User-generated content: The marketing strategy everyone should be using

User-generated content (UGC) is a pillar of Internet life. The benefits are many, and the output of effort on your part is small. UGC is a broad concept that includes any content created by unpaid contributors: wikis, reviews, forums, infographics, social media posts, memes, and more. UGC shapes the modern internet experience and your business can — and should — be part of that experience.

shutterstock_229441501The benefits of UGC

Reduced work

UGC presents an an easy opportunity for you to outsource your content creation. In order to maintain and grow your audience and potential customer base, you need consistently fresh, engaging content on your site. This swallows up time and energy, even after you’ve gotten good at it.

With UGC, your customers and fans can help you out. Simply give them a starting point — a controversial topic for discussion or a product for review — and a platform where they can share their thoughts. With your small contribution, users will create bountiful content with a variety of perspectives.

Trustworthiness

The future of the market is millennials. According to a study by Crowdtap and Ipsos, millennials highly value the opinions of their peers, which they find via UGC. Specifically, millennials trust UGC 50% more than other types of media. The same study found that UGC is 20% more influential in a purchasing situation and 35% more memorable when compared to other types of media.

Little investment, great return

Whatever minimal time you spend on incorporating UGC as part of your content strategy, you will gain that time and effort back with remarkable returns.

Your primary expenses will be creating the platform on which your users can generate content and promoting the platform to find a user base, including any social media promotion costs. After that, UGC requires little from you and allows you to cut costs in your regular marketing budget.

GoPro, a company that makes rugged cameras designed primarily for extreme sports and outdoor activities, presents a perfect example of the impressive ROI of UGC. The company doubled its net income after spending only $50,000 in marketing, because its advertising material was predominantly videos made by customers and sponsored athletes.

Ways to employ UGC

Create brand ambassadors

Once someone has bought and used your product, they become infinitely more valuable to you. Provide incentives for customers to share reviews, photos, and videos of your product on social media. You can then re-share that content on your own pages and accounts, both recognizing your existing customer’s effort and appealing to new customers with a trustworthy piece of genuine, bona fide UGC.

Consult your audience

When you need new ideas, your audience can be a great resource. What do they want? How can you change the design of your existing product or create a new one to serve them?

This not only gives you invaluable feedback about current and potential products, but it also starts a conversation among your following, one that’s very likely to engage your most dedicated customers and casual fans alike.

Starbucks tapped into the popularity of UGC to find a design for its reusable plastic cups (and got a lot of free publicity in the process) with its White Cup Contest. Starbucks customers decorated their cardboard cups then submitted photos on social media. By opening this contest to their customers, they gained valuable exposure and a new cup design.

On-site reviews

Your website should have a place for your visitors to provide comments and leave reviews, especially if you run an eCommerce business of any kind. Always acknowledge when someone takes the time to provide a review — thereby providing you with content, or at the very least, feedback — regardless of their opinion. A little recognition can go a long way to creating a repeat customer.

Tap into this powerful resource

There is only one ingredient necessary for a successful UGC platform: a following of engaged, loyal customers. Seek out this group, no matter how small, and offer them some sort of value for participating in your UGC strategy. Listen to them and they can advise you on how to improve your efforts. Continually update and nurture this program and you will see results.

By Simon Slade, CEO of SaleHoo