How Can You Encourage User-Generated Content?

You’ve probably heard it said before: if you want to market your business on a new level, you need to encourage user-generated content. Word-of-mouth is arguably the only truly effective form of advertising, but having a community of customers take it to the internet enables widespread outreach you are hard-pressed to find otherwise. But what is it, exactly, and how do you get people to make it?

What is it?

Executing a content strategy is becoming increasingly popular—and essential—in modern marketing. In an age where people can block or skip ads, you want to target people through what they do come to the internet for, not what they attempt to avoid. You might write blog posts, publish SEO articles on secondary outlets, share images on social media, and more.

User-generated content is any material that unpaid contributors (your fans) create. Whenever your social media followers make a video, write a testimonial, compose a tweet, mention you in an article, or share a picture that pertains to your business, it counts as user-generated content. This way, customers are the ones promoting you, not yourself.

Understand why it’s important

Having your followers publicly acknowledge your brand is not a fad. According to TintUp, 86 percent of Millennials say that user-generated content, otherwise known as UGC, is a positive indicator that a brand is of quality. Consumers are also twice as likely to share user-generated content with their peers because people trust each other over the brands themselves. Businesses are trying to convert people into customers and make sales, so no matter how legitimate they sound, people feel more comfortable doing business with a company that their friends and family have had positive experiences with.

UGC is also an excellent opportunity to get social media followers engaged. Your relationship should not be one-way, with you distributing information and letting customers spectate on the sidelines. People love to feel validated and seen, so when you accept content from people (no matter how hard they worked on it) and share it with your broader audience, they are unlikely to forget that recognition, and they’ll recognize you in return.

Pick the right platforms

When it comes to the practicalities, remember not to assume any platform is appropriate for what you are going to ask people to do. If you plan on asking for videos of people using your products, LinkedIn is probably not the place to do it. Instead, Facebook is excellent for stories and longer testimonials; Twitter is beneficial for short-and-sweet announcements and makes content easily shareable; LinkedIn is perfect for a professional approach, and visual-heavy Instagram is arguably the king of user-generated content. On Instagram and Twitter especially, you can leverage relevant hashtags and filter material and mark it with your stamp of affiliation.

Each platform enables you to devise a respective set of goals. Do you want to increase brand engagement, educate people about your industry, or improve your conversion rates? Success looks different across social channels, so do not be upset of consumers are not liking your pictures on LinkedIn the way they are on Facebook. Keep in mind that timing is a factor, too: the best days to get more Instagram followers might not be the same on sites like Pinterest.

Decide on what content you will ask for

Do you want photographs? Puns? Artwork? Poems? You do not want to ask too much of your followers (or risk no one participating), but you do want to leave room for them to go above and beyond to catch your attention.

Take the clothing company Burberry’s The Art of the Trench website it launched back in 2009. The site allows customers to upload pictures of themselves wearing the company’s products. Why was it successful? Burberry had afforded people the chance to become models. Instead of seeming like they were asking for attention on other platforms, the business’s customers were gifted win an opportunity to look fabulous and post their pictures designated for that express purpose.

Or look at what Target did in 2010. The company promised to donate $500 in education and would double other contributions through its college acceptance letter campaign. It asked that customers record videos of themselves opening their college letters and send them in, which the company later compiled into a commercial. Making a video is quick and easy, and the best reactions were ready-made for tugging on the public’s heartstrings.

Encouraging user-generated content may not save you work, but it is a useful technique for fostering a relationship between you and your customers. If you make them feel seen and heard, and maybe offer a few tangible incentives, consumers will recognize you as a brand that cares about their effort and experiences. How will you motivate followers to generate content for you?