The Smarter Searches blog teaches you how to use the power of user-generated content for your business.

Your customers can be one of your greatest marketing assets. How?you ask. Its called user-generated content (UGC), and it begins with the simple act of consumers and fans sharing, posting, and retweeting something about your brand. According to an article by AdWeek and Social Times:

85 percent of users surveyed find visual UGC more influential than brand photos or videos, while only 65 percent of businesses believe the same. When it comes to user motivations, businesses dont seem to realize why users are sharing and creating this content. For example, users are twice as likely to share something because they want a friend to see it, but only 14 percent of brands are aware of this behavior.

This means consumers want to share content, but you, as the business owner or marketing team, must provide the mechanism for which to drive it. You must start and inspire the conversation. Therefore, if you really want to boost user-generated consumer engagement, you must guide your consumers in the right direction that is, you need to provide inspiring, sharable content and ideas.

Heres how it works:

  1. You: Share your original content, competition, or branded campaign on social media. Blogs, videos, images, podcasts, social media posts, and the like are all fair game, but the best way to create user-generated content is to incite personal excitement within your fans. Find out what motivates your fans to share their own content. Then, inject your personal brand message and make it irresistible for them not to share or regenerate your brand-specific content. Remember: users are twice as likely to share something because they want a friend to see it.No matter what you choose to share as the starting point for your user-generated campaign, make sure the content is relevant to your industry, resonates with your viewers, and is something you feel your fans would want to share with their friends and family.
  1. Your Fans: Share your content with their friends and family when they find something useful, newsworthy, exciting, and/or relevant to them. They are even more likely to share this content if it is something they can get involved in or feel a part of.
  1. Your Fan’s Friends: See what their friends share and check it out. After all, if their friend is sharing it, it must be worth looking into or joining. Then, if it’s something that they too can participate in (like a photo competition), they’ll do their best to join. And so on, and so on.

The simple act of your fans and followers sharing what they love, can participate in — or simply find useful and reliable — is a powerful marketing tool. This action of sharing tells others that your company is credible, trustworthy, useful, and worth investigating, but what it really does is generate deep brand loyalty. This user-generated system uses the age-old fact that people trust other people, especially their friends and family, to find companies who are worthy of their time and money.

Want more ways to increase your user-generated content? Try these tips:

  1. Create more original content. How-to blogs, demonstration videos, behind the scenes images, and more. Find out what information your customers and fans need and want from you then share it!
  2. Encourage customers to leave honest reviews for your products and/or services on your website, Google, Facebook, Angies List, or whatever other platform(s) they prefer to use. If they can include a picture, thats even better. Thank customers for these reviews whenever possible, and always respond to unhappy customers. Use negative reviews as a chance to improve your companys products and services, but you can also take this opportunity to show your customer service skills do your best to right any wrongs. Want more reasons to encourage reviews? Nearly all of the consumers surveyed by AdWeek said that user-generated content is helpful when making purchasing decisions.
  3. Use your buzzwords. Find out what buzzwords customers use to describe your business. If theyre agreeable, consider using these words (and the ideas they convey) to construct a branded company campaign.
  4. Launch a social media campaign or contest. This is a great way to create buzz for your business because it forms user-investment. When people have fun and are invested in your brand, they become loyal fans and they share that love with others. After you setup your campaign (dont forget to create a campaign hashtag!), have people share pictures of or with your product or service. Have them show why they love it and how they use it. Then, reward them. Want more tips on how to do this on Facebook or any social media platform? Read How to Use Facebook Contests to Create Buzz for Your Business.
  5. Get people involved in content creation. Getting people to show their love for your company is going to be hard. It will involve some creative thinking and lots on long nights, but they payoff for getting them involved is usually well worth it.

User-generated content is an organic way to increase recognition, interest, loyalty, and possibly sales for your business. All you need to start is a well thought out and engaging campaign (like these). Not sure if its worth the hassle? It is. The truth is, brands with successful user-generated content see increased social media activity, higher conversion rates, and better ad performance (to name a few).

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