It’s Time to Think Bigger with User Generated Content
Word of mouth has always been the holy grail of marketing. And in the digital world, word of mouth often takes the form of user generated content.
When customers are creating user generated content—sharing posts on social media, leaving product reviews, making videos about your products and services—your brand message starts to spread online. It’s free, unprompted promotion of your brand that can lead to explosive, sustainable growth.
But user generated content definitions have grown too narrowly-focused on social media platforms. As prime examples like the “Share a Coke” campaign, Apple’s “#ShotOnIphone” campaign, and the Starbucks “#RedCupContest” thrive on Instagram, it’s hard to argue with that idea. However, user generated content has potential far beyond social media engagement and brand advocacy.
When you think about user generated content as a piece of your content community, you can unlock new benefits that improve your marketing as a whole.
Why User Generated Content Matters
Content marketing managers often have enough on their plates filling editorial calendars, planning promotion, and measuring success without adding user generated content campaigns to the mix. I’ve been there.
But if you want to take your content marketing and brand awareness to new heights, user generated content can’t be ignored. The numbers speak for themselves:
- 84% of consumers say they trust peer recommendations over any advertising and brand marketing.
- Word of mouth marketing (and user generated content) drives two-times more sales than advertising.
- When loyal customers refer people to your brand, those new customers have a 37% higher retention rate.
You can look at Buffer’s “Buffer Community” initiative on Instagram to see an ongoing user generated content strategy in action. The social media team consistently shares images that highlight the benefits of remote, flexible work—whether that means traveling the world or working out of unique spaces.
The “Buffer Community” strategy doesn’t just boost the company’s Instagram presence. It elevates the company’s image from a social media scheduling tool to a brand that values world travel and the evolution of work. That inspires audience engagement, builds trust with customers and prospects alike, and gives the company a steady stream of high-quality content to share.
These lessons still work beyond the confines of social platforms. For content marketing managers, it’s time to start thinking about user generated content as it applies to owned audiences.
Bringing User Generated Content Beyond Social Media
One hallmark of a successful content marketing strategy is having everything centralized on an owned platform. Even if you’re thriving with Facebook groups, YouTube channels, and Instagram accounts, you want to pull that audience back to an environment that you own completely.
That’s why Buffer isn’t using its successful “Buffer Community” approach on Instagram as the sole driver of its content marketing. That brand awareness translates into more followers on social, more web traffic, more blog readers, more newsletter subscribers—and ultimately, a larger owned audience.
With the right approach, user generated content can enhance your owned content the same way it boosts your brand’s presence on social platforms.
Think about how some of the biggest, most authoritative marketing blogs fill their editorial calendars. One of my favorites is the Content Marketing Institute. While there’s plenty of CMI content created internally, the blog is largely filled with guest posts from industry leaders. It may not be the unprompted type of promotion you find with social media-based user generated content, but it’s user generated content nonetheless.
To take advantage of user generated content to improve your owned platforms, you need to build out your content community. That means assembling a unique mix of freelancers, guest posters, and influencers who can help your internal team with content creation.
It’s tempting for content marketing managers to put the entire weight of content creation on their own shoulders. But don’t fall into that trap. There are significant benefits to user generated content on your blog and other owned platforms.
Benefits of User Generated Content from a Content Community
When user generated content strategies are limited to social platforms like Instagram, their objectives are typically to provide an avenue for engagement while creating an online presence that customers can trust. When customers, prospects, and/or audience members go beyond those platforms to visit your website, user generated content plays an even deeper role.
Bringing user generated content to your blog with a content community improves your marketing efforts by:
- Increasing Authority: If you find the right content community members, you can take a brand’s blog content beyond your own experience and expertise. For example, a B2B tech brand may want to publish articles written by people with hands-on experience with relevant products as opposed to having a marketing pro write everything. You’ll attract more readers by publishing authoritative, user generated content from industry leaders in your content community.
- Expanding Reach: Publishing user generated content on your blog creates a mini, built-in promotion machine. Giving members of your content community bylines will incentivize them to share articles with their own audiences.
- Scaling Creation: Brands that publish high-quality content once or twice per day aren’t doing so on the backs of lone content marketing managers. With user generated content, you can scale your publishing schedule without sacrificing quality.
Trust is the real reason why word of mouth marketing and social media-based user generated content are so powerful. There’s no reason for third-party individuals to lie when they have no connection to a brand other than using its products. Just because user generated content on your own blog isn’t completely unprompted doesn’t mean it loses this sense of trust.
Publishing user generated content from your content community shouldn’t be a means to a self-promotional end. Rather, you make your owned content more trustworthy by letting content community members focus solely on providing value to the audience.
User generated content isn’t something you have to leave to chance. Take the time to build a content community that will fuel that engine and help you take advantage of user generated content beyond social platforms.