9 Ways to Use Consumer-Generated Content for Your Brand

365

We live in a digitally-mobile and social world, and content seems to be prevalent everywhere. Your customers consume large amounts of content without even realizing it. It, therefore, makes sense to churn out content that organically engages consumers with your brand and, in doing so, creates credible endorsements for your products and services.

Do not underestimate the power of an Instagram photo or a Facebook post that portrays your product/service in a favorable light. Not only does it serve as brand marketing and word-of-mouth advertising, but also strongly indicates brand commitment and customer loyalty. This, in turn, supplements your bottom line, which is ultimately what it’s all about.

As a proactive marketer, you probably already know that customers want to feel engaged, be heard and even entertained. They want to deal with issues quickly and move on. Basically, they have put their trust in you and are looking to positive customer experiences.

In one study, Ipsos MediaCT, Crowdtap and the Social Media Advertising Consortium partnered to survey 839 millennial (18 to 36 years old) men and women. This was done to explore millennials’ media consumption habits, perception of information from various sources and how these sources impact their purchasing decisions. As far as user-generated content (or UGC) is concerned, it was discovered that:

  • Information received through UGC is trusted 50% more than information from other media sources, including TV, newspapers and magazines by millenials.
  • Millennials reported that UGC is 20% more influential on their purchase decisions than other media.
  • A majority of millenials reported tapping UGC before making big purchases like cars, major electronics or major appliances.

What is User-Generated Content?

According to Wikipedia, UGC can be defined as “any form of content such as blogs, wikis, discussion forums, posts, chats, tweets, podcasts, digital images, video, audio files, advertisements and other forms of media that was created by users of an online system or service, often made available via social media websites”.

Simply put, UGC refers to any content available on the Internet that users play a part in creating. This can include photos, videos and general posts that aren’t made by a brand. An increasing number of brands, however, have been leveraging user-generated content for improving their ranking on search engines.

UGC can take several forms. Some of the most popular ones include:

  • User-generated blog posts
  • Blog comments
  • User-generated videos
  • Social media posts and comments
  • Reviews
  • Podcasts
  • Inputs on communities and forums

Let’s face it, UGC is here to stay. If you’re wondering how to implement it for your brand, we have the following tips for you:

1. Figure Out Your Point of Connect

Even before you start putting together your UGC strategy, you will need to start thinking from your audiences’ point of view so that you can figure out how you want to use the content to establish a connection with them.

A few UGC-related questions to consider (for doing so successfully) are as follows:

  • How do you want to use your content? To inform or to entertain? How can you use it to do both?
  • Where will you find your target audience? Which social media platforms can you use to find them?
  • What motivates your customers to create content? What do they hope to get in return by doing so?

If you have the right answers to the above questions, you will be clearer when devising an effective UGC strategy. After all, well begun is half done!

2. Emphasize Quality

Quality will always trump quantity. One cannot deny the authority that high-quality content commands. It has the power to strongly influence your customers and forge the kind of connection that companies strive for. Whether it is text, images or videos you put out, ensure that they carry credibility, which can only come from quality.

Underestimate the power of using attractive (and high-quality) images and videos at your own peril. When it comes to accepting user content, it may seem impractical to remove all low-quality photos/videos. However, you can establish a few guidelines or ground rules to reduce the likelihood of your audience posting bad content. You can always tell them exactly how their submissions should and should not be by providing specification in terms of size, dimension, and so on.

3. What’s Trending?

Trending

When you consider all of your UGC in totality, you should be able to decipher the thought pattern of your core audience. Think about the following aspects when analyzing the type of content your customers are sharing:

  • Who will most likely share content about your brand? Do you have specific demographics to figure this one out?
  • What kind of content is being shared out there? Does it pertain to a particular style, product, service, or all of it?
  • Where are your customers when they share content about your brand? Are they at your store, the mall, the library, with friends?
  • When are your customers more likely to share content about your brand? Is it during a specific season, event or holiday?
  • Why are your customers tagging your products? How do their tags work for your brand?

4. Place Strong Calls-to-Action, Use Hashtags and Signage

Remember, when using user-generated content, there are two parties involved: you and your customers. So the content isn’t just about you, but also about them. Everything boils down to how they use your products and relate to your brand.

So, while your customers may tag a piece of content with a hashtag before your brand’s name, you may want seriously consider leveraging such content to your advantage by creating a personal, actionable hashtag that brings the focus back to your brand.

If you think your hashtag(s) will become popular at once, you couldn’t be more wrong. It requires hard work. Placing strong calls-to-action in places where your customers are most likely to engage with your content will encourage them to use your hashtags when sharing content about your brand.

For instance, you can place calls-to-action on your Instagram account in your bio, within the image caption, or when geo-tagging. Similarly, other places where placing it can prove to be useful include (throughout) your website, social networking channels, blogs, catalogues and other literature.

