Marketing is all about convincing consumers that what your company offers is exactly what they need. But the thing is, that people today are aware of this. They know that your goal as a marketer is to influence them with your message. That’s what makes them untrusty of ads and commercial campaigns. Whom they trust, however, are other consumers just like them. And this is how user-generated content is born.
The good news is that nowadays people love sharing their experiences with others. It’s genuine, it’s valuable and it can give your marketing strategy a new flavor.
But what exactly is user-generated content?
What Is User-Generated Content?
User-generated content (UGC) is every piece of content regarding your brand that has not been created by your marketing team but by online users and brand customers. It can be in the form of testimonials, reviews on various platforms, blog post comments, social media posts involving your brand and products, forum posts and comments, photos, and stories.
UGC is very important for companies because it shows brands from the consumer’s point of view. People nowadays rarely dive into buying something without doing preliminary research. And what they will find convincing is not what you say about yourself, but what others share.
Research shows that 79% of consumers said their purchasing decisions are impacted by UGC, compared to only 13% who said the same about brand-produced content. This, of course, doesn’t mean that you should ditch your inbound strategy and rely on reviews alone. But it shows that UGC carries a lot of weight with people and holds invaluable marketing potential.
What’s more, UGC reflects your trustworthiness and can thus impact your performance in search. Since the Google E-A-T regulations are a key ranking factor now, you should make sure that your online reputation is in line with your business goals. Otherwise, you might seem untrustworthy, which is bad enough and can also hurt your ranking and compromise your SEO and marketing efforts.
Benefits of UGC
There are many potential ways your marketing strategy can benefit from user-generated content. There are the top ones:
- Builds trust. As mentioned, people trust reviews and personal experiences more than they trust ads and slogans. If prospects see that their peers recommend you, they will be more likely to give you a chance.
- Spreads Brand Awareness. By sharing UGC your customers become your brand’s best advocates. Social media platforms are a key factor here and can be a really useful channel to make your brand more popular through the posts users share.
- Accumulates Free Content. Coming up with engaging new content regularly is not easy. UGC can be a fresh breath of air for your marketing strategy and can give you interesting ideas for blog posts, social media content, and ads. Also, the nice thing is you can simply reshare reviews and still receive awesome results.
- Strengthens Your Bond with Customers. UGC gives you another reason to interact with your customers. Communication is a major factor for building emotional engagement and turning customers into a supportive and loyal community.
So how to utilize the true marketing potential of UGC and make the best of it? Read on to find out.
1. Build a Strategy and Set Goals
To utilize the full power of UGC you should first consider what you want to achieve, set goals and build a strategy. Leaving things to chance and following a chaotic approach will probably deliver some results but they will be far from satisfactory. Following a consistent course of action, on the other hand, will keep customers engaged and stimulate them to produce more interesting content.
Your UGC strategy should be in line with your brand identity and overall marketing efforts. This means you should filter carefully the type of content you encourage and reuse, and focus only on what matches your goals.
For example, if you want to attract more small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) as clients, invite your existing SMB customers to share their experiences with your brand. You can then reshare the content on social media, use it to build case studies, feature it on your website, etc.
Also, there are different platforms where you can find and nurture UGC. When considering which ones to use, make sure that you have the resources to monitor and maintain them. If negative feedback accumulates and is left unattended it can have unpleasant results. What’s more, you can guide conversations in the right direction and fix misunderstandings by being present.
Here are the best platforms for UGC you can use:
- Social Media. Social platforms are a great place to keep in touch with your customers, gather reviews, and build up various kinds of UGC.
- Google My Business. Setting up a My Business account is especially useful for local businesses, as the featured reviews often influence people’s choices when doing “near me” searches.
- Review Websites. Third-party review websites are important because they are an independent source of information and people trust them. Also, a lot of these platforms support website integrations and you can feature the reviews on your website.
