Content marketing has been employed as an effective inbound lead generation tactic since Google’s Penguin and Panda algorithm updates over the last 5 years or so. Now that websites can no longer use black-hat link building strategies to improve their search rankings, various brands and businesses have had to develop new and innovative ways that use valuable content to stand out from the competition and drive traffic to their websites.
Traditional marketing techniques involve broadcasting promotional messages to their audiences, but the modern age has seen customers become more knowledgeable and a lot more demanding. Instead of broadcasting, brands should be creating opportunities for conversation. People love to express their feelings and have their opinions heard so providing a platform for them to voice their perspectives can certainly make your brand more relatable.
Reasons to Take Advantage of User-Generated Content
User-Generated Content (UGC) is pretty much anything on the web that users have a hand in making, or any media on a website that contributed by its individual users. It’s been around for ages but only really entered the mainstream in 2005 during the time of the London bombings, when the BBC led a bulletin with imagery not taken from a BBC camera, but instead using pictures captured by people escaping the scene through underground tunnels. What this did was enhance the reporting capabilities of the BBC by taking advantage of first-hand public information, making the news more engaging and relatable.
Fortunately, this strategy of utilizing media from non-associated individuals doesn’t require a disastrous occurrence to justify its use. There are many ways in which UGC can be leveraged to provide brands with a means to create engaging conversations with their audiences. We’ve seen this happen in a number of ways, but the most prominent one has to be via social media, which is UGC at it’s core. The reason social media is so appealing to users is that it is centered around the community, allowing people to take ownership over media publication.
Here are just some of the reasons why UGC can work for businesses:
1. It helps build trust
When you’re a business, fostering trust between you and your target audience is one of the most important things you need to do. As Zig Ziglar said: “If people like you they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you they’ll do business with you.”
UGC is media that is created for the community by the community, which in itself constitutes as social proof. When your content is created by individual users within your brand community, chances are that they’ll be more convincing to your audience, unlike if the message is branded.
2. Creating good content is time consuming and expensive
Creating content is usually quite a demanding task in itself. Not to mention the distribution, promotion and concept development. With UGC, you don’t have to lift a finger when it comes to the creation process. All you need to do is come up with a campaign idea, reach out to your audience and sort through the entries that you receive. That’s about it.
The most time consuming part that requires the most creative ability is in the creation. Having UGC allows for the creation process to be handled by your audience. They’re passionate, knowledgeable and best of all, you don’t have to spend any resources to hire them.
3. It promotes audience growth
UGC lets you strengthen your relationship with your fans and customers, but it can also help you broaden your audience. Due to the nature of contributors wanting to have their own voice heard, it’s likely that they’ll help promote the content that they produced for your brand. This makes sharing your content a lot easier and promotes outreach using your brand as a platform, increasing awareness.
Proven Ways to Improve Lead Generation with User-Generated Content
Here are a few great ways that you can inspire and encourage the creation of UGC:
1. Offer something valuable in exchange
This is based off the “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” principle. Whether it’s by offering a discount on their next purchase or posting their content on your homepage, there should always be an incentive for creating content for your brand. Needless to say, we’re all busy people. And though this incentive shouldn’t be the reason for saying something nice about your brand, sometimes people need a little bit of a nudge.
2. Ask for input on a branding decision
There have been a number of brands who have asked their audiences for their opinions on a major branding decision. Some asked for thoughts regarding what new flavor to release next, while others asked their audiences what logo or mascot their brands should use. Not only does this provide more ideas than your marketing team could possibly come up with, but it also creates a heap of social buzz around your brand’s campaign, meaning more awareness, exposure and engagement.
3. Hold a contest or competition
This is similar to the idea of offering something in exchange with the exception of providing only the top entries with a reward. Giving your audience the chance to win a prize is an effective method of harvesting UGC and getting users to engage with your brand. You can run a Facebook contest asking users to post a video, image or comment relating to your product. This is a great way to increase your social presence, build awareness and provide your team with a range of new ideas for your next campaign. Keep in mind that the better the prize, the more effort will be put into submission quality.
4. Trigger an emotional response
Even if a reward isn’t an option, you can still use various tactics to encourage brand engagement to generate user content. Triggering an emotional response is an effective way to get the attention of your audience members and encourage them to share your message. For example, you could ask users to share content about what they’re favorite holiday destination around Christmas or how much they appreciate their mom on mother’s day. Creating this type of UGC forms emotional bonds between the participants and the brand, encouraging consumers to appreciate the brand more in the future and have a positive view of their products/services.
Time to Collaborate!
Content that is generate by users allows businesses to benefit from the content produced by those who love your brand. This significantly expands the reach of your content, creating loyal fans and brand advocates. With consumer reviews being trusted up to 1200% more than branded messages, your business is truly missing out if you’re not taking full advantage of what UGC has to offer.
Whether you’re trying to build brand awareness or enhance your customer acquisition strategy, there are plenty of ways to influence the creation of user content and utilize it to promote your company. If you’re having a hard time trying to develop new ideas or build on your brand’s social proof, then UGC might just be the marketing strategy for you. In the end, it will help your brand build positive associations and trust, which will ultimately lead to more sales.