn these relationships will allow us to better understand our customers and ultimately solve their problems.

Hopefully by checking out others’ mistakes and achievements, it will give you a better understanding of what you should/ or shouldn’t be doing.The best thing you can do now is absorb the knowledge, then go out and do something with it!

Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. ~John R. Wooden

*Photo attribution to Angela Raduleschu

By: Carrie Silver