Further, you can use signage to engage your customers at one of the most effective points of the customer journey: your brick-and-mortar store(s). For example, if you’re a clothing retailer, you could display hashtags and signage at the main desk, outside dressing rooms, or near a photo-friendly installation.

5. Host an Event

Using UGC may be a great way to create awareness around your products, but it does require that your brand places its complete trust in the customers’ hands. You may often wonder as to what customers are saying about your products and services, and might even want to know if your competitor’s products are being mentioned along with your brand. That’s only natural!

The good news is that there is a way around this. Brands tend to be more strategic in their thinking than consumers. A great way to scale your UGC strategy (and be in charge of the environment thus created) is by hosting an event. This way, you have complete say in everything. You can set the scene to your liking and keep the audiences engaged. Be memorable and keep the conversation going by handing out free goodie bags (branded, may be?) to your guests at the exit.

6. Design a Contest

More often than not, consumer behavior with respect to using UGC is organic. This is what makes it so effective. Such behavior is devoid of bias, which is why it feels genuine. You can encourage this behavior by analyzing the content that is already surfacing about your brand, and then launch a targeted contest that aligns with those preferences to build upon it further.

7. Deploy Influencers

We live in times when social and digital influencers dominate the Web world. They are viewed as experts and leaders in their respective fields and among their social circles. They tend to have a multitude of active followers and feeds that instantly resonate with them.

Typically, when an influencer writes about a brand or posts an image of a product, he/she doesn’t just drive awareness, but also inspires an entire community to put their faith in that brand or product. In fact, consumers who see these images are more likely to partake in ongoing conversations by creating and submitting more content as well.

According to adweek.com, “There is already a lot of money in the influencer marketing space. 65 percent of brands participate in the market, 52 percent of companies have stand-alone budgets for sponsored social content and 25 percent have budgets in excess of $500,000”.

They further go on to say that influencers can solve several shortcomings your company may have by teaching consumers about your products, lend search-engine-optimization authority, counter negative feedback with positive feedback, increase sales and help with user-generated content.

You will do well to bear the following three factors in mind when engaging influencers:

  • The demographic they address and the type of content that wows their followers.
  • Whether or not they are available on the same social channels as you.
  • If they really do carry the kind of credibility that you’re looking for, i.e. if they really do have authority among your target market.

8. Display Customers’ Photos

Including user-generated photos in the e-commerce experience can enable brands to draw the attention of the shoppers towards making connections between images and products. As this happens, their most engaged customers also feel valued. This can go a long way in giving customers the social recognition they deserve and desire. Further, an on-site gallery of user images will help attract new UGC.

Remember, the more your audience loves your brand, the more amazing content they will continue to create for it.

9. Avoid Legal Troubles

To steer clear of legal issues that may arise out of the content that your users create or upload to your website, you will do well to include a few specific sections, clauses, and information on your website’s ‘Terms and Conditions’ section. Also, do not forget to ensure that your users clearly agree to your Terms and Conditions before posting any content that you wish to have covered by this legal agreement.

Make sure to include the following major elements in your agreement:

  • Ownership of Content: The Terms and Conditions agreement should spell out how the submitted content will be used. Use this section for limiting and restricting unwanted and undesirable behavior or activity on your website.
  • Copyright Violations: When allowing users to upload content, watch out for anything that violates copyright laws and constitutes as infringement of someone or something else’s rights.
  • Filter Bad Content: Remember, you’re in charge of what ultimately gets posted on your website. Use your authority to eliminate content that you don’t want on it, or any other content that goes against the terms of your website. Let your user know that you have complete discretion and take the final call when it comes to displaying and removing material.

Conclusion

When it comes to user-generated content, it all filters down to how you plan to generate and use the said content. UGC can surely benefit social teams and digital platforms, along with serving as a creative, economical and rewarding way of developing a variety of channels such as your homepage, product pages, emails, microsites, among others. By bearing the above aspects in mind, you should be able to build an effective UGC strategy that not only helps you meet your goals, but also keeps you out of hot water.

Image Source: (1, 2)

Advertisements

How to write a press release – helpful tips for small businesses.

How to write a press release

A successful press release is an effective way of getting your small business in front of journalists, informing them about your products and services and hopefully getting them to spread the word via coverage in their publications. Consequently, knowing how to create a press release is a useful skill for small business owners to master. The good news is that you don’t need to be a PR guru. By following a few tips and keeping to a simple format you will be able to produce a news release to be proud of.

Press releases can help you get valuable coverage in relevant industry publications, blogs and websites. In addition, if you write and distribute your own releases they won’t take a big bite out of your precious budget.

