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How to make the most of user-generated content

31st Jan 2017
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Sometimes, it is called UGC; sometimes it is called “earned media.” Whatever you call it, it is powerful indeed. Why? Because today’s consumer does not trust the traditional marketing and advertising pitches that companies crowd the airways with. And they find that “testimonials” published on websites are suspect. They are tired of huge claims that don’t “pan out” once they purchase a product that is supposed to be the solution to whatever problem they have. The want real proof before they buy.

Where does that proof come from? For millennials anyway, the largest consuming demographic right now, it comes from others who share their experiences with a product or service. This sharing takes place on social media and on trusted review sites. They are hesitant to make first-time purchases until they know what others have to say.

How Important is Earned Media?

Data gathered and reported by Stackla shows the critical importance of user-generated content to consumer trust in a brand:

Clearly, gathering user-generated content and using it to spread your brand and your reputation has become more valuable than any content you create yourself.

Getting and Using That UGC

There are basic forms of user-generated content – product reviews, comments on social media, and feedback and comments on your blog. If comments and reviews are all positive, great – you can re-post them or send visitors and potential customers to those pieces of writing.

But these activities are a bit passive and reactive. It may be time to take a more aggressive approach to spread the great news your customers have to give about your product.

Here are four things you can do that will showcase your UGC, so that more potential customers will see it.

Ask Customers to Submit Blog Posts

This is a win-win situation. For every good one you get and publish, that is one less you have to write. And you can parse them out periodically among your own.

Solicit these posts from your current customers with topics that you determine in advance. Hold contests – the best post on a topic gets published with the customer’s byline and there is a small cash prize to boot. You can even select the top free and have your users vote for their favorite for a larger cash prize.

Holding these kinds of UGC campaigns gives you lots of “social proof” of the value of your product, keeps your followers engaged, and they are far more likely to share all of this “buzz” with their communities.

Photos and Stories

People like to see their names and pictures posted in places other than just their own social media platforms. Soliciting stories of happy customers using your product or service or having found unique uses for your product will usually bring a large response.

WD-40 is one example of how UGC content could be used. Now, this is actually a pretty boring product – a multi-purpose lubricant that many people purchase when they have squeaky door hinges, etc. Over time, however, the company discovered that customers were finding all sorts of amazing unique uses for the product. It launched a campaign which is still going strong, soliciting unique uses for its product from its customers. Not only has this helped to spread the WD-40 brand, but visitors are coming to the site and to its social media pages to learn about all the product’s uses.

Wedding Wire, a site dedicated to couples planning their weddings, is almost totally built upon user reviews – everything from their website designs to the photographers, caterers, venues, etc. Check out this site and see what takeaways there are for you to incorporate.

Videos – Even More Powerful

Especially if your product lends itself to people using it in action, soliciting videos from satisfied customers can be a real boost. If you sell deck stain, for example, having a video of an actual customer applying it and being happy is worth its weight in gold. That video can be posted everywhere – on your site, in your blog, on every social media platform. People love watching videos, especially if they are on the go. And the amateur nature of the production provides further credibility to you and your brand.

Openly Ask for Feedback

This is a key piece of developing trust and credibility with your audience. And this is much more than posting testimonials on your website. Anyone can do this, and without some type of third-party verification, they are becoming more and more meaningless.

Far better to ask your customers for feedback through your social media platforms and let them publicly provide it.

Another method is to have a “suggestion box” on your site – a place for customers to give you feedback on your product or service, on their experiences with your customer support department, etc.  You can then “open” that suggestion box once a month and award a prize for the best suggestion from a customer.

And if you get some negative feedback? Don’t back away from it or eliminate it. Address it and resolve the issue. You will be seen as a responsive, ethical company that does its best to keep customers satisfied by resolving any issues they may have.

UGC – It’s Just Smart

Given that the majority of consumers today rely on the reviews of other consumers; given that you need credible and valid “proof” of the value of your products or service; and given that you have a constant need for new and unique content for your site, your blog and your social media platforms, why not fill your space up with the content created by others?

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