Consumers are bombarded with advertisements and brand messages every time they open TikTok, do a Google search, visit a website, turn on their radio, or even step outside. With so much noise to cut through, and with consumers avoiding ads at every turn, marketers have to wonder – are their messages even getting through?
And to top it all off, privacy updates are continually forcing platforms to remove targeting options, rendering digital ads less effective at every turn.
The influencer marketing industry has hit a similar snag in recent years. Influencers, who were once valued for their platforms and massive followings have seen their credibility take a nosedive as macro-influencers earned a reputation for creating inauthentic posts.
With trust in brands, marketers, celebrity influencers, institutions and more falling short, how are brands expected to get their products in front of audiences in an effective, trusted way that cuts through the noise, amplifies their message and builds up their reputation?
It’s time for another marketing channel to emerge that markets to people in the way they want to be marketed to.
Meet, consumer-to-consumer marketing.
C2C Meaning: What Is Consumer-to-Consumer Marketing?
C2C, or consumer-to-consumer, marketing is a marketing methodology in which consumers discover brands from people they trust. Unlike branded messaging, where brands promote their products and services to consumers on their own behalf, and often use outdated techniques like data tracking to reach them, C2C marketing takes a different approach.
In C2C marketing, consumers themselves are the marketing channel – trying new products, creating content about them, and introducing their friends, family and followers to the products that they themselves have used and enjoyed.
C2C marketing is unique in that, while it can be created or commissioned at the request of a brand, it can also come in the form of earned, unsolicited recommendations from happy customers.
Consumer-to-consumer marketing tactics include:
- Word-of-mouth marketing
- User-generated content (aka UGC)
- Social posts/mentions from consumers
- Collaborations with authentic creators
- Referral programs
- Brand ambassadors programs
- Affiliate programs
- Gathering reviews
- Adding UGC throughout your marketing funnel
- And more
This marketing channel allows brands to capture authentic, earned media and reap all the benefits of word-of-mouth marketing in the process, without having to use up precious time, energy and resources to create marketing content themselves. On top of that, with permission from the creators, brands are able to integrate all of the resulting UGC back into their sales and marketing funnel to make their entire marketing mix more effective.
Why It Works
The importance of brand trust is ranking higher than ever for consumers – 81% of consumers say that brand trust is a potential deal-breaker in their purchasing decisions. Yet trust in brands and marketing is low. Only one-third say they trust the brands they buy from and 7 out of 10 consumers use advertising avoidance strategies.
At a time when branded messages and in-house content are viewed with skepticism, and consumers are going out of their way to avoid brand messaging, consumer-to-consumer marketing offers brands the opportunity to put their messaging into more trustworthy, more engaging hands.
Ninety-two percent of people trust product recommendations from other people over those of brands, even if those recommendations come from a person they don’t know. Whereas brands and marketers typically have an agenda (like selling products!) and influencer collaborations have a tendency toward the transactional (especially the celebrity kind), consumers look to other consumers like them – from smaller, authentic content creators to friends, family and peers – to find the products and services that will address their needs.
A C2C campaign can provide excellent product launch support, as well as year-round marketing support for all your touchpoints. Here are just some of the major benefits that can occur as a result of implementing C2C marketing practices:
- Build brand trust - Consumers place recommendations from one another higher than recommendations from brands. Brands who can either earn user-generated content or activate a consumer-to-consumer marketing campaign that produces authentic content will have a library of proof that their products are loved and trusted by real people.
- Improve targeting - While privacy updates are causing brands to lose out on the level of data they’re used to, and limiting targeting options, C2C marketing puts targeting options back on the table without violating consumer privacy. The consumers who opt into C2C marketing campaigns are matched with products based on information they’ve volunteered, and then share their experience using that brand with peers who share similar interests.
- Curate a library of user-generated content - People are consuming content at a rate they never have before, which means brands need to constantly be producing it. Collecting UGC up front can save your brand tons of time later. This content can be repurposed everywhere: on your social media accounts, on your website, in your email marketing, etc., and it helps your marketing team cut back on the time, money and effort they would have otherwise spent producing this content in-house.
