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Is User Generated Content Right for Your Website?

Written by Taylor Hawes

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

should you use user generated content

Content marketing is the hottest marketing trend out there right now, as the regular publication of fresh content can be a huge differentiator for your website. From business blogging to “how to” videos, this engaging content comes in many forms.

However, most businesses find that it can be overwhelming to keep up with the demand for new content, as it takes time and effort to regularly develop high quality content. As a result, many businesses opt to have users generate content for them, either in place of or as a supplement to the content they’re already creating.

If this all sounds appealing to you, read on to learn about what user generated content (UGC) is and how to decide if it’s right for your business.

 

What is User Generated Content?

User generated content comes in many forms. This can include product reviews, guest posts, customer images and more:

 

Product Reviews

Product reviews are often used by consumer goods companies. If you sell a product or range of products, you may allow customers to review them directly on your site.

Some examples of companies using this tactic include Modcloth, Zappos and Babies R Us. Product reviews can include information on the quality of your product, how quickly it shipped and more. Some sites even provide categories for their products to be reviewed on “like,” “fit” or “ease of use,” depending on what type of good is being sold.

 

Guest Posts

Sites that include a business blog can rely on guest posts as a huge source of user generated content. Guest posts allow users to share their opinions and experiences on industry topics, easing the burden of regular content creation while also driving traffic from the guest poster’s site.

As a result, this technique can help you to create buzz about your blog and to enjoy the flood of traffic that comes when your guest posters promote their posts on their own social media profiles.

 

Customer Images

Customer images can be an especially valuable type of user generated content and involves customers posting images of your products – perhaps either using or wearing said products.

Alternately, you can create a meme encouraging users to interact with your brand by posting photos of themselves in a certain pose or location. A great example of this type of UGC is the True Blood “Show Your Fangs” campaign. Fans of the HBO show came out in droves to post photos of themselves “showing their fangs.” This helped to create enormous buzz for the show’s sixth season.

Finally, many brands also encourage fans to create their own content from scratch. This can include videos, artwork or comics that fans create based on your products or services. This particular type of user generated content has been extremely popular with brands that have cult followings, as it provides a creative outlet that allows die-hard fans to feel more connected to the company.

 

Pros and Cons of User Generated Content

pros and cons

Flow of Content

User generated content can significantly decrease the amount of content your team is directly responsible for creating. However, for this strategy to work, you need to have a strong base of users who are willing to generate this content.

Often, the first step to creating UGC campaigns is to find the most easily accessible way for users to contribute. You’ll need to decide which types of user generated content are right for your brand. From there, you’ll want to let your users know that you’re interested in seeing their content. Letting them know that you want their reviews, guest posts, photos or other content pieces encourages them to help support your content strategy.

From there, it’s also important for you to like, comment on and share the content they create. Users are most likely to continue to create and share content for you if they feel that you’re engaging back with them.

Ultimately, this strategy can be a time saver that also increases your reach by piggy-backing off the relationships you have with your followers. But that doesn’t mean that you’re completely off the hook. Without engaging with the users who are creating this content, it’s likely that the flow of content will trickle to a halt.

 

Quality of Content

Just because you’ve found users who are willing to generate content for you does not mean that all the content you receive will be of the highest quality. It’s very possible that you’ll receive fuzzy photos or guest posts that are inappropriate for your brand. In fact, you may even receive some poor reviews.

Before you launch this type of strategy, think about how you’ll address low quality content or negative reviews. It’s also important to decide whether you’ll share all the content that’s created by your campaign or only that content that you deem “worthy.”

Launching a user generated content marketing strategy without knowing exactly what your quality standards are can seriously undermine your campaign’s success. However, as long as you know how you’ll treat these situations, they aren’t a good reason to avoid user generated content.

 

Legal Concerns

It’s also important to determine whether user generated content raises any legal concerns for your brand. Some companies make users sign terms and conditions statements that release the brand from liability should the user post something inoffensive or inaccurate.

Speaking with legal counsel before launching any user generated content strategy can be beneficial. Again, this isn’t a reason to avoid this type of campaign. It’s simply something you’ll want to address before starting so there are no unpleasant surprises.

 

Is User Generated Content Right for You?

Given all these different considerations, how do you know if user generated content is right for you?

For starters, be aware that user generated content is beneficial for nearly all business in one form or another. If you don’t yet have a strong fan base, it may not be the right time to start a user generated content campaign. However, if you’re already up and running with a loyal following, this is a logical step for your business to take.

User generated content vastly increases your reach, creates positive buzz for your brand and can be a lot of fun in the process. If you’re looking to increase your web presence, it’s likely that user generated content is a good fit for you. Laying out your strategy and addressing any legal concerns before you get started will allow you to experience this new marketing strategy as a fun, innovative way to promote your business.

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