I'll be the first to say that great marketing can become both time-consuming and expensive. Because of this, as a business owner you should always be on the lookout for opportunities to streamline your marketing efforts.

In today's marketplace, one of the easiest ways to do that is by taking your customers and making them become a key component of your marketing output. Here are three ways your customers can jumpstart your marketing, and how you can get started with the entire process. 

Customer Reviews

Remember that people trust other people more than they trust an advertisement a brand puts out. Because of this, having customer reviews on Yelp, Google Reviews, Facebook and TripAdvisor (which is the preferred partner for Snap Inc.'s Snap Map) will help you legitimize your business in the eyes of prospective customers.

If you haven't done so already, create a profile on these major outlets and begin encouraging your customers to leave reviews. To take it a step further, you can ask for reviews in creative ways such as on all your business receipts, on posters within your store and more.

"Checking in" at a business on Facebook.

If you're active on Facebook then you've probably seen some of your friends who have checked in at a certain restaurant, bar or another business. This shows up on the person's news feed and can be an easy way for Facebook users to become aware of your business. Essentially, any customer who checks in will be creating a free social media post without you spending a dime of your money or a second of your time. Facebook's Help Center takes you through the process of enabling your customers to check in, step by step.

Leveraging user-generated content.

User-generated content (known as UGC) is any form of content created by users or customers of a business which is then posted on a public platform, such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. If you've ever seen a restaurant or bar reposting an Instagram photo taken by one of their customers or an amusement park reposting a photo of a rider about to board a roller coaster, then you've seen UGC in action.

Why use user-generated content?

  1. Social proofing. Again, people trust other people more than advertisements. If someone scrolls down their Instagram feed and sees their friends having a fun time at your business, those people will naturally deem it reputable.
  2. It's free. Much like "checking in" on Facebook, UGC helps to generate awareness for your business across social media without you having to pay for the exposure outright.
  3. More material for your marketing efforts. One of the top benefits of UGC is the ability for your brand to reuse and repurpose the content in your own marketing materials. Be sure you have express-written permission from the publisher though before using any of the material.

User-Generated Content Tools 

Here are some awesome tools you can use to leverage UGC to it's full potential. 

  1. Tack Once you begin integrating UGC into your marketing, you'll quickly find the process of locating that content, reaching out to the person who created it to ask for permission to repost it and repeating it again can get tedious and time consuming. That's where a tool like Tack comes in handy. Tack ensures brands and agencies stay legal by enabling them to seamlessly locate UGC on Instagram, ask the person who posted the photo for permission to repurpose it, and much more.
  2. Shortstack One of the most popular and effective ways brands drive UGC is through social media contests. To enter these contests, users typically need to submit a photo they took using the brand's product or service and publish it across their social media. Shortstack is a tool that drives more contest entries for your company by helping automate the entire process. 
  3. Smash Balloon Smash Balloon is a tool that allows you to automatically showcase your company's Facebook Reviews on your website. In order to use this plugin, you must have Facebook Reviews on your business page as well as a Wordpress website.

To ensure you're receiving the maximum amount of reviews, user-generated content, check in's and more, simply ask and incentivize your customers to do so. If you're a cafe, give customers a free small coffee if they post a photo on Instagram about your business that surpasses 100 Likes. Get creative with it.

The cold hard truth is that marketing is tough. Despite this, by leveraging your customers in unique ways, you're on your way to molding customers into loyal brand ambassadors who can become a critical piece of your marketing department. Best of luck!