If our brand is what people say about our business when we’re not in the room, then a user-generated content campaign is a great way to steer that conversation.
User-generated content helps you create a community around your brand; an engaged audience who’ll actively look out for the things you do and say. It also encourages that audience to talk and post publicly about you and their experience with your brand, which you can then promote to the rest of your audience.
User-generated content is so much more powerful and valuable than regular marketing messages. It cuts through, builds trust and creates a community around your brand – perfect for when your competitors are creating lots of content too and you need some kind of edge.
Let’s explore how you can put it to work as part of your marketing strategy.
What is user-generated content?
User-generated content is any content someone outside your business:
publishes about your business on their own website or social channels – this could be reviews, blog posts, social media posts, images, etc.
creates or co-creates for you to publish on your website or social channels – this could be a guest post, testimonial, webinar, customer review or whatever else you can think of.
Basically, any content about your brand, that’s not produced and published by you 😊
Why user-generated content is a good thing for your business
If you’re regularly creating content by following a content marketing strategy, you’ll develop your brand’s voice and reach. Regularly producing content shares your expertise and helps build authority and trust in your brand.
While it’s very beneficial to implement a content marketing strategy and have a recognisable voice, having others speak positively about your business will have an even greater impact. It’s just human nature – we’re more likely to go to a restaurant because of a tip from a friend than from a tout on the footpath trying to get everybody to come in.
Social posts that include UGC generate substantially more engagement
3 out of 4 buyers rely on social media content to influence their purchasing decisions
88% of buyers trust online reviews as much as they trust the people they know
A user-generated content plan can also take the pressure off you to continually create fresh stuff – others are doing it for you. And because those creating content for you are likely to promote it with their audience, you’ll reach more people in the process.
Here are some different ways you can collaborate to inspire and create user-generated content.
To get more attention, you need to be producing noticeably better content than your competitors. But if you only focused on content creation, you wouldn’t have time for anything else.
Teaming up with another business to produce great content is a slight deviation on what we typically know as UGC – but if you share credibility and a bit of enthusiasm, it’s a win for both sides.
Reach out to suitable clients or complementary businesses in your network and invite them to co-create content. You will both benefit from your pooled expertise and each other’s reach.
Co-created content could be:
A white paper
An in-depth industry report
A blog post
An article pitched to a publisher in your industry
When you have a relationship like this, you can also benefit from each other’s audiences, even if only one of you is actually creating the content.
For example, a little while ago I wrote an article for Inside Small Business. They got to publish my content on their platform (and didn’t have to invest their resources into writing it), I got to reach their audience – and as an added bonus, they included a link back to this website, which is highly beneficial for SEO. Win-win-win!
Co-host a webinar
Something more time-consuming but with the potential for greater impact is a webinar. Think about the value a co-hosted webinar could deliver to your business.
The best webinars create and share valuable information. They are not vehicles for thinly veiled self-promotion. Sure, you can add information about how people can work with you at the end of the webinar. But don’t be that disappointing company spokesperson who builds up their webinar with great hype and promise who then delivers 10 minutes of good information followed by 50 minutes of a hard sell!
There are two ways to approach co-hosted webinars:
1. Join an established webinar series
You can co-host a webinar on a platform such as Flying Solo. Research who’s hosting webinars in your industry and pitch a topic to the organisers.
2. Create your own webinar
While it takes more work, setting up your own webinar gives you more control over the process and direct access to the subscribers. Do it live or pre-record – either way, capture email addresses to build your email list in exchange for access to your knowledge.
But be warned – there’s nothing worse than a boring webinar. Here are my tips to make it work:
Make sure the presenters are good public speakers who have delivered webinars before
Compare your audience – you want similarity but not competition
Pre-agree any joint promotion or ‘pitching’ of products or services
Do the ‘so what?’ test to make sure the topic will add value to your audience and be relevant
Interview influencers in your niche
Creating content that positions you as an expert in your niche is going to set you up as a key influencer in that space.
One way to build your credibility is to rub shoulders with complementary experts and other influencers.
Set up interviews with your own clients to talk about their industry and challenges they’ve had to overcome and how they did it. You can relate it back to a problem your product or service helped them solve.
Their expertise combined with how you helped them to solve a problem will reflect well on your brand. It will help position you as the ‘go-to’ person for businesses who have similar problem to solve.
An important (yet often-forgotten) principle of an interview is to let the person you’re interviewing do the talking. The objective is to have others dictate the message, so let the conversation go wherever it needs to go.
Record the interview via video or just audio. One of the easiest ways to record and capture the interview is via Zoom. Afterwards, get it transcribed and cut it into grabs for social media. You’ll have a range of different ways you can use and distribute this user-generated content.
For example, you can:
Publish the video and share it across socials.
Turn the interview into a written piece and publish it on your blog or as a case study. For example we have a ‘People with Purpose’ series on our site where we publish written interviews.
Turn the audio into a podcast or audio recording to add to your blog.
Create social media graphics to promote and share the interview across your social media channels.
Your interviewee is likely to share the interview in each of the formats across their social media channels, too, broadening your reach.
Gather social proof via testimonials and customer reviews
Whether you’re asking for a review or testimonial, target the clients or customers you’ve developed a good relationship with. Build the request for a review or testimonial into your overall business process so that it happens automatically on completion of a project or after the client has been with you for three months (as an example).
If you haven’t requested reviews or testimonials for a while, set aside some time in your schedule to batch up this task and approach the businesses you want to target.
If it feels awkward to ask someone for a testimonial or review, know that most people are happy to do it, especially if you provided excellent service. It’s best to approach someone immediately after the project or sale is complete.
