Many business experts agree one of the best ways to grow a business is with "OPM" (Other people's money). The idea is to reduce your risk and multiply the impact of your capital with loans from banks or resources from investors. The influx of capital helps accelerate the growth of a business. In a way, this same strategy can apply to your online marketing. To accelerate the expansion of your brand you need "OPC" (Other people's content). In marketing circles the technical term is user generated content (UGC).
Now I am not suggesting you go out and scrape content from other websites and share it as your own. That type of plagiarism won't win you any friends in the long run. No, I am talking about encouraging people to share their experiences with your brand, or simply their expertise in words and pictures. This process of encouraging, collecting and sharing user generated content can take many forms. Let's take a look at some of the more common ones.
One of the most common forms of UGC is the review. Are you looking for a restaurant when you are traveling, a plumber to fix a leaky faucet or the best refrigerator to buy? If you are like most consumers, you probably have checked out a few reviews in your purchase process. This reliance on online resources is not limited to consumers in the millennial generation. The research shows consumers of all ages are checking out what their peers have to say. According to one study by Cone Inc, 85% of consumers are more likely to open their wallets when online recommendations support offline advice.
The key to a good review program is to remember to ask you customers to complete the review. Be sure to respond to questions or concerns which surface in the review process.
Have a question? Looking for ideas and inspiration? Go to your community. One of the most interesting examples of this is Jimmy Fallon, who routinely tosses out questions on twitter and then reads some of the best responses during his show. Who needs writers when you have an engaged audience who will write material for you?
The key to using your community to create source material is two fold.
From simple photo contests on Instagram to complex essay or recipe submissions, even simple prizes can motivate customers to share how they use your product. This example from Dove asked women to share why they thought their friend had real beauty.
The contest was a natural on Facebook as women shared stories about each other. The winning entries were featured in an advertising campaign. The contest was a double win for Dove. The campaign went viral giving the brand wide exposure on Facebook and it reduced the cost of the campaign development since no professional models were required.
Tip: If you want to increase involvement, make the contest simple and relevant to the target audience.
User generated content is effective because it gets people involved with your brand. When they participate, they are more likely to have a vested interest in the outcome. When they share their experiences in their own words, it gives your marketing a level of authenticity which will resonate with other prospective customers.
Here's your chance to create some user generated content of your own. Share a comment or link below. And if you want to see more examples of USG in action, check out my presentation from Mixwest 2014 .