- Website. You can add plugins for testimonials and blog post comments on your website. However, keep in mind that, as mentioned, customers tend to trust third-party sources more, so it might be best to consider featuring UGC from other platforms
When planning how to utilize the potential of UGC, consider each of these platforms and how it can consolidate your marketing strategy.
2. Encourage Feedback from your Customers
If you are new to handling user-generated content and wondering where to start, we’ve got good news. The easiest way to receive some feedback from your customers is to simply ask for it. Not every person will leave a comment on your products and services by default, but if you ask nicely, it’s a safe bet that few will say not.
To make it hassle-free and effortless for your customers, you can develop a questionnaire or a quiz with questions regarding their experiences with your brand. You can even design them in the form of an interactive video to make the process fun.
When you are trying to build up reviews on a particular platform, send your clients an email with a link and ask them to share a few words.
You can consider offering some kind of encouragement such as a discount voucher to use on their next transaction, or some other benefit, applicable to your specific business. However, most people will agree to leave you feedback just because they want to, so try to test this strategy first.
Another cool way to accumulate feedback is by providing a video testimonials option. There are tools that allow users to directly record a video, instead of writing a review. This kind of social proof can be very impactful as it shows genuine emotion and is more relatable. It will keep both your customers and prospects engaged and will provide valuable content for your website.
By asking what your customers think of you, you will learn a lot about them but also a lot about yourself. This type of user-generated content will give you food for thought and will, ultimately, help you fine-tune your marketing strategy to your customer’s needs and preferences.
3. Up Your Social Media Game
Social media platforms have the greatest potential for user-generated content. While other UGC platforms’ focus is mostly on building trust through customer testimonials, social media goes a step further. It allows a multimedia approach that goes beyond anything else and brings UGC to the next level.
Users there create content regardless of your involvement in the conversation. They join in discussions, upload photos and videos, share experiences. And they are talking about you. What they say is important because it influences others’ choices and opinions of your brand.
The B2B value of social media user-generated content is largely underestimated, but the fact is that 75% of B2B buyers and executives do social media research before making a purchasing decision.
So join the conversation and work on your social image. This way you can guide content that users generate in a direction that meets your marketing goals and make the best of it. You can also work out any misunderstandings in time and improve your services.
Here’s how to up your social media game to utilize the marketing potential of UGC:
Communicate With Your Audience
By keeping an active conversation with your customers and prospects you will always be in the loop on what they think and say about you.
You can also keep them posted with updates about upcoming changes and thus minimize the potential stress. By answering their questions and regarding their concerns, you can make sure that no misunderstandings cause negative feedback.
Also, keeping customers engaged will make them feel more involved with your brand and make them more likely to have warmer feelings about you and produce positive UGC.
Make a Brand Hashtag
Your customers will probably tag you anyway when they have something to say about you. An official brand hashtag will allow you to follow these comments and react in time.
What’s more, when they use it, it gives customers a sense of belonging to the brand.
You can have different hashtags for different campaigns but you should have an anchor to unite them.
Think of Challenges
The fun part of the social media experience is usually considered to be more of a B2C thing. But B2B should not be left joyless.
You can still think up entertaining ways to feature or use your product and put your customers to the challenge.
This will provide invaluable UGC, build brand awareness, and work wonders for your brand image.
Similar to the suggestion above, contests are a great way to make your social media connection with your customers more engaging.
For example, if your company sells paper to corporate businesses, make a contest for the best paper plane. Customers can share photos or videos of their creations and you can advertise your product as suitable for business and entertainment purposes alike.
These kinds of campaigns strengthen your connection with your customers because they take it to a new level. You give people an opportunity to do something different in the workplace and provide positive emotions. By sharing these emotions on social media, they make your brand more appealing.
In a nutshell, you give them a fun time, and in return, they provide engaging user-generated content that gives your marketing strategy a boost.
4. Set Up a Google My Business Profile
Google My Business (GMB) is especially useful for companies with local clients. It allows you to provide up-to-date information about your working hours, location, add establishment photos, and other guidelines your customers might need. But the most valuable feature of GMB is the reviews.