Once you have the user-generated testimonial or review, use it in different ways. Create branded images for sharing it across social media and tag the business for greater reach. Feature the review or testimonial on your website and give the business a link back to their website.
Encourage your customers to post publicly about the results they’re getting from working with you (with the screenshots or supporting visuals to prove it). If you do any after-sales engagement, like workshops or lunch & learns, ask them to post pictures or videos throughout the day and tag you in them.
Make it easy for people to leave a review by sending them a direct link to where they can leave it. That might be on:
Your priority should be where your customers mostly hang out and where they find out about you.
Ask for testimonials
If you’re sending the request via email, include a basic template for them to fill in or give them clear direction around what aspect of your product or service you’d like them to focus on. For example, you could send an email saying something like:
Hi [lovely person],
[I/We] enjoyed working with you on [project/product X]. To help [me/us] win work with other businesses like yours, testimonials go a long way to showing the value our [product or service] offers.
We would love it if you’d write a few sentences about how we solved [X problem] for you.
You could write something like…
We hired [business or person’s name] to do [solve problem]. We found [business or person’s name] to be [adjective], [adjective] and [adjective]. We highly recommend [business or person’s name] if you need [solving X problem].
We would be delighted if you could leave your review on [preferred destination].
If you want them to leave a testimonial on LinkedIn, use the ‘Ask for a recommendation’ function on your profile. It’s not obvious where to leave recommendations, especially for those who rarely use this platform. The request will trigger an alert for the person and take them directly to where to add it.
If you want them to leave a review on your Google My Business page or your Facebook page, send them the direct link.
Video testimonials have the most impact. If they are willing to record a video testimonial, you can share it on your website, in email campaigns and social channels. Transcribe the content and build a library of text testimonials you can pick out and use on things like your sales decks.
Run a strategic user content creation competition on social media
A simple way to get people to create content about your brand is to ask them directly and promise a potential reward for their engagement. Run a competition where you ask them to post about your brand, tag you in it and follow your page.
The aim is to start an online conversation around your brand.
Stick to the rules of whichever social platform you choose to use for the competition. Use a competition platform like Gleam.io or Rafflecopter to manage the competition. It will help you stay within the rules and encourage wider reach and sharing.
Make sure you’re extra prescriptive about what you want – you’ll get better content if you have tight guidelines and set expectations.
As well as sharing the competition on your social channels, add it to your email signature and relevant email campaigns.
Create a unique social hashtag
Create a hashtag relevant to your business or niche. Encourage your audience to use this hashtag when posting about a specific topic.
Your hashtag needs to be selfless and not promotional for your brand. It shouldn’t be a sales strategy. There are two options here which we’ll explain in more detail.
1. Create a hashtag around a cause you support
Many businesses now have corporate social responsibility programs. If your business has a cause or issue it supports, you can gain more support by using a hashtag on social media. Promote it widely and encourage your clients and followers to adopt it.
Share their posts to your social profiles—in your feed or stories—to help the cause gain further support.
After the devastating bushfires of 2019 and 2020, Turia Pitt created the #spendwiththem hashtag as part of of a user-generated social media campaign to connect buyers with small businesses impacted by the fires. She then expanded it to include COVID-19-impacted small businesses.
2. Creating a hashtag around your specific industry niche
You probably already have enough knowledge to ‘own’ a small industry niche. The trouble is, it’s all in your head.
Consider creating a hashtag that you can use when posting tips and knowledge to help your customers and those in your industry. That way all of that knowledge is in one easy-to-find place, and you end up owning a little slice of your industry over time.
Encourage others to use and contribute to the hashtag as well, and eventually you’ll be generating your own little community.
Invest in an influencer campaign
Although influencer campaigns are a paid marketing tactic, they can get your business in front of a whole new audience.
While most buyers know that influencers are paid, on average influencer marketing deliveries a 650% ROAS.
Research likely business influencer candidates who you think would be a good match for your brand. They could be micro, macro or mega influencers, which will largely depend on your budget. They should align with your audience and share similar values.
For most B2B campaigns, influencers are industry experts, commentators, writers and journalists.
Do your due diligence to check their numbers and estimated reach. Know exactly what you’re getting for your investment. As part of the agreement, the influencer has to create content around your brand.
You could also ask the influencer to run a take-over of your social media account for a set period.
Offer a discount for user-generated content on social channels
If you sell products or services online, offer a discount to customers or prospects who post about your business on their social channels. This could be part of your onboarding process for new clients (as you want people posting who’ve actually used your product/service).
For proof, ask them to tag you in their posts. Increase the discount if they write and publish something more substantial like a blog post about your product or service that links back to your site.
As with running competitions, you’ll need to ensure you stay within Australian law as well as the terms and conditions of whichever social channel or platform you’re using to ask for user-generated content.
Review and analyse the success of your user-generated content campaigns
Tracking your campaign’s metrics is an integral part of measuring the campaign’s success. Note what worked well for your business and what you’d do differently in future.
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It’s a shame for a piece of marketing to go out, and then disappear. Truly effective marketers know you can reuse each piece of content almost infinitely to squeeze as much as possible out of it.
Think about how you can turn one original piece of content into a multi-channel mini-campaign with the tools you already have. We’ve given you plenty of ideas and examples throughout this article, so don’t just stop at one piece of content!
Marketing is a continual learning cycle. By trying different types of user-generated campaigns, you can work out which kind works best for your business. Here’s what we showed you today – there’s no shortage of ideas you can implement in your business straight away!