If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen a lot of brands that share user-generated content. From a marketing standpoint, it’s a killer move. However, you need to approach it the right way in order to utilize it to your advantage.
To incorporate user-generated content in your marketing strategy, you need to understand why it works and how to get your audience interested in participating. In this article, we’ll go over both those topics and share three ways you can leverage user-generated content online.
Let’s get to it!
Why You Should Promote User-Generated Content
Before we start digging into this topic, let’s talk about what user-generated content is. In a nutshell, it can be any content that comes from your audience and involves your brand in some way, including:
- Social media posts that use specific hashtags related to your business or products
- Photos that include your products
- Posts on social media describing positive experiences with your services
- Blog posts about your brand or products for publication on your site
Those are just some quick examples, however. ‘Content’ can come in a thousand different packages, so there’s no limit to what your users might come up with.
Traditionally, brands focus on marketing materials they generate themselves. However, turning the tables and giving your users a chance to shine comes with its own benefits. It can help you build a sense of community among your audience, increase engagement on social media, and fill out your editorial calendar.
Plus, it helps you get the word out about your products or services with minimal added costs on your end. On paper, user-generated content is a slam-dunk. However, you can only leverage it if your followers are motivated to produce it in the first place.
How to Get Users to Invest in Creating Content for Your Brand
Think about all the work that goes into creating a video or writing a blog post. No one wants to go through all that effort without a potential reward, and that includes your users. In the case of guest posts, for example, the payoff usually comes in the shape of backlinks to the writer’s own site, or money.
The more popular your brand is, the smaller the incentives you may have to offer to encourage users to produce content for you. That’s because, in these situations, the reward is often social. Users send you content because they’re trying to leverage you to build their own online followings.
That’s not often the case for small websites or brands, however. If you don’t have a large existing audience, you need to provide more tangible rewards to get users interested in creating content you can share. Those incentives often come through contests, giveaways, or exchanges (such as a monetary payment or a reciprocal guest post).
If you can spark users’ interest in creating content for your brand, it’s also important to obtain their permission to share it. On social media, for instance, it’s usually safer to re-tweet or re-post the original content with the creator’s name attached than to copy it into your own post:
In cases where users submit content to you directly and you want to share it, make sure you use proper attribution. That way, you give back to your audience and you cover yourself from a legal standpoint.
3 Ways to Leverage User-Generated Content
There are a near-endless number of ways you can leverage user content to your brand’s benefit. It all comes down to what type of product or service you’re offering, but generally speaking, the three approaches below should work for most businesses.
1. Open Your Blog’s Doors to Guest Posts
Guest posting is one of the best ways to leverage user-generated content if your site includes a blog. In a nutshell, they’re valuable for the following reasons:
- They help you fill out your editorial calendar.
- Guest authors may come up with topics you wouldn’t have thought of.
- It offers your users the opportunity to promote their own projects in a way that isn’t spammy.
A lot of popular blogs (including ours) accept guest posts. The downside to this approach, however, is that it’s a bit passive since you have to wait for users to send you their pitches.
To make sure that happens, we recommend having a Contact Us page that works and mentioning you’re open to guest pitches on your website as well as social media. It’s also helpful to share your guest posting guidelines to save everyone time.
2. Share User Photos or Videos on Social Media
If you sell physical products or services, chances are that people have photographed themselves using them. That’s a golden marketing opportunity if your brand is on social media.
Marketing-savvy brands post user photos to their profiles all the time, be it through their stories or on their timelines:
If someone tags your business’ profile in an Instagram post, for example, you can re-post it with just a few clicks. It can be smart to ask for permission before doing this so your followers know when they’re going to appear on your account.
The idea behind sharing user photos on social media is that it acts as a kind of social proof. If others see people enjoying your brand, it may encourage them to check out your products or services as well.
If you want to encourage users to post photos or videos that you can share, it helps to offer something in exchange. Running giveaways, for example, can inspire your followers to participate when they otherwise might not publish brand-related content.
In most cases, this works in a contest-like manner. You’ll post information directly on your profiles calling for photos of people using your flagship product, for instance. Then, you can select a ‘winner’ who will receive a free item or coupon, and you can re-post their image on your account.
3. Use Surveys to Help You Come Up With New Ideas
User-generated content doesn’t always have to be as tangible as a picture or a blog post. Sometimes, it can come in the form of ideas.
Whether those are suggestions for new content, products, or services depends entirely on your audience. However, one way you can encourage users to share their ideas with you is to run surveys:
Surveys are one of the best ways to collect insights from your audience, including suggestions for new offers from your brand. We’ve written about how to run surveys on your WordPress site in the past, but a few tools you may consider using include Google Forms and Typeform.
User-generated content can be a marketing goldmine. You never know just how engaging or fun your audience is until you give them a turn in the spotlight. It also happens to be an excellent way to build brand loyalty.
If you can get users invested in the idea of generating content for your brand, here are three approaches you can take to leverage it:
- Open your blog’s doors to guest posts.
- Share user photos or videos on social media.
- Use surveys to help you come up with new ideas.
Do you have any questions about how to leverage user-generated content? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!
Article thumbnail image by Inspiring / shutterstock.com