So what makes for successful press release content?  Journalists get hundreds of emails so yours needs to stand out. The key thing to remember is to make it newsworthy – ask yourself if the information is going to be of interest to anyone outside your immediate business. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering but it needs to be interesting to those in your industry. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Launching a new product or feature
  • Announcing a new partnership or a new employee
  • Winning an award or accolade
  • Speaking engagements or any upcoming events you are running 
  • Research findings or survey rests
  • Charitable activities
  • Special business milestones or anniversaries
  • Free downloadable whitepapers or ebooks

Tips for creating a successful press release – do’s and don’ts

Here are a few helpful tips to bear in mind when creating a press release for your small online business.

Do…

  • Always write in the third person and avoid using ‘you’ ‘I’ and ‘we’ except within quotes.
  • Proofread thoroughly – spellings and grammatical errors look unprofessional
  • Write in a professional manner. You are not writing for social media, you are writing for journalists so your tone needs to be formal.
  • Be concise. Try and aim for one page and keep to the point.

Don’t…

  • Be ‘salesy’ – remember you are writing a for editorial not advertising.
  • Try and fluff your press release out with unnecessary waffle.
  • Overdo ‘jargon’. Keep it clear and simple for a wider audience to understand.
  • Use ALL CAPS’, exclamation marks or words like ‘amazing’ or ‘incredible’ to highlight or emphasise things. This will reduce the credibility of your release.

Basic format of a press release

There is a universally accepted format that you can follow to help you structure your press release in the correct way. There are of course variations but the key components remain the same.

1. Headline

Creating attention grabbing headline will help your press release stand out from all the other emails landing in journalists’ inboxes everyday. Keep it short, catchy and relevant. Use your most important keywords in the headline.  You may actually find it easier to write your headline last, this way you can make certain it that it accurately reflects the content of your press release.

2. Summary 

Your summary is a really important paragraph that summarises, in no more than a few sentences,  the overall ‘news story’ contained in your press release. If journalists don’t like this they are unlikely to read any further. This is a good place to include your company name.

3. Date

Always include your press release date near the top of your release. This way journalist can identify how new or old your new story is. You should also include your location next to the date. For example: 4th February 2016, Harpenden, Hertfordshire.

4. Body

This is where you can elaborate on the content of your press release. It should support your message and provide your reader with more information however, don’t be tempted to waffle on – remember your whole press release should be concise and stick to the news story in question. The body of your press release might follow this format:

  1. Lead / opening paragraph: Your first, or lead paragraph should answer the following – Who, What, When, Where and Why. It should grab your reader’s attention and essential sum up the your story in no more than 100 words.
  2. Centre paragraph(s): This is where you substantiate your opening paragraph with information that supports your news-story. If you have quotes, statistics, research and information to reinforce your news then this is where to use it.
  3. Final paragraph. Summarise the key points of your release here.

5. Boiler plate

Your boiler plate is a standard statement that goes at the bottom of any press releases you create. It provides the journalists with some background information about your company. Include a link to your website in your boiler statement.

6. Contact details

Clear contact details enable journalists or anyone else interested in your press release to get in touch with you. Include your name, job tile, company name, company address, telephone (mobile and landline), email and website address.

Enhance your press release

If you can, try to liven up your press release. Adding in a quote or including an image can be a great way to grab a bit of additional attention.

Quotes: A relevant quote is a good way to support your message. Although, make sure it’s not just meaningless spiel – it should be interesting and pertinent to your story. Quotes can be from you, an industry expert or even an end-user of your product or service.

“Quotes should be used to provide insight and opinion and sound like a real person said them. They definitely shouldn’t be full of jargon or technical language.” Guardian Small Business Network

Images:

Research shows that links to videos and pictures in a press release  increases engagement by about 18% for photos and 55% for videos.

Providing an image for the journalists is a good idea as it means they don’t need to chase you for one or source their own. Don’t embed the image in the press release, attach a high-resolution Jpeg. Printed media will need an image 300 dpi and at least 500kb in size. For online media your image should be at least 500 pixels wide.

Distribution

You can choose to distribute your own press release or use a press release service. It will probably depend how much time, budget and resources your small business has available and how frequently you are intending to send news releases out. Subscribing to a service can be costly but if you are sending out press releases frequently you may find it money worth spending. Some services offer one-off distribution – for example PRWEB will do a one-off mailing for you from about £59 for basic distribution

If you are building your own list of contacts then start by researching relevant industry publications and simply add in editorial email contacts into an excel spreadsheet. You can then simply dispatch off an email through your email provider. If you keep building your contact list,  in no time at all you’ll have a great database of press contacts.

Press releases offer a valuable way of getting coverage in relevant industry publications and shouldn’t be considered just the remit of PR professionals. Following the right format and avoiding the pitfalls we’ve outlined above, you should be confident to create and dispatch press releases for your small online business whenever you have something interesting to share.

 

We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences on creating effective press releases, so please do leave a comment.