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The Future of Marketing Is User-Generated Content, Are You Ready?

The heart of marketing has always been about understanding your audience. You’re working to learn what your target demographic is like and what their needs are so you can create content that resonates. But one of the latest marketing trends is flipping this idea on its head: user-generated content.

Predicted to be one of the biggest social media marketing trends of 2019 by MarTech Advisors, user-generated content isn’t about uncovering who your audience is and how that relates to your brand. Instead, it’s about users directly relating to your product and company, and showing you what the relationship is like for them.

However, many marketers are hesitant to start user-generated content campaigns because it takes away some of your ability to control the messaging. But this is an outdated way to think about effective marketing. Nowadays, it’s imperative to find a way to have your brand connect with your audience. User-generated content creates that opportunity.

Here’s everything you need to know when starting out with user-generated content:

What is user-generated content?

With user-generated content, brands turn to their audience and ask individuals to create content they can then share as part of their marketing strategy. While the company can suggest what type of content they’re looking for, users have all the control. They decide what’s said about the organization or the brand and how to present that message.

Some common types of user-generated content include:

  • Videos of customers using the product
  • Social media shares that promote other brand-related content
  • Product reviews that are published online

What’s important to remember is that your customers are going to be creating user-generated content whether you ask them to or not. It’s the day and age we live in. But by actively making the content part of your marketing strategy, you can let the content work for you, rather than against you.

What are its benefits?

It can be scary to hand over even a small amount of control when it comes to your company and brand. After all, you’ve worked hard to develop your organization’s reputation. One piece of user-generated content that is misconstrued or goes against a core company value can do damage. But when done right, user-generated content comes with big benefits that outweigh the risk.

It increases brand loyalty

Customers don’t take the time to create content in support of a brand if they’re unhappy. They do it because they feel a connection with the company and what it represents. Recording and editing a video is their way to deepen their relationship with your brand.

At the same time, user-generated content links your customers to the success of your organization. For example, when a user-generated video goes viral, every customer feels a sense of pride. Even if they didn’t make the content, someone like them did and it had a positive impact on the brand and its community.

It creates trustworthy claims

When reading content that is produced by the company, most consumers take it with a grain of salt. They know a company is trying to make a sale and therefore don’t always believe the claims an organization makes. 

However, with user-generated content, the creator is simply trying to show their support of a brand. While they may receive small benefits (like discounts) for making the content, it’s not their job. Their actions are motivated by their love of the company. This makes what they have to say sound more sincere and believable to potential new customers.

It’s cost-effective

Creating great content takes time and resources. However, with user-generated content, the customer is expending most of the energy. They use their own talents and skills, and while the content isn’t always “professional” level, it can effectively reach others. The company can then pick the best pieces of content to reshare without having to spend any money.

How do you start?

As with any new marketing technique, it can be difficult to know where to start. But by understanding the basic steps, you can build a strategy that fits your brand and engages your customers.

user-generated content

Have a clear “ask”

Even though users are in the driver’s seat, a user-generated content campaign needs to have a direction and a purpose. This will ensure the content supports the brand in a way that aligns with other marketing strategies. It also helps to focus on users so all the content in the campaign is cohesive.

Before you start requesting user-generated content, define what the goals of the campaign are. Are you looking to educate people about how your products work? Do you want to highlight specific values of the organization? Are you trying to reach a new demographic?

Once you have the purpose identified, it’s time to “ask” for your users’ input. The trick is balancing clarity without stifling people’s creativity. This way you’ll get imaginative content that still fits your campaign’s purpose. Here are some things to consider when formulating an “ask”:

  • The implication of verbs: If you ask your users to “show us how you use our product” you’re steering customers toward video or other visual content. While if you say “tell us,” you’re more likely to get written content.
  • Make it clear how to submit content: Users want to know where you’re going to be looking for submissions. If they should use a certain platform like YouTube or highlight their content with a hashtag, include that information in the “ask.” This will also make it easy for other people to view the content, even if they don’t create any themselves.
  • Layout guidelines: people want their content to be reshared, so they need to know beforehand what you’re looking for. This is especially important if your “ask” is part of a contest or giveaway.

Have a way to show appreciation

When your customers are going the extra mile to support your brand, you need to recognize their efforts. Even if it’s just a call out on social media, it’s important to thank users for their participation. The recognition should also be public. This helps the customer build their own brand and shows everyone you value the efforts of your audience.

Consider the following “thank-yous” for those who create user-generated content:

  • Tagging them when you reshare the content.
  • Following them back on social media.
  • Providing contributors with a discount code for your product.
  • Featuring the user in other marketing content.

Respond to feedback

Whenever you ask your audience for their thoughts and opinions, you’re opening the door for the possibility of negative feedback. People might mention parts of your product they don’t like or they could comment on the actions of company leadership.

If this feedback is presented in a respectful way, do not ignore it. This is information that can help you make improvements. Let the user know you have heard their concerns, then respond with a plan to fix the problem. Acknowledging the issue will further help to solidify the brand’s reputation and dedication to meeting customers’ needs. 

About Kristen Klempert

Kristen Klempert is currently a Marketing Analyst at Clever Real Estate and a former Ride the Sail Content Rockstar and Social Media Maven. You can follow Kristen on Twitter or Instagram for her thoughts on the world and photos of her dog, River.