In today’s crowded content landscape, it has become increasingly important for marketers to uncover creative ways to grab – and keep – a prospect’s and a customer’s attention. More than ever before, customers don’t want to feel like they are being sold to. Instead, they want valuable pieces of content that will enrich or improve their daily life.
To put it simply, the promotional messaging that worked twenty years ago won’t work today. So how can today’s marketers pump out enough high-quality content to satisfy readers and convert them to customers? Enter user-generated content.
What is User-generated content?
User-generated content is just what it sounds like – content created by “users”, or individuals who interact with your brand, but aren’t professionally affiliated with your organization.
User-generated content is different from traditional marketing in the fact that it relies on your fans to promote your brand, rather than doing the promoting yourself.
This type of content can take shape in almost any form; from pictures or videos, to reviews, testimonials, tweets, or even blog posts.
Why User-generated content?
User-generated content is not exclusive to one platform or medium. Whether you’re trying to boost website traffic or increase your social media presence, this type of content fits nicely into almost any marketing strategy.
The best part? User-generated content works to attract new prospects and convert them to customers. Here are a few key benefits of user-generated content:
At the backbone of the argument for user-generated content is its innate ability to earn the trust of your audience. Consider these statistics:
Traditional marketing collateral is designed to talk up your brand – after all, that’s what your content team was hired for. This type of content often takes on a “salesy” voice, and can read as disingenuous to your target audience.
User-generated content, on the other hand, is created by your fans – willingly; they often aren’t receiving a paycheck once they’re done. This adds a level of authenticity to the content that reads as sincere and, ultimately, trustworthy.
It’s inherently engaging.
Engagement rates are often higher for user-generated content in comparison to other types of marketing materials. Circling back to our previous point, consumers value the opinions of their peers more than the opinion of a brand.
In fact, one brand recently reported that engagement rates increased nearly 28% when they incorporated user-generated content into a promotional video. Similarly, consumers are twice as likely to share user-generated content with friends or family, than traditional promotional content (source).
In addition, consumers like knowing that their thoughts and feelings are being heard. Embrace and respond to the content created by your fan base. This establishes a meaningful relationship with your prospects and increases the chance of future engagement.
It drives sales.
One challenge many brands face is keeping a prospect’s interest long enough that they make a purchase. However, according to a recent report, when consumers are presented with user-generated content during the buying process, the conversion rate increases by 4.6% (source).
It can increase online visibility.
One benefit of user-generated content that many organizations don’t always recognize is its ability to improve SEO efforts. This type of content increases the amount of online content pertaining to your brand.
In turn, this can increase the search engine indexing and search visibility surrounding the key phrases significant to your business. In a recent study conducted by Kiss Metrics, it was found that 25% of the search results for the world’s largest 20 brands were comprised of third-party content (source).
It’s cost effective and efficient.
Successful content marketing is hard work; it takes hours planning and loads of man power to develop valuable content that your audience will not only enjoy, but also find useful. User-generated content takes the burden off of your content team—by providing ready-made, shareable material.
User-generated content is also cost effective, as many happy customers are willing to do the work for free.
Getting started with user-generated content
We know what you’re thinking; sure, the statistics are impressive, but really – how many customers can you expect to go out of their way to create content for your brand? Well, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that by 2013 about 114.5 million people had contributed user-generated content to a brand (source).
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, your prospects appreciate the opportunity to have their opinions heard. Despite this, only 16% of brands have a strategy in place to cultivate user-generated content (source).
If you’re one of the many companies without a user-generated content strategy, fear not. It isn’t as complicated as it may first appear. Here are a few simple ways to get your audience involved:
People are constantly sharing their thoughts and opinions about your brand—and the majority of this happens on social media. Be sure to track your hashtags, brand mentions, location tags, and tagged photos. You’ll have a treasure trove of materials to work with.
Share pictures, product reviews, and positive commentary with your other followers or include it in your marketing collateral.
For a more comprehensive guide to social listening, check out this article: The Marketer’s Guide to Social Listening.
People love free stuff. One of the simplest ways to get your audience involved is to offer an incentive. In exchange for content, offer a discount or prize.
Consider asking for help from an influencer or industry expert who resonates with your target audience. Whether it’s a blog post, an interview, or a product review, an influencer’s input on your brand can prove to be a valuable piece of content.
Not only will your brand gain more trust with your audience, but you’ll also be able to leverage the influencer’s popularity, effectively expanding your reach.
For more information about influencer marketing, check out this article: Influencer Marketing 101.
Surveys are a great source of user-generated content for two reasons. One, it provides your marketing team with valuable insight. This information can be useful in a number of different ways, from improving the customer experience, to developing new strategies for garnering their attention and business.
Additionally, your customer’s positive survey answers can be incorporated into your other marketing materials.
Once you incorporate user-generated content into your marketing strategy, you will see a drastic improvement in customer engagement, lead generation, and much more. Keep in mind, always ask a customer’s permission before using their content and have fun with it!