Every digital marketer knows the benefits of creating useful, engaging content by now. Heck, ‘content is king’ is still a point hammered home at most digital marketing conferences. And while talk of user-generated content (UGC) does occasionally make the rounds, it is still something I see missing from many digital strategies.

So, why should user generated content be part of your inbound marketing strategy?

Growing visibility and increasing sales

Attaching the objective of ‘increasing visibility’ to any campaign is something that happens a lot in this industry. This could be organic visibility, brand visibility or even growth across platforms such as Twitter, YouTube or Facebook. So long as the right kind of UGC is used, achieving growth in visibility is very realistic with this approach.

The automotive industry is an incredibly competitive market and getting your audience onto your site early on in the buying cycle can heavily influence a decision about which business a user decides to buy a vehicle from. One of the best ways to engage the audience at the awareness stage of the buying cycle within the automotive sector is to try and capture users who are searching for reviews.

Reviews come in a variety of different forms, including written, image-based and video. One of the best examples of using video has been produced by KIA. Not only have they managed to capture thousands of reviews from confirmed KIA customers (over 13,000 in fact) but they have hosted them onsite in a way that is easy for potential customers to read.

Kia

If searching for ‘KIA reviews’ or a model-based review search such as ‘KIA Sorento reviews’ KIA can clearly be found among some of the big review sites such as Autoexpress.co.uk and Whatcar.com. Without the assistance of its customers, it is highly unlikely that this would be the case.

However, an area where KIA’s campaign could improve is that, although they have some of their customer reviews available for search engines to index, the vast majority cannot be crawled by search engines. Unlocking this valuable content and hosting onsite would reap more organic benefits and likely lead to an increase in sales.

Although this post is centred around inbound marketing, I do think it is important to highlight how KIA have also used their user-generated content in offline television advertising in an attempt to ensure the customer experience is the same across all channels.

This is something well worth doing, especially if you are a brand such as KIA and have largely positive reviews. Written reviews aren’t the only option, KIA also allows users to submit images (when they write a review) as well as allowing potential (or existing) customers to ask an existing owner a question about the car. Again, this is all fantastic content for users but not something that can be discovered unless a user is already on the KIA website, as the content cannot be crawled by search engines.

Written reviews, even reviews containing images, aren’t the only way that brands can generate UGC for reviews. This is where user-generated videos can come into play, and engage with a slightly different audience.

Auto Trader has a fantastic user-generated campaign in place currently, simply called ‘I Bought One’. Not only is Auto Trader tapping into people that are passionate about the vehicles that they own, but they are also using influencers to assist them in promoting the campaign. A recent video features Paul Wallace talking about his purchase of an Audi R8. While Auto Trader’s YouTube channel has over 27,000 subscribers, Paul’s Supercars of London channel has over 165,000. Using Paul to help market Auto Trader essentially unlocks an entirely new audience for the brand.

A successful user-generated content strategy, if aimed at the right audience at the right time, will no doubt increase sales for a brand too.

Positive branding

If you know that your users are largely impressed by your business, then why not tap into that audience and get them to do your marketing for you? Having happy customers talk about your brand will only increase positive sentiment and likely lead to an increase in paying customers.

Having happy customers talk about your brand will only increase positive sentiment. - Highlight to share -

I never miss a chance to talk about Disney (fan boy alert) but, it has to be said, Disney are incredibly good at tapping into positive sentiment and getting their customers to help in amplifying their brand. A recent Social Media Moms Celebration event at Walt Disney World generated 28,500 tweets, 4,900 Instagram photos and 88 different blog posts. All Disney had to do was invite around 200 families to Walt Disney World for a few nights. You might think that all of this was paid for by Disney but you would be wrong, Disney did offer a discounted rate, however it was up to families to pay their way.

A simple search for the hashtag #DisneySMMC on both Twitter and YouTube begins to show the value of this fantastic campaign.

Videos include reactions from kids being told they are going to Walt Disney World, attraction ride-through and even restaurant and hotel reviews. Not only are all the videos I watched positive but many also demonstrate some of the new technology that Disney has put in place in recent years, such as their MagicBands.

The greatest part about this campaign is that it never stops, the hashtag is in constant use and there are always meet-ups being organised. This results in more content generated that encourages more people to visit the Disney Parks. Of course not every brand is as popular as Disney, a brand that naturally has a lot of enthusiastic fans.

