August 21, 2015
If you spend a great deal of time with your business's marketing team coming up with items to put on your editorial calendar, driving professionally created content, and making sure that your website is optimized, what I'm about to say will surprise you.
Pause what you're doing, and spend a minute with me thinking about how user generated content can change everything about your business for the better.
There are many different kinds of user generated content, or UGC, on the web. Sometimes, businesses think of UGC with a very narrow set of lenses. They think of inviting users to write a guest blog about their experience with a product, or do a Hangout or Facebook party with the company to showcase their experience. And those are excellent examples of one kind of UGC.
But UGC can also be:
- Users answering product questions from other users
- Reviews where customers can comment or ask questions
- Posters on forums dedicated to your product or service
- Interaction on social media related to your products
- Users blogging or creating video about their experiences with your product on their own platforms
Let's talk about the ways that UGC brings benefits to your business.
Increases Customer Engagement
By now, we're all aware that great customer engagement is the key to loyal and longstanding customers. The days when a company passed down marketing and customers bought things or they didn't are over. Social media explodes during the Super Bowl, talking not about the game but the commercials. Companies search for the magic formula to make their ad campaign go viral, knowing the huge amount of attention that brings.
But while we know that customers want to be engaged, some companies struggle to create that engagement and benefit from content marketing.
It's much simpler than businesses seem to think. To create engaged customers, listen to what they have to say. Respond to them in a respectful manner, whether their feedback is good or bad. Thank them for reaching out.
Whether you're on a forum, on Facebook, on Twitter, or on YouTube, there's not all that much more to it than that.
Relieves Some Customer Service Pressure
If your website sells products, give browsing customers the opportunity to ask questions of other customers who have reviewed a particular product. Businesses who have implemented this strategy have found that their incoming calls and emails have reduced, as many of the “What color red is this in real life,” and “I see width and length listed, but what is the depth of this bureau” type questions are answered. This leaves your team free to handle the more complicated inquiries that can't be answered by experienced customers, such as sales, returns, and leads.
Improves Brand Perception
Customers are looking for engagement, but not all customers are comfortable jumping into the fray and asking questions of a brand directly. Some potential customers feel that they shouldn't “bother” a company with their questions.
By proactively pushing to show your company as one which willingly and eagerly engages with your customers, you both show yourself as willing and interested in taking feedback and questions from customers, and also give options for your potential customers to gain information without feeling like they're “bothering” you.
Reach new market segments
Suppose that you sell a product that currently sells well in one niche, such as college students, but you're about to complete a redesign which will broaden the product's appeal to include young mothers. How do you cross that threshold, and reach your new market segment without being annoying, combating the fact that you've previously been identified with a very different group of people?
The answer, of course, is user generated content.
One portion of your strategy would be reaching out to parenting bloggers, particularly those who would likely have been a fan of your product when they were college students. You would pitch the product to them, and offer them a free copy or item if they were willing to blog about it and talk about it on social media.
One crucial warning about UGC
One thing you absolutely must know about User Generated Content: you need to set out, from the beginning, who owns the content created on your forums, posts, so forth, and once that's agreed upon by you and your community, you absolutely cannot stray from it ever, no matter what. If you say that users always own their content, no exceptions, then you may not use a tagline from someone's post to promote your product without their permission. Ever. Period. This strategy is used in B2B marketing, but the amount of credibility you will lose is astonishing, and it will happen faster than you can blink.
Some businesses get around this by burying somewhere in their terms and conditions that the site or business actually owns all content created on the site, and then fall back on this when they decide they want to use something.
Don't do this. Someone will read every single line of the black and white, and someone will out your business, and that credibility drop will still happen.
The best course of action is to assume that, without clear prior agreement, consumers expect to own things written on the Internet. Don't use legal loopholes to get permission. Most users will be perfectly willing, possibly even flattered, to be featured in promotional materials, but these same users will be furious if they end up there without their knowledge.
User Generated Content has the ability to change everything about your business's online marketing for the better. Use it carefully, and reap all the benefits.
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