User generated content is the future of marketing. Here’s why your company should jump on this trend – regardless of your industry.

It’s time to face the facts: traditional magazine ads and TV commercials just don’t cut it anymore. These days, your most effective messaging doesn’t come from an internal ad campaign, but from the words of your satisfied customers. And it makes sense — the opinions of your actual users and clients will always be more trustworthy than anything you could possibly say yourself.

The Importance of User-Generated Content

While older generations may not tweet about new products, it’s been proven that millennials do. According to the Huffington Post, up to 30% of the time American teenagers spend on the web is dedicated to browsing content generated by their peers. A recent study from Forrester Research indicates that about 14% of Americans trust company ads, while a whopping 48% fully trust the feedback of their fellow consumers.

A young woman won’t give a generic Facebook ad a second glance, but that new restaurant her old high school friend is raving about? The reservation’s already made.

Not only does user-generated content (UGC) allow businesses to reach a large audience with a trustworthy voice, it’s also much easier to implement than a traditional marketing campaign. For one, the content is written specifically for your product or service by a member of your target audience.

You often can’t pay for that level of market research — and in this case, you probably don’t have to. UGC is often totally unsolicited, providing great brand exposure without any additional costs.

A brilliant example of this is Warby Parker’s #WarbyHomeTryOn hashtag. These eyeglass innovators encourage customers to take pictures of themselves with different frames and share them with their friends through social media. It gives customers a little ego boost — and gives Warby Parker some serious (and free) exposure.

The Dangers of Brutally Honest Marketing

But the intrinsic honesty that makes UGC such a wonderful asset can also be just as damaging. If you’re inundated with reviews that praise your business above all others, that’s great! But misguided reviews and bitter complaints can unhinge all the work you’ve put into building a positive brand perception. As Samantha Dunn points out on Boast, you have to be conscious about the quality of feedback you receive and manage it proactively.

Avoiding damaging reviews and feedback can often be a simple question of phrasing. If you pose the question, “How do you like our store?” on your social media account, you’ve effectively opened the door for an incredibly wide range of responses. But a positively framed prompt such as, “Share your favorite shirt design from our new line!” closes that door to any potential negativity.

Stay Ahead of the Curve

Simply put, the days of “Mad Men”-era marketing are long gone. As the world becomes increasingly saturated with content, users are turning to their peers for a voice that they can trust. And while there may always be a place for TV spots and billboards, what’s clear is that as this trend continues, even the most articulate, well-researched ads will be no match for the raw honesty of real feedback from real customers.

Longneck and Thunderfoot offer B2C content marketing services to help your business reach the audiences that matter with smart, useful content that delivers the right message at the right time. Learn more about B2C content marketing here.

(Main image credit: Light Brigading/flickr)