Marketers are at a great disadvantage for one major reason: We’re totally and completely biased. But we have to be, because, well, that’s our job. However, it’s important to be able to step back and look at ourselves the way the audience sees us, and realize we need to adopt that customer mindset whenever we can.
Considering we live in a time when 92 percent of consumers trust word of mouth and recommendations from friends and family over paid media and advertisements, it’s essential that companies find other ways to earn trust among customers. While content marketing seeks to fill that void, you might want to consider user-generated content as a tactic in your overall plan.
User-generated content (UGC) is any image or written content that’s voluntarily submitted by a user onto an online platform. For example, a company that encourages people to share images of a decorated coffee cup (à la Dunkin Donuts) via social media promotes UGC. It can even be an online review for a product or service.
Whatever form it’s in, UGC is all the rage these days, and we get why. On one side, tech-savvy consumers love getting involved and possibly catching a re-tweet from their favorite brand. Meanwhile, brands get to bask in the sun of building relationships with consumers, raising brand awareness, and even driving ROI.
And for marketers, it doesn’t get any better than that.
Even The New York Times is getting in on UGC. Digiday recently reported that the Times is planning to build a revamped Opinion section, focusing on the popular distribution strategies used by publishers such as Gawker and Reddit. By pulling content from various sources on the web, the Times hopes to tap into the power of reader interaction to boost social conversation. According to Digiday, this new section will be a “mixture of tweets, Facebook updates, original writing, and articles aggregated from other websites and will involve a significant amount of back and forth between readers and contributors to the section.” And we think this could be a great way for them to promote user engagement.
But if you’re not ready to create an online forum to stir conversation, how else can brands encourage UGC?
One way is to simply ask consumers for photos or reviews of your products or services. However, don’t make your invitation too vague; you don’t want to end up like McDonald’s … their #McDStories hashtag mission went totally awry.
To make things even more enticing to users, try offering incentives or turn it into a contest. Reward users with re-tweets, free products, coupons, or even a shout-out on a high-trafficked platform, such as your website or on TV.
To make the most of your UGC, consider re-using the best of the best. If you get permission from the user who created a specific piece of content, you could potentially use their testimonials, images, etc. as marketing collateral in the future. There’s no reason why winning UGC work should die with the end of a contest—others deserve to see that consumers can’t get enough of your brand and they’re not afraid to spread the word.