Marketers have known for decades that content marketing is one of the best ways to build interest and demand the products or services you offer.
Sharing customer testimonials in print ads was an early and effective way to engage and draw interest.
Today, even in the digital age, content marketing remains a vital part of marketing strategy while the method of receiving information may have changed.
However, the problem facing most marketers is that producing great content that continually engages your community can be demanding.
Great Content is King
Your content needs to stay fresh and be relevant to your audience. Yet, it needs to be distinctive to differentiate you from your competition. It needs to get to quickly get to the point and answer the questions readers may have when it comes to your products so that they can make an informed choice. The Content Marketing Institute says that 86 percent of businesses are using content marketing, with 78 percent of B2C companies incorporating it in the past year.
All of this can be time-consuming and even more important, costly to produce. So, where can you turn to find engaging content that will not break the bank to produce? Your community. This is where smart marketers are reaping the benefits of engaging with their customers and taking advantage of user-generated content (UGC).
What is User-Generated Content?
User-Generated Content (UGC), consisting of blog or forum comments, product reviews, memes, and videos, is one of the most effective content marketing tactics, more influential than any other media type according to research.
A great example of sending out the call for UGC was from Belkin. They launched a line of customizable iPhone cases and encouraged customers to showcase their case designs on a branded social platform.
Sometimes it doesn’t have to be asked for, it can spontaneously happen. For example, top mobile game developer Miniclip were pleasantly surprised when their 8-Ball Pool super players contributed rich long form how-to guides directly in their community.
Why Should You Seek User-Generated Content (UGC)?
It would be a mistake to think that UGC is only for larger brands. It’s not just for big brands because it can easily be scaled to meet the content needs of small businesses. Consider what UGC can do:
- Visitors spend 90 percent more time on sites with areas dedicated to user-generated content like online community forums.
- Social campaigns that use UGC see a 50 percent increase in engagement
- Conversions rise by 10 percent when including UGC in the online purchase process
UGC is popular because consumers get to decide when, where and how they communicate with the brands they use. The key here is making sure that the content is authentic. Consumers are more apt to trust content that is created by their peers than your marketing department. And because of this, UGC has a greater impact on their purchasing decisions than other types of brand messages.
So How Can You Get More UGC?
If you want more UGC, all you need to do is just ask. People love to share and relish the opportunity to speak their minds. Consider the following ideas on where to start:
- Find out what type of content your customers are already sharing organically. This is easily done with a simple search on Instagram by location or searching for your brand name via hashtag.
- Spot trends among your targeted market. This is easier than it sounds because it is easy to spot trends in the photos that you have gathered from your Instagram search.
- Promote a hashtag. Keep in mind UGC is not just about your brand. It is about your customer, so by creating and promoting an actionable hashtag, especially for them may encourage them to tag their photos with it.
- Develop strong CTAs. You want your customers to use your hashtag, so you need to get the message out about it both in digital and print. This can be on your website, blog or even on signs in your physical store, such as register signs.
- Rely on social and digital influencers. They are leaders in their social circles and have large followings that are often inspired by what the influence has to say about your product.
- Encourage your fans to share photos. This is a way to recognize your devoted fans and make them feel special. It also two-fold as visitors to your site will connect with these images.
Tips on Driving Continuous User-Generated Content
If you are looking to ramp up content creation with your own customers, fans or partners, there are many different ways to get them typing.
- Understand where your users are. A good campaign understands where their users are. If your users are baby boomers and older, it may be better to create a Facebook campaign instead of an Instagram campaign. Demographics of your user base will determine online behavior and allow you to consider how they will create and distribute the content.
- Set your budget. Although the cost of creating the content may be “free”, there can be unseen costs such as hosting of content or even hiring a community manager to moderate content from trolls and ensure the content is suitable.
- Create content guidelines. By implementing content guidelines, you control the user experience and your brand. Obviously, you don’t want to find nudity, bullying or trolling. Elevate the content that meets your standards.
- Understand your numbers. Create your metrics and set targets on content volume and quality. Word count doesn’t matter if no one wants to read it.
- Setup your team. Who is going to be your team? What are their responsibilities and costs? How are you going to measure their success? Also, will they be available on a 24-hour basis or only during certain hours? Setup your expectations on response time and hire accordingly. If you’re looking for a short response time, you’d need to hire more people and schedule accordingly, especially during peak use times. Within an engaged community, this can also be “cost free” by promoting your best contributors to moderators.
- Include gamification to encourage engagement. The use of gamification creates a wonderful incentive to help motivate users and create a buzz. Some platforms allow for creating reactions and other rewards. In many cases, gamification is a great way to encourage engagement and is more entertaining and rewarding.
People look to connect and the brands they follow. If they feel that a company is pushing something to them, it doesn’t feel relevant or authentic to them.
In today’s digital environment, online marketers can embrace the opportunity to raise the profile of their organizations’ or brands through user-generated content and feelings of belonging. Your fans want to be a part of your brand story, and by integrating user content into your social media or community platform, you create stronger relationships that are both scalable and affordable.