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7 User-Generated Content Ideas to Create a Trusted Brand

Advertising’s not quite dead, but it seldom pays off like it did in decades past. In fact, it tends to turn off the new app-happy generation.

Suffice to say if you aim to claim the attention and admiration of the smartphone clan, it’s smarter—and more lucrative—to try different approaches.

Obviously, content marketing is the approach most brands are moving to. And most strive to write, design, shoot, record, and publish helpful content. The “teach, not preach” approach has proven to help create brand affinity, and often, generate sales.

But c’mon now, the truth is phone fanatics aren’t always keen on embracing old standbys such as “how to” articles and list posts. They’re far more inclined to spend their time Gramming, Snapping, Tweeting and Tubing.

So let’s talk about the approach today’s most trusted brands use to operate more effectively in age of the small screen…

Don't expect to get user-generated content produced all alone. You need happy customers to pull it off. They vouch for, and rave, about your product. Viewers are more inclined to buy the message—and subsequently—the product.

Ipsos ingrographic UGC

An infographic from Ipsos MediaCT focused on how millennials love user-generated content (UGC). As you see above, it makes the point that peer reviews are highly trustworthy. It also states:

  • 30% of the millennials media time is spent consuming UGC.
  • It’s getting much easier for customers to create content.
  • UGC is 35% more memorable than other media.
  • UGC is 20% more influential on purchase decisions than all other media types.

It works. People trust their peers most. It’s that simple.

7 benefits of user-generated content

UGC offers a number of benefits:

  1. Increased awareness
    More people talk up your brand via social media and blogs, giving you more exposure.
  2. Better understanding of your audience
    You gain more insights into what services potential customers are looking for and how they experience your brand.
  3. More engagement
    UGC allows you to enhance your relationship with consumers online.
  4. Stronger community
    Fostering conversation allows your consumers to connect with each other.
  5. Search results
    More content produces more search engine indexing giving your website enhanced visibility around target key phrases.
  6. Trustworthy content
    As noted above, the majority of consumers trust their peers. When satisfied customers tell others about their experience, it provides social proof that supports the credibility of your brand.
  7. Sales
    Increased buyer engagement and purchases are among the most direct benefits of user-generated content.

To create this post I dove into the various types of user-generated content promoted on social media channels to:

  • Showcase seven user-generated content ideas you can use to garner interest and generate sales.
  • Share some of the best user-generated content campaigns I found.

Let’s dig in.

1. Contests

Contests work in consumer and B2B marketing. To create them, you need (1) a fun idea, of course, and (2) contestants. Put the two together and you have user-generated content that can benefit both your brand and its fans.

Conceive a prize. It can be cash, merchandise, free service or even just some form of recognition.

Conceive a tactic that produces content, preferably visual content.

TourDeSun contest
ShortStack is a user-generated content platform—and then some. In this example, TourDeSun used the versatile ShortStack platform to setup a simple Instagram contest asking entrants to submit vacation selfies with the hashtag #vacationfortwo.

Lays contest
Lays dangles a large pile of cash to entice entries for its “Do us a Flavor” contest, which has been going for years now because it produces tremendous social buzz.

Commarts contest
Here’s a thing of beauty: an award-winning design from a typography competition conducted annually by Commarts (CA). Their contest page claims, “CA’s Award of Excellence is one of the most-coveted awards in the industry. If chosen, winning places you in the highest ranks of your profession.”

2. Hashtag campaigns

You can engage your customers on an ongoing basis with #hashtag campaigns. This tactic is especially popular on Instagram where hashtagged images from customers essentially serve as word-of-mouth advertising.

While you could offer incentives and go with the contest approach, often the opportunity to be featured on your Instagram account is all it takes.

Earth Rated hashtag campaign
I love how Earth Rated, makers of biodegradable dog poop bags, perpetually inspires the enthusiastic dog lovers who use their product to post hashtagged images.

