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According to recent research, about 90 percent of decisions are influenced by user-generated content or UGC. It is well known that today’s consumers make the majority of their decisions based on a company’s online reviews and ratings. Some companies neglect their online reputations, but the rise of online review sites has given customers an incredible amount of power over a company’s marketing initiatives. In fact, consumers now consider reviews a more powerful source of information than personal recommendations.

While companies cannot exercise editorial control over what customers write on the Internet, they can certainly leverage the benefits of online reviews and other UGC to build and enhance their brand. Companies in today’s business environment have no choice but to adopt a radically transparent attitude in the way they treat clients, employees, and even competitors. Reviews are among the most valuable marketing channels, and studies have shown that companies always benefit from acknowledging and responding to reviews. User-generated content is extremely beneficial to businesses when used to build relationships with customers and to improve services. Following are a few major benefits of leveraging UGC to enhance your brand.

Cost Reduction

All brands advertise by providing information about what they do. Naturally, companies today need to maintain a presence on social media, news & blogs, and major search engines. However, customer feedback is often more effective and less expensive than these more traditional focus areas. Companies occasionally ignore this channel because reviews inherently involve risk to the business. Reviews are interactive by nature, and the cost of a negative review, or publicly neglecting customer feedback might be catastrophic. Due to the interactive nature of review platforms, review profiles must constantly be maintained to build relationships and trust with customers. Luckily there are online monitoring solutions, to help manage these tasks, and when managed appropriately, UGC sites are a great way to build your marketing strategy with very little overhead.

Embracing Authenticity

Authenticity matters a lot to the contemporary customer. There are many ways to demonstrate authenticity throughout the sales process at your company. You could, for example, make a point of providing valuable information that empowers customers to make better choices while shopping, but nothing is better than having customers vouch for your company’s integrity and customer service publicly.

Businesses will probably always need some form of traditional advertising to raise awareness for their products and services, but today’s most effective brands are defined by how authentic they are. Therefore, today’s companies must encourage people to leave online comments. Third party evaluations are the best source of information to individuals who have never done business with you before.

Reputation Strategy

Many brands still fear the sometimes inherent criticism in online reviews. While avoidance may seem like a more secure option in the short run, the only way to really gain control over a company’s online reputation is to embrace user-generated content. If your company has no review history, one angry person can seriously tarnish your reputation. On the other hand, if your marketing strategy includes online reputation management tactics, most review platforms will already contain content from satisfied customers, and the voice of the majority will prevail. It is quite possible to manage user-generated content even when it is posted on platforms that your business has no control over. The right online reputation management strategy will make it much easier for you to discover what people say on social networks, search engines, and other business directories so that you can repair any damaging UGC and get better insights into your business.