In an age when user engagement is one of the best gauges for online success, user-generated content has been hailed as one of the most successful sources of content. Users all over the world are free to voice their thoughts and opinions, and marketing executives are now learning just how valuable this resource is. User-generated content is defined as published information that is provided by users who are not necessarily affiliated with the site they are publishing on. For instance, it can be an image, a video, a blog post or a series of comments posted via social media.
Many businesses utilize user-generated content in order to both come up with content from their site and show users that their opinions matter enough to be featured. Users, of course, are often quite glad to lend their voice to the company in any way possible. However, marketers must also be careful to use only the high quality user content that reflects the ideals of the company they represent. In your company, you may wish to tap into your user-generated content resource. Here are some ways you can use this content to increase your return on investment:
Prompt Users for Great Ideas
Some users may be easily inspired by something you have posted on your blog or on social media. But sometimes, they also need to be prompted for their ideas. Something thought provoking or striking may tickle their fancy, but be sure to steer them in the right direction in terms of the content they can come up with. Develop a clear idea of what your purpose for generating this content may be. Is it for product promotion purposes? Or are you looking to show the world how many users invest in your company? Is there a new service that you want to promote online?
You can also make use of your users' ideas by giving them leads on what they can share. For instance, you can dedicate an entire week to collecting customer stories. While sifting through their stories, there are tons of gems you can find. You can even invite some customers to create an entire blog post about your company by featuring them as guest bloggers for your site.
Have Incentives to Inspire Users
Having their comments, photos or opinions published online may be enough of an incentive for most users as this would generate more followers for them, but those with really great ideas need something more. Put yourself in the users’ shoes and ask, “Why should I be sharing this content for free? What’s in it for me?” This way, you can understand what would motivate users to share content with your company. Of course, the incentive should also be reinforcing brand awareness for those who choose to submit their content. It can come in the form of a discount voucher code or a chance to be featured in promotional material.
Image002: An image that promotes a contest
Contests are also a great way to get your users to submit some material that you can use for promotions. Almost all social media platforms have their own set of guidelines for making online contests a success. For instance, many Facebook contests rely on how many likes a post gets in order to win. On Pinterest, on the other hand, you can simply create a board filled with pins from a certain brand, and the best board wins. Just remember to consult your legal team before you move ahead with your contest.
Feature the Customers Themselves
How much time, money and effort does it take to set up a professional photo shoot? Take that into consideration and ask yourself how much cheaper it would be to just get a bunch of customers together and take pictures of them (with their consent, of course). When your marketing team is looking to feature images and stories about the company, the customers are the best resource. Turn the customer experience into something that other potential customers can relate to, and you’ll definitely reel in more customers for your business.
Image003: Company posts (on social media or on the blog) that feature the customers
When using customer stories, remember to look for their insights in the right places such as in discussion groups and on social media. Blog posts are a great resource as well. You’d be surprised at how many people take the time to share their experiences with different brands. In addition, you’re also helping these customers gain more viewers or potential followers. Featuring the customers’ stories can foster a deeper relationship with that customer and his or her followers. In turn, this can translate to more engagement, more discussion and potentially more sales.
Organize the Submissions You’re Getting
Back when social media wasn’t that popular, people would send in their stories via email. That’s quite difficult to track since your inbox would explode, and you’d have to sift through every email. With social media, you can instantly search for user-generated content related to your company through the use of hashtags. Hashtags are now being used on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as an easy means of searching for relevant content.
When it comes to hashtags, it’s always a good idea to come up with a new hashtag for each event or promo you’re doing. You can set up a specific hashtag for each of your products or an entire product line. This way, you won’t have to look through tons of posts about your company, and you can narrow it down to a couple of usable posts about a product you’re currently promoting.
Thank the Customers for Their Support
At the end of each submission period or each contest, remember to thank those who took the time to participate. When customers know that their efforts have been appreciated (whether they win the contest or not), it encourages them to keep sending in their insights and opinions about your company. In doing this, you can also guarantee that you’ll always have a database for user-generated content.