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Why UGC (user generated content) matters and Why businesses need to encourage it.

Each and everyday our web changes. Over the past 5 years we have seen a massive shift towards social conversations platforms like Facebook & Twitter which have exploded and brought with them a whole world of new content. This content was not created by famous writers, nor was it created or dreamed up by fluffy marketers. It was created by regular people.

But before we get into ‘why user generated content matters’ let me be clear on just what UGC actually is, why it is becoming a major part of Search #Fact and why businesses also have a part to play in UGC.

We have developed into a society which likes to share, and by sharing I mean digitally share. UGC is content which we upload to a website or social media platform, examples of such content include Audio, Photography, Video, Written & Reviews. Now it’s no secret that I am not a fan of mass marketing. Nowadays we are subjected to so many advertising messages coming from a variety of different channels that, as businesses and marketers, we really need to take a step back and look at what messages are actually reaching the customer, or being lost. It is now generally accepted that peer recommendations online are more likely to lead to a sales conversion and that the attachment or advocacy connected with user-generated content can indeed be a powerful tool to strengthen and grown your consumer base. All of which matters in the competitive space of trying to win customers online.

Research carried out has shown that more than 8 in 10 say user-generated content from people they don’t know influences what they buy and indicates brand quality, while 51% say it is actually more important than the opinions of their friends and family, and far more trustworthy than website content. *Source Talking to Strangers Millennials Trust people over Brands Jan 2012*

Now for me, as an online customer engagement fanatic, the whole user generated content area excites me a lot. As I see it there is a massive opportunity for businesses, especially the small ones, of become big players. If they can get it right. B Building Brand advocacy via social media can really boost their business. Where many of the businesses fail is getting it right. They sit on the fence way to long, dip their toe in the water or put in a half ass effort. I’ve always found in the past with using social media you need to go all in, a bit like poker, to see any of the benefits. The generation of this content for the business comes at very little cost but some effort, although it is worth pointing out it can come with it’s own problems highlighting the negative downside of a business which underperforms.

I’ve included some steps, which you can take to start the ball rolling, encouraging the creation of user generated content amongst your customers.

• Ask and encourage customers to post reviews and comments on their experience with your brand, business or service. Include links to trusted review sites.
• Using User generated content websites such as Tripadvisor attract search engines visitors linking your site through UGC are contributing towards improving your ranking and increasing your visibility via the search engines.
• Create content which connects with the needs of your customers to grow UGC
• Encourage Discussion. The reason social media has been so explosive is because of its discussion aspect. It’s created outside of ‘actual’ physical conversations and is a place where people can talk, share experiences and ideas at the touch of a button. Within your business social space online encourage customers to suggest ideas which will contribute towards the success of your business. Ask their opinion on your products or services and how you could improve on them.

To sum things up, encouraging customers of your business to create UGC will contribute to your overall business marketing efforts. As the research shows earlier in the blog, 51% say UGC is actually more important than the opinions of their friends and family, and far more trustworthy than website content.

In a nutshell, your customers the ‘Users’ want to generate the content so at all opportunities encourage this. Of course from time to time the content generated may not be as positive as you wanted but managing the process will have the biggest impact and create more leads which will win you business. By providing great customer service within your business and by responding online you will be rewarded and further incentivise fans to create good content.

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