Handing any of your content creation over to your customers might seem like a logistical nightmare. Loosening the leash on what gets published online about your business is a risky move for sure, but with plenty of people taking to social networking and blogging sites every day, your brand may already be the topic at their fingertips.
Why not bring the chat closer to you by encouraging customers to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences directly. User-generated content (UGC) allows you to do this. Whether through comments on your social media channels or blog, or having a part of your site dedicated to user input, there are a few things to take in to consideration before you get started.
As with any strategy, UGC has its benefits and pitfalls, and each implementation of UGC will have its different reasons why it will or won’t work for your business. It is up to you to decide which outweighs the other, but here are just a few of the general pros and cons.
Moderation is really the primary issue with users contributing content, but it can be a beast to slay. Depending on your method, you may be able to moderate content before it goes ‘live’ online (for example, if users submit their comments on a post, or submit a story through a contact form, it will be moderated first). This can be time consuming, but ultimately rewarding overall.
In some cases, you cannot moderate before the content is public. For example, if someone posts negative content on your Facebook page, mentions you on Twitter, or uses a campaign hashtag negatively. There is a right way, and a wrong way to go about this.
First of all let’s discuss the wrong way – or rather, the wrong ways. You could just ignore the negative comment – let it sit there for anyone to see and expand upon. Or, you could delete it and run the risk of further negative comments from a disgruntled customer who is rather cheesed off at having their thoughts and feelings removed from sight.
Now for the right way – engage. That doesn’t mean having a go at your customer, it means putting their mind at ease. If they disliked your product, show you care by apologising that it did not work for them, and offering what you can to rectify the problem (whether this is a refund, exchange or other suitable solution). You can then take the conversation into a private capacity and solve the issue.
Before damning the idea of UGC for lack of time to moderate, take a step back and have a look at the options you have.
You should never opt for a particular marketing strategy option because it’s trendy – you need to have a cause and an objective for implementing any type of content. Whether you wish to drive sales by introducing review options on your site a la The Body Shop (see below), or increase brand awareness through introducing a hashtag campaign on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Google+, your goal needs to be clear from the beginning.
It’s always better to consider the objectives first, and the methods second with user-generated content, as the temptation may be to pick something that has worked well for another brand, but may not work as well for you.
The very core of successful UGC is the ability for an audience to share their story and have it acknowledged. Whether you are a charity looking for stories from the community that have pooled together to raise money for your cause, or a shop looking for photos of people using your products, as a brand you should be positively encouraging feedback and the sharing of user experiences. For these two examples, it’s clear that the channel for content will be different.
The charity would be more suited to submitting a story via a contact form or on a dedicated microsite that encourages more text-based content.
Scope UK, a disability charity let you create an icon and share a story on why you feel disabled people should have the same opportunities as others. The background icons are clickable, and with each one a pop-up window lets you read or see a different user’s story.
The gallery is able to grow and grow, and the content on it can be reused by sharing excerpts on social media, blog posts or Infographics.
More visual content such as photo sharing can also be successfully utilised on social media channels. Take for example Starbucks who jumped on the Instagram bandwagon from the get go. At time of writing, there are over 3 million photos and videos on Instagram with #starbucks. They also have over 1 million followers. So how do they do it? They let their fans generate the majority of their content, and they also introduce incentives to keep fans happy.
Don’t let these big brand examples put you off – user-generated content is not just for the big boys. Toy brand Squishable utilised UGC from the get go by letting their customers design and vote on their toys designs. This helps them to provide products their customers want and show them they are valued.
If you plan your UGC well, there is no reason why you won’t see results. Like any other marketing strategy, you need to consider your audience first and foremost, and the channels in which they are most likely to engage. Are they Facebook users? Or do they prefer to tweet? Maybe they are not particularly active on social media and are more plugged in to your website.
Then, you need to plan exactly what your campaign will be, considering the pointers we have discussed, and what the incentives are for engaging. Maybe your UGC campaign can be a competition to encourage engagement, or maybe it’s the promise of uploading the content to your site and giving the engagers a sense of celebrity.
When done well UGC can take on a life of its own – in fact, user generated content around your brand can come from no pre-planning at all, and see your product ranking number one on Google like this Hutzler banana slicer which gained fame from some particularly humorous Amazon reviews.
Of course, you can’t sit around waiting for this level of engagement to happen, you need to be creative, devote time to setting up your campaign properly and promote it effectively through online and offline channels.
Tie your UGC campaign to your main marketing campaigns to build a more effective brand. Send out a press release promoting the campaign, and encourage people to get involved across all your marketing efforts – whether in your e-newsletters or in a brochure.
There is never a guarantee that there will be droves of people engaging with your brand and creating content for you, but by not offering the opportunity, your brand could be coming across as cold and unreceptive.
Hopefully you will now have a better understanding of how you can make the most of user-generated content. Do feel free to leave a comment with any questions you may have, or examples of user-generated content that you feel is (or isn’t) effective.
Conversation between people via BigStock