Most brands will have people that would love the opportunity to help it spread its message – sometimes it is as simple as tracking these people down and talking to them. Social Media has simply made that task a lot easier! Customers can be incredibly passionate, and tapping into that passion can provide real value.

Customers can be incredibly passionate, and tapping into that passion can provide real value. - Highlight to share -

Audience growth and retention

Growing your audience is an important part of Inbound Marketing, keeping them interested is another challenge. The following campaigns demonstrate both growth and customer retention potential for each of the brands featured.

Waitrose #TasteOfSummer

Waitrose is currently running a competition-based, user-generated content campaign whereby users have to submit a favourite summer flavour to be in the chance of winning a variety of prizes that include an exclusive BBQ with Heston Blumenthal and a summer party menu for a group of friends.

Waitrose

Not only is this campaign a great way for Waitrose to collect content, but there are a variety of ways that Waitrose can use the content to sell more products in store. If, for example, users are largely submitting pictures of BBQ food then Waitrose can start to give these products more of a focus. I haven’t seen this in store (yes, I went in and checked) but Waitrose could be promoting the campaign across a range of summer products by inserting the hashtag alongside the price.

Growing your audience is an important part of Inbound Marketing, keeping them interested is another challenge. - Highlight to share -

Waitrose have also perfectly targeted their range of prizes to their audience, while at the same time not alienating people that wouldn’t ordinarily shop at one of their stores.

Made Unboxed

Made.com has a great campaign running, whereby they ask their customers to submit a picture of a product they have purchased from the site. This enables a potential customer to see a product they are interested in purchasing in an existing customer’s home.

MadeXUnboxed

Better yet, you can easily search for a specific product or range, rather than having to keep scrolling through endless lists of photos that are irrelevant to you. Not only does this assist with the buying cycle but, in order to submit a photo, you need to sign-up with your email, a fantastic way for Made.com to collect more data.

Sykes Cottages #WhyILoveNorfolk

It would be remiss of us not to give an example of a user-generated campaign that Fresh Egg implemented for one of our clients, Sykes Cottages. We were challenged with a need to increase their brand awareness as a holiday cottage provider for Norfolk, so we implemented a three-stage campaign that started off with the creation of a video asking people “Why do you love Norfolk?” Next we ran a competition for people to submit their reasons for loving Norfolk, using Twitter, Facebook or via the website. We then created an online visitors guide to Norfolk, using content submitted by the users from the competition.

Norfolk

As a result, Fresh Egg gained over 1,200 competition entries, increased search visibility and created a legacy of regular weekly traffic to the Norfolk visitor guide. Further brand awareness was also generated via social media channels, where a high level of reach was obtained from sharing the competition and guide (192,603 people on Facebook and 98,700 people on Twitter).

Starting a user-generated content campaign

Getting a user-generated content campaign wrong can be a disaster. For instance, setting up a video review campaign if you are BT might not be the best of ideas given their current score on TrustPilot.

Getting a user-generated content campaign wrong can be a disaster. - Highlight to share -

Here are a few tips for ensuring success on a UGC campaign:

1. Know your audience
The first question you need to ask yourself when starting a user-generated content campaign is: who are you looking to target? The generic answer of ‘our customers’ might work in some cases, but targeting customers based on who you would like to view the content they are creating is a better way forward.

2. Set your objectives
A user-generated content campaign without objectives attached to it is as pointless as starting any inbound marketing campaign without them. Getting these agreed from the start sets a clear pathway to knowing what success looks like.

3. Plan your campaign
When will the campaign start? When will the campaign end? What technology is needed to run this campaign? These are all questions that should be asked during the planning stage of a UGC campaign. Setting an end date for the campaign gives a date in which initial objectives need to be met, but there is no reason a campaign can’t continue, perhaps with new features or a new set of objectives, if it is a resounding success.

User-generated content turns your audience into a community that has a stake in your brand. - Highlight to share -

How can content be used?

Obviously this ties in with the objectives of the campaign, but consider how the content that is generated through UGC can be used across both online and offline owned properties. As mentioned earlier in the post, although not implemented to perfection (what campaign doesn’t have its faults?), KIA have, at least, ensured their UGC campaign is communicated across nearly every marketing channel they use.

User-generated content gives customers and potential customers a sense of participation and empowers them to help shape a brand. As such they feel an affinity with it and are more likely to trust and feel loyal to it. User-generated content turns your audience into a community that has a stake in your brand. However, user-generated content campaigns usually work only if they can tap into a topic that people are passionate about already.

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Why user-generated content should be part of your inbound marketing strategy