My mom always told me that if I don’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. So, when I started writing this article I had a tiny panic attack, the original headline I had in mind was “Get Over It! Your Content Fears Are Ridiculous, People.” Since that didn’t seem very nice I put on my PR hat and took a second pass. The result is the same message, less negative, and even more importantly it offers one possible solution to the top 4 content marketing challenges identified by marketers, user-generated content (UGC).
As most marketers know, 90% of consumers say they want more content from brands. This fact, backed up by a recent study by Edelman, has created both concern and a challenge for today’s marketers.
The fact that marketers are concerned with content marketing challenges is an important fact in itself. After all, professional concerns are often born from the recognition that you’re not doing something you should be doing, or you’re not as good at something as you should be. As consumers are demanding more and more content, marketers are coming to terms with the fact that they should be focusing on content marketing.
Knowing you should tackle content marketing and getting started are two different things, there are always concerns when you get a new program rolling and content marketing is no different. In October 2013 the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs partnered on a report about content trends to expect in 2014, and identified the top challenges for Marketers. None of the items listed are very surprising:
Content Marketing Challenge #1: Time
57% of content marketers report being challenged with a lack of time. With small teams and a stacked workload time is always a concern.
51% of content marketers report being challenged with producing content that will engage their audience.
48% of content marketers report being challenged by a lack of budget.
45% of content marketers report being challenged with producing enough content to build an effective program.
Each and every one of these concerns is completely justified. I have been, and occasionally I still am, concerned with the same issues. But here’s the thing, as marketers we need to constantly search for creative out-of-the-box solutions to problems. Content marketing is no different, and UGC can help you settle some of your content marketing challenges.
UGC is loosely defined as media produced in an open collaboration, often between a brand and its audience. Emerging onto the tech scene in 2005 with the likes of eBay and into the news cycle with the BBC, UGC has arguably become the most prominent form of content on the web. Today UGC is present on literally every ecommerce website to some degree, every news website and entire industries have been built based on user content (social networks would be nothing without UGC). Every review you read on Amazon and eBay, the t-shirts you see designed on CafePress, every video you see on YouTube and Vimeo, all of Facebook, every Tweet, all of it is UGC. Its power is undeniable.
In addition to the prominence of UGC across the Internet, the world has also begun to recognize it as a truly unbiased and authentic form of media. Similar to how brands employ PR to seek unbiased 3rd party validation from journalists and news media, UGC is trusted as unbiased because it is created by the masses, not brands or governments. While one individual piece of UGC content may not represent the entire story or trend, in aggregate UGC can point to trends and sentiments across the globe, change opinions and provide the people with a collective voice.
What does this mean for your brand? Does it mean you should employ customer comments on your website this minute? Should you run out and ask your customers to help you design your new t-shirt? Maybe, but that isn’t the point. The point is two fold:
Brands who recognize the power of UGC and harness it for their programs are developing the most authentic and effective marketing. Instead of preaching their story to customers (advertising), brands allow their fans to join in creating and narrating their story. At Thismoment we call it collaborative storytelling, and the best brand marketers are taking it to the next level.
If we look at the list of content marketing challenges identified above, we can quickly identify how to employ UGC to settle some concerns, quickly opening the doors to successful content marketing programs.
When looking at a content marketing program most marketers get hung up on the time it will take to create great content. The assumption is that for a content marketing program to work you need to create 100% unique content. This simply isn’t true. With hundreds of millions of pieces of content being uploaded to the Internet everyday there are likely a few hundred YouTube videos, Tweets, blog posts and news articles that will help you with your content project. Look to existing content on the web and learn how to repurpose or curate it for your own use. And best of all, content marketing SaaS (specifically Thismoment) has taken steps to help you secure rights clearance.
Marketers know that the most engaging content on the Interest is genuine, entertaining and often comes from the minds of their own customers. How many times have you laughed at a video on YouTube that was created by a clever kid with a video camera? How any times have you marveled at how amazing it is for that very video clip to receive millions of views and comments? The video works because it is genuine and came into the world without obvious commercial intent. That same video, with equal potential for engagement, can be harnessed for your marketing program (assuming it fits your business model). Or better yet, you can engage with your audience to create content on your behalf by requesting videos or other media as part of a promotion or contest. You have customers and fans, put them to work in your marketing campaigns.
Best of all UGC is free, or relatively inexpensive. One of the main concerns with content creation is that it is extremely expensive to create content, especially in the scale that is needed for a substantial program. By employing UGC you can tap into endless existing pieces of content across the Internet or tap into your fan/customer base to create content as needed based on campaign specifics.
I imagine this paragraph is unnecessary. If you have been following along you know that UGC, like the universe, is ever expanding and infinite. There are zero limitations on quantity. If you need a video of a baby monkey riding backwards on a pig to promote your Monkey Kibble campaign, you’ll find it. Entice the creator to grant permission to use it by offering major exposure to their content, once granted you have an amazing piece of relevant and credible content.
No, UGC is not a magic bullet, it will not solve every content marketing challenge and I don’t intend to over simplify the issue. I do hope that considering UGC offers a new way to think about your own content marketing challenges. Remember, you do not need to create every piece of content from scratch, you do not need to pay a lot for content, and if done right it will be remarkably engaging. Better yet, today you can easily tap into amazing content marketing software specifically designed to help you blend both branded content and UGC into engaging playlists for your campaigns. It’s the best of both worlds.
I think I’ve done my momma proud. I avoided the preachy and negative path and offered a few thoughts on how to think about content marketing challenges with a new, slightly rosier, UGC lens.
Originally published on the @Thismoment Content Marketing Blog.