Businesses have long known that testimonials are a great way to create brand awareness. But user-generated content can do so much more, argued Chris Baggott, CEO and co-founder of Compendium, during a recent BlogWorld & New Media Expo panel. When companies completely embrace user content, it can transform their marketing efforts, he argues.
User-generated content can set your blog free. Having a corporate blog can be a grind, since it means having to constantly scrounge for content. If you use social media and e-mail blasts to solicit user content, then you can move from being a content creator to being a content curator. Now you’re free to shape your content message, rather than just fill a void, said Baggott.
The trick to ensuring that a request for content results in blog-worthy material is in knowing how to ask for it. Instead of asking customers about what they think of a given product, companies should be asking users to share stories about a topic that relates to the brand. Try asking them how they’ve used a product in their neighborhood or how they’ve enjoyed a service with their family. Ask them to tell you about a time your company helped them solve a problem. Phrase your questions in ways that encourage them to repeat certain search engine keywords. Videos and photos can help these stories come alive, so be sure to ask for them upfront, he added.
User content can fuel other platforms as well. Content from the blog can be reused on Facebook and in e-mail newsletters. User content can help start discussions — but it can also be used to answer common customer concerns. If you know that your customers routinely ask about something on Facebook, you can build a backlog of blog posts with authentic user stories that address the issue. That way, the next time the question comes up, you can direct readers to what other customers have already said on the subject. Readers are more likely to respond to these human answers than the same old company line, he argued.
These stories can also fuel e-mail newsletters, which can in turn inspire more content submissions. Remember that every channel that can be used to distribute content can also be used to solicit it, he added.
User content can make traditional ads more effective. Many retailers spend money on Sunday circular ads in newspapers, said Baggott. These direct-mail pieces can be effective, he argues, but not in the way most people think. Instead of taking the circular to the store and picking up the products advertised, customers will often search online for specific products from the ad. The retailer who shows up first in a customer’s search results is most likely to win their business, he said.
This is where user-generated content can provide a big boon. Stores know what they’re going to be advertising in these circulars well in advance. If the retailer can generate fresh user-generated content for their blog around specific product keywords in advance of the advertisement, they stand a better chance of winning the search engine battle, Baggott argued.
How are you putting user content to work?