The Basics of User-Generated Content
This blog is for entrepreneurs just starting to find their ways in content, content marketing, and content strategy. Recently, I wrote a blog about machine translations. I wanted to know when machine translations could be of use. It turns out that when it comes to user-generated content (UGC), machine translations are quite the solution. However, I did not really know what UGC was. Therefore, I have done some research and I will share what I have learned here.
For this blog, I have used two Dutch articles. These are “Hoe gebruik je User Generated Content in marketing en communicatie?” (Marten Waardenburg, 8-8-2012, decommunicatiedesk.nl) and “De invloed van User Generated Content” (Judith Verburgh, oktober 2010, loyaltfacts.nl). The first one explains how to use UGC in marketing and communication, and the second one discusses the influence of UGC.
What is user-generated content?
According to Waardenburg, user-generated content includes any content not generated by the sender, but by the user. That content includes text as well as photos, video, and audio. In the digital world, this has become increasingly easy and many people use their own platform for this rather than to wait for the media to offer them a platform. This has resulted in a culture of participation: consumers want to participate actively, resulting in a dynamic media landscape.
Where can you find user-generated content?
According to Verburgh, user-generated content enables consumers to post comments, reviews or opinions on the Internet. This has brought about three types of websites with UGC: buying websites, social network sites, and combined sites.
Consumers post reviews of products and services on the website of the supplier. This way, suppliers try to affect the buying decision positively. The feedback form on my website is an example of this.
Social network sites
On websites as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, people post opinions, experiences, images, videos and so on. Messages, both positive and negative, can be viral in no time. People posting positive messages about you, your company or your products/services are your ambassadors.
On these websites, you can find both information from the supplier and input from consumers. A profile is often required so that the professional background of a person is available and specific members can be asked for advice.
How do you get user-generated content?
Waardenburg gives some examples on how to invite people to contribute user-generated content:
Visitors do not have to do much for this, as it involves a category on the website as ‘most read’ or ‘video with the most views.’
Ask for the visitor’s opinion on a topic by asking them to click preprogrammed answers such as yes/no or 1/2/3.
This includes the like and share on Facebook or the favorite and retweet on Twitter. It allows more people to see the content.
Consumers highly value the opinion of other consumers in their buying decision. It is therefore wise to invite customers to give their opinion about a product that you offer. Examples are product reviews, book reviews, reviews on comparison sites, questions sections.
How can companies use user-generated content?
By actively using user-generated content, companies can achieve the following things:
- Boost sales. This is the main reason to promote UGC. Consumers highly value the opinions of others, especially if it does not come from the supplier. However, only positive messages cause distrust, so it is good to have a few critical posts too.
- Interaction between users. This allows users to generate new ideas with your product (think of recipe sites).
- See what is going on. Meet the most important customer demands and use the feedback to improve your product.
- Product improvement. This way, you can deliver even better customized products.
- Make contacts. Answer questions and resolve complaints.
- Increase customer loyalty.
- Generate traffic to your website. When consumers post UGC on your website more often, Google thinks your website is updated more often, leading to higher search results.
- Positive UGC contributes to increasing image and brand awareness.
It is very easy to promote user-generated content on your own platform. Reading an article or clicking something is sometimes the only thing that needs to be done. Only the reviews require a little more effort, but even that is something people like to spend their time on when they have a rather strong (positive or negative) feeling about a product, service or supplier. The main reason to promote UGC is to boost sales, but as shown, there are many other reasons to pay attention to it.
How can you encourage user-generated content?
In addition to finding UGC at other platforms and encouraging it there, you can also offer your own platform: a website or forum. Waardenburg has a three-stage plan for this:
- Encourage: call for a response, both online and offline, mention it during the sales process, and reward consumers.
- Regulate: in principle, the consumer can say anything, but there are limits (such as tirades). Set rules.
- Exploit: Make sure that the content is clearly visible on the website, otherwise you cannot benefit from it.
What do you have to pay attention to with respect to user-generated content?
According to Verburgh, the following items are necessary to have UGC actually influence the buying decisions of consumers.
- Consumers want to have information about the product. All the technical specifications or other relevant information must be available to the client.
- Not just the name of the customer leaving a comment should be available; the knowledge, experience, and expectations should be too.
- The reader has to read several reviews before he/she is influenced by UGC, so it is your task to have an adequate amount of customer reviews.
With all the social media these days, you are already doing a lot with user-generated content, for both private and business purposes. It comes in handy to have some advice on how to encourage this as a company and how it helps you to boost your sales. Also, it is good to have a plan and to coordinate UGC so that you can take full advantage of it.
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