GMB can easily be compared to a local digital word-of-mouth recommendation hub. When doing “near me” searches, people usually focus on three things – working hours, directions, and reviews. And the reviews are what helps them make up their mind when choosing between available options.
Always invite your happy clients to leave you a GMB review and share their impressions of your businesses with other customers. This will show you as reliable and trustworthy.
Also, make sure to leave replies to their comments and show a human touch. As with other platforms, this can serve as proof that you care about your customers.
Although it’s tempting to quickly delete any negative feedback, trying to solve the case, help the customer and change their mind is a better alternative. Nobody is perfect and mistakes happen, and by addressing negative feedback while keeping a civil conversation, you show you are always striving to improve.
This kind of user-generated content is valuable for your digital word-of-mouth marketing. It can improve your reputation and bring in new clients.
5. Stay in Touch With Your Customers
UGC shouldn’t be a one-way communication and we cannot stress this enough. Keeping an active conversation with your customers will give you valuable feedback, new content ideas, and, ultimately, it will generate even more UGC.
Make a habit to always respond to user reviews – good or bad – and keep track of your record. If left unattended user-generated content channels can even have the opposite effect. More often than not bad reviews are the result of a misunderstanding or miscommunication. Starting a conversation with the customer will allow you to clear things up and, hopefully, make them happy again. This way you will not only win them back as clients, but you can improve the quality of your work.
Staying in touch with your customers can also give insight into how they really use your products, which might sometimes surprise you. Exploring the peculiarities that surface in user-generated content can also help you find new ways to market your products.
6. Always Ask for Consent
When using user-generated content for marketing purposes, you should always ask the owner of the content for their permission first.
People are usually flattered when their favorite brand wants to reshare their pic or tell their story, but you shouldn’t take this for granted as there are exceptions. A simple message will do the trick and save you potential complications with the law.
Most third-party review platforms have in-build regulations that users have to consent to before writing a comment. However, you should always check anyway and it doesn’t hurt to ask. Furthermore, your clients will appreciate the gesture and this will give you a chance to thank them for their endorsement. And if they happen to say no, even better that you’d decided to ask first.
7. Don’t Be Shy to Show Off Positive Reviews
It’s true, people are generally more inclined to trust third-party sources of recommendations and reviews. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feature positive testimonials on your website.
If you are using WordPress (WP), there are various plugins that allow you to embed reviews from third-party platforms.
There are also plugins that provide an option for customers to leave a review directly on the website, featuring their name, company, position, and other details.
Make sure to also feature positive feedback on product pages and on your home page. If your brand is popular, why not make a page on your website dedicated to customer testimonials alone. There you can keep it all in one place and integrate reviews from third-party platforms, as well as customer testimonials from all channels representing your brand.
The point is, that reviews matter and since you have them, there is no reason not to showcase them.
8. Monitor Blog Post Comments
Blog post comments are valuable user-generated content and can give insight into the quality of your articles and the usefulness of the information they provide. However, it’s very important to note that user-generated content is considered by Google to be part of the main content on your page and this means that it can affect your ranking.
Not everyone who writes under your posts has good intentions, and if not monitored, the comments section can spiral out of control. Also, spam comments containing suspicious or questionable information can ruin your marketing and SEO efforts, so make sure to delete them in time.
This, of course, doesn’t mean you should turn off commenting in general, but that you should keep a close eye on it. Make sure that user input lives up to the quality and intent of your content and participate in the discussion to show respect to users and guide the conversation if necessary.
People nowadays are more than willing to share how they feel about brands and their services. B2B buyers are not any different and, since we are all in the same boat, we know that recommendations from other customers are important. All you have to do in order to receive feedback is to simply ask.
Moreover, by staying in touch with your clients via all available channels, and looking deeper into their feedback and stories, you will be able to gain valuable insights. This will allow you to better analyze your products and services and help build a more meaningful relationship with your clients.