Take a look at the content marketing landscape today, and you’ll find that so much marketing online is designed around user creativity and input. User-generated content (UGC) is all the rage online today, but why? While opening the floodgates to allowing user input can seem scary, it’s essential to building up and developing your brand online.
UGC Builds Community
As far as image goes, user-generated content builds authenticity, community and awareness. One example of authenticity achieved through UGC is a user review section. It’s estimated that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation; feedback from fellow consumers is easier to trust than marketing materials that they know are designed to sell them on a pitch. It may seem risky to allow consumers to review your products directly on your site or social media profile, but you’ll find that positive reviews generated by your customers can be quite valuable. You can also learn about your customers’ needs and how you can improve your service or product line.
Having a community space for users to discuss their experiences with your product or services can spotlight interesting and unexpected use cases that you might not have considered before. For example, a forum allows consumers to ask questions, help one another and inspire others based on their experiences with your brand. An amazing example of such a community is Next Thing Co.’s forum. The message board fits their brand well: tinkerers flock to the company’s ultra-cheap computer chips, and the forum gives them a place to post tutorials or share their experiments and modifications on the open-source products.
Next Thing Co. regularly features some of the best and most exciting use cases and ideas on their company blog, which serves as marketing for their products, inspires prospective customers and incentivizes users to contribute and share their own experiences.
Users Can Reduce Content Marketing Strain
Let’s look at a #TheSweatLife, Lululemon’s clever marketing campaign to develop organic marketing on Instagram. By asking users to share photos of themselves working out in their Lululemon gear—to be featured in a gallery on the Lululemon site—tagged with the brand hashtag, the company was able to generate a significant social media campaign all the while building an inspirational lifestyle identity. Overall, the campaign generated 7,000 photos and 40,000 unique visits to the gallery.
This kind of user-generated content can be valuable for use as future marketing materials (or even product design), like with Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” campaign. Lay’s not only received organic word-of-mouth marketing on Facebook and Instagram thanks to users sharing their ideas, but was able to retain the winning flavor ideas as products to sell—idea generation, consumer testing and marketing all done in one go thanks to their social media users.
User-Generated Content Can Inspire
Another way UGC helps is that it can inspire customers to engage with—and desire—your brand. Burberry realized this when launching their “Art of the Trench” platform, where customers were encouraged to model themselves in various outfits utilizing a Burberry trench coat on its own social network. The website offered a creative outlet for customers to show off their flair and recognize the fashion sense of others. Meanwhile, would-be customers were treated to a variety of user-designed looks and outfits, inspiring them to buy a trench of their own and participate. This community, which was both democratic yet carried a certain air of exclusivity, served as a perfect reflection of the brand that helped the company reign in a 50% increase in ecommerce sales, according to Business Today.
Beware Backlash When Using User-Generated Content
It’s extremely important that you remain transparent when encouraging, and especially monetizing, UGC for your brand. Flickr, a popular image hosting platform owned by Yahoo, found itself in hot water when it decided to sell user-created photos without their input—which garnered criticism that Yahoo wasn’t sharing revenue fairly with photographers. The controversy leaves us with an important lesson for tapping into your user base for content marketing: be transparent and upfront on how content can be used for future marketing, and ensure your incentive matches the work you expect your users to put in. Otherwise, you risk consumer trust and may damage your brand’s reputation.
Anticipating Content Marketing Criticism
Encouraging UGC presents a situation of vulnerability. In a sense, you’re relinquishing some control of your brand for customers (both happy or angry ones) to represent it. If you have trust in your community, then you can trust your customers to represent it well. But even the biggest, most iconic brands meet backlash from a few users and trolls online.
Comment moderation is an easy way to keep your social media presence free from abusers or organized attacks from disgruntled consumes. Moderating discussions helps as damage control if your brand’s reputation is tarnished, as with the Flickr example above. Smart Moderation is one such comment moderation tool that can scan your profiles for problematic comments and posts, erasing them from the feed within just one minute.
Since it’s based on artificial intelligence, you can train the tool to moderate according to your needs—so if you anticipate a specific criticism in your user-generated content campaign, you can proactively shield yourself from it. See how simple it is to set up Smart Moderation with a free trial! It’s a great and simple way to allow users to engage with and help develop your brand without worrying about ruining its reputation.