3. Customer events

You can create authentic and persuasive content by creating customer events, online and off, and give customers starring roles in whatever you create.

I love this idea from John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing: the video appreciation party. John writes, “Once a year or so hold a client appreciation event to say thanks and create a networking event for your clients and prospects. Hire a video crew for the event and, after a few bottles of wine have been emptied, ask some of your clients to talk about their experience with your firm on camera. Then also let them record a five minute commercial for their own use too.”

Here are some more ideas for customer events where creating content is among the goals:

  • Twitter chats
  • Webinars—Invite customers to speak
  • Promotions at trade shows
  • Meetups or seminars

4. Surveys

If there’s a great strategy in this post for killing multiple birds with one stone, this is surely it. Do research with your customers.

First and foremost, you’ll create a form of content that consistently delivers tremendous results for earning links and shares.1 Research by Buzzsumo identifies five content types that perform best including “content that provides original research and insights.”

Next, obviously, you’ll learn more about your customers’ needs.

And… research as a content type is amazingly repurposable. It can easily be developed as a report, post, microsite, infographic, slide deck, and more.

INSync webinar
Just a minute ago, in my inbox was an invitation to attend a “virtual session,” a webinar, I suppose, where brand new research will be revealed. Smart.

Emma ebook
Research projects such as this industry report from email service provider Emma is great for all of the reasons described above and, if gated with an opt-in form, provides a strong lead magnet for earning new email subscribers.

5. Video testimonials

Testimonials have persevered for ages across any and all media for good reason. Prospects want to know… How have you used this product or service? What did you accomplish?

You’ll find user-generated video content is a major trust builder.

Zoom video testimonials
Zoom, an online conferencing platform I use and love, offers short video testimonials on its home pagedrawing viewers into highly compelling stories, such as the one above featuring Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

6. Customer stories

Customer stories (which may go by their more formal moniker, case studies) can be user-generated. Hi, I’m Diane and I like my software because it saved me time.

Not a bad approach by any stretch of the imagination, especially if they’re authentic. Social media and smartphones make this sort of thing oh-so-easy. But ultimately, these confessions of undying loyalty serve you and you alone.

What if some of those brand-loving volunteers of yours who get wealthier, healthier, happier or somehow better than they were before could be invited to share their stories in a way that serves them? A line could form.

I’ll use a really smart example from Kajabi to clarify. The company, which offers a platform for launching, hosting and selling educational courses, developed an ongoing series of customer stories called the #KajabiHero program.

Kajabi heroes

It’s basic, brilliant and a bona fide revenue generator. You see, those customers above clad in their sharp, black, 100% cotton tees, screen-printed with hashtags hovering above their hearts, don’t just give their testimony.

They’re rewarded with website traffic for playing along. Yep. Look at those links above. They don’t go to Kajabi pages; they go to sites from Lena, Jordan, Gidget and Diane.

Smart stuff, this mutual backscratching society results in authentic stories, credible content, and new customers.

7. Collaborations

We’ll call this final one the “Etcetera File” because, really, you could say every idea I’ve presented thus far is a collaborative effort of sorts. However, the sky’s the limit when it comes to ways to work with customers to create content.

Here are a few more:

  • Incorporate product/service reviews in your content.
  • Collect idea submissions for just about anything: recipes, tips, hacks, favorites, etc.
  • Create a section of your website, of the forum variety, where customers help each other.
  • Collect customer questions for FAQs.
  • Create roundup posts with contributions from your customers.
  • Co-present with a customer.
  • Co-develop and co-brand an eBook or infographic.
  • Record consultations and offer them as audio and/or video.

It pays to collaborate with customers

It’s time to ask users to generate content and collaborate with you.

When users become your marketers, your communications becomes more credible and prospects feel more confident about buying.

With a little thought and creativity you can use the user-generated content ideas I’ve offered in your marketing mix. And more thing…

Besides making you money, these approaches will often save you money. A lot of these user-generated content ideas are easy, fun and inexpensive—or even free.

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