- Expand organic reach and social mentions - Getting consumers to post about your products or services on their own social media profiles means tapping into their audience of friends, family and followers. The more consumers who post about your brand, the greater the potential for more eyes on that content. But this doesn’t mean follower count is the be all end all. C2C marketing also takes into consideration audience quality and engagement rates, which are often more valuable for brands trying to reach their target audience.
- Increase brand awareness - No matter what your marketing goals, building brand awareness is important. When it comes down to making a purchase, people often go with what’s familiar. And they can’t consider your product if they’ve never heard of you. Getting consumers posting about and talking about your brand keeps you top of mind – which is always a good place to be.
- Strengthen social media presence - Whether you want to boost your follower count or post engagement, utilizing consumer-to-consumer marketing tactics can help you get there. When consumers tag your brand’s social profile in their content, it can drive traffic to your page. And, by reposting user-generated content to your own social profile, you can help boost your own engagement.
- Drive demand - Product discovery is increasingly happening online, especially with the emergence of social commerce features. Having other consumers and creators posting about your brand, and also reposting that same content to your own social media channels humanizes your brand and creates valuable social proof.
- Strengthen your marketing funnel - It takes an average of 7 touches for a consumer to become a customer. Because C2C marketing encourages adding user-generated content throughout your marketing funnel, it increases the number of quality touchpoints a consumer has with your brand. So, rather than hearing about your products and services from you 7 times, they might hear about them from another consumer or creator on social media, then see UGC on your website, read reviews and make a purchase. Seventy-nine percent of people say UGC highly impacts their purchase decisions. By adding visual UGC and reviews from your C2C marketing campaigns into your marketing funnel, you can increase its effectiveness.
Business-to-Consumer Marketing vs. Consumer-to-Consumer Marketing
While B2C marketing and consumer-to-consumer marketing often have the same goals and objectives, they go about achieving them differently and, as a result, have different levels of effectiveness.
B2C marketing is a traditional marketing strategy that involves the brand marketing directly to the consumer. This can look like anything from billboards, TV commercials and print ads to social media marketing, email marketing and retargeting ads.
This strategy has been the go-to marketing approach for decades, but it’s interruptive, and in this day and age, avoidable: 74% of consumers find a way to turn off ads, rendering some of these tactics ineffective. And it’s also time- and resource-intensive, with brands themselves having to produce everything themselves or pay photographers, celebrity influencers, advertisers and more to do it for them.
On the other hand, consumer-to-consumer marketing is well-received because it comes from other consumers, feels more authentic (when happy customers and the right creators are involved) and requires less time, energy and resources from brands since content creation is taken off their plate. Some expenses do occur when brands engage in C2C marketing collaborations to source content rather than relying on it happening organically – such as the cost of sending out free products for consumers to try and post about – but the ROI on this is usually well worth it.
You can get an in-depth breakdown of the differences between B2C and C2C marketing here.
Influencer Marketing vs. C2C Marketing
Influencer marketing as a whole has gotten a bad rap in recent years. The first thing that comes to mind when someone hears “influencer marketing,” is often macro-influencers and even celebrities, and their troubled history with brand collabs.
Some of the largest goofs have come from influencers with large audiences, such as Kim Kardashian posting about an anti-nausea pill without fully explaining the side effects or Scott Disick accidentally pasting too much in his caption.
While macro-influencers are often sought out by brands for their large followings, the content they create can feel inauthentic and transactional – resulting in high reach, low impact content, and consumers who don’t believe the celeb actually endorses the message.
Consumer-to-consumer marketing, however, focuses on collaborating with everyday consumers and authentic creators who have engaged followers and who aren’t in it for the money. Instead, their main goal is simply to try and discover products that help them solve a problem, and then to share their recommendations with their friends, family and followers.
The result is authentic user-generated content that reaches your brand’s target audience, through trusted consumers, and improves the effectiveness of the brand’s overall marketing strategy from the first touchpoint to the point of purchase and beyond.
How to Get Started With C2C Marketing
The key to a successful consumer-to-consumer marketing campaign is finding consumers and creators who have a genuine interest in, or need for, your brand, product, or service.
Large audiences are no substitute for authentic content, and C2C marketing works best when creators are sincerely interested in the product or service being promoted. The more real your user-generated content is, the more valuable it will be to you as a brand. This is because it encourages social proof: the phenomenon where people tend to mimic (and trust!) the behaviors and decisions of others. Basically, when we see someone else enjoying a product or service, we think it might just work for us too.
There are many ways to get started with consumer-to-consumer marketing. If you have an already engaged customer base, you can ask customers for reviews after they’ve received your products, offer incentives in exchange for UGC, host a social media contest to generate more social mentions, and more.
If your existing audience isn’t engaging with these types of requests, you can attract creators to post about your brand by building your own C2C marketing campaign.
You can build a C2C marketing campaign the DIY way, by finding and pitching creators in-house, or you can outsource the entire campaign process. If you do want to go the DIY route, you’ll want to make sure your team has the time, energy and resources to do it all in-house, from finding the right creators to pitching them, coordinating content creation, tracking and curating content and more.
How to Create a Consumer-to-Consumer Marketing Campaign the DIY Way:
Step 1: Research authentic creators in your target audience. Avoid celebrity influencers and people with low engagement rates, and forget about follower count – it doesn’t matter. You want to find down-to-earth, everyday consumers and creators who align with your target audience and are interested in the products or services you provide.
Step 2: Pitch them! Either via email or DM, shoot these creators a message asking if they're interested in receiving your product and sharing their experience on their social platforms. Be sure to highlight why you think they, personally, might benefit from this product!
Step 3: Hammer out agreements. As the brand, you can ask that they include certain elements like hashtags or website links, but ultimately, you should give the creators free rein to create content that feels authentic to them. They know their followers and know what kind of content will perform best with them. Keep in mind that if your required actions are complicated or extensive (if you require a commute, for instance), you may want to add in some form of compensation for the extra effort.
And finally, make sure you stipulate that you'll be able to share their content on your website and social media profiles — you’ll need their explicit permission in order to reap the full benefits of your C2C marketing campaign. Keep in mind that repurposing for your website versus repurposing as a paid ad can come with different rates, so be clear about your intentions.
Step 4: Ship them your products with enough time for creators to reasonably try them out and create authentic content around them before your product launch, or other internal deadline.
Step 5: Watch the content roll in! Keep track of the posts, including their engagement rates and overall audience reception, to ensure this niche was the right one for your brand. Ensure the creator has fulfilled their end of the arrangement and if they haven't, find out why — they may have product feedback for you that is just as valuable. As posts go live, don’t forget to also collect your new UGC into an organized content bank for future use.
Step 6: Check out the performance of the content to learn valuable insights you can use on the next go-around. For example, you may find one creator had an amazing engagement rate with high comment quality and you’d like to continue working with them in the future. Take notes and build reports on any metrics that stand out, for better or for worse, so you’ll have a clearer idea of where your next efforts should take you.
Step 7: Repost the user-generated content throughout your entire marketing funnel to improve its overall effectiveness. Adding UGC into places like social posts, ads and website pages has been shown to drive demand and increase conversion rates. What’s important here is that consumers are reminded of their peers’ enjoyment of your product at every turn in the buyer’s journey. For example:
Perhaps they click through to browse your social media, and see real people using and loving your product. Even if they’re not ready to buy quite yet, they may go ahead and sign up for your email list, where they’ll see even more content created by consumers just like them. Finally, when they browse your website, they’ll see authentic testimonials and product reviews reminding them yet again that this brand is trustworthy, and making them feel more confident making a purchase.
Take care to measure any changes in your brand's online performance. Time spent on your website, social media follower growth and engagement rates, increased website traffic, sales, and more are all indicators of C2C marketing ROI.
Step 8: Rinse and repeat, and watch your brand trust elevate!
If the DIY method sounds like a bit too much for your brand to handle right now, outsourcing may be a convenient option. Statusphere is the first platform that allows brands to scale C2C marketing, and we can take this entire process off of your plate.
Simply tell us a bit about your target audience, send us your product, and we’ll match you with authentic creators who want to create UGC for your brand. Reach out to our consumer-to-consumer marketing experts to find out how we can kick off your C2C marketing campaign.