Sharmin Kent drives content creation efforts for digitalrelevance, an Indianapolis-based content marketing and digital PR agency.
In today's guest post, she writes about User-Generated Content (UGC) and the power of building a community around your brand.
The art of content marketing requires more than just brilliant in-house writers, designers and social media managers. It requires the ability to harness the power of the community built around your brand, and the content that your community members create.
User-generated content (UGC) is any kind of content created by unpaid contributors: user reviews of a product, or videos created for a contest, or blog posts written on a publishing platform. UGC can provide brands with a cost-effective supply of content that reflects its true spirit. But it can also provide credibility, the opportunity to build and engage with a community, and the data necessary to target audiences more accurately.
But be careful: UGC isn’t a cure-all. Like any type of content, it must be carefully monitored and curated to ensure that your brand is being properly represented.
Social media was once one of the most effective and least labor-intensive sources of UGC. Tweets from brand advocates, Pins from fans and posts on Facebook have given brands free publicity. And although brands may have little control over what its community creates, a brand does have control over how it reacts to content.
Brands that don’t listen to their communities can get burned. Black Milk Clothing attempted to cash in on some of its geek cred this May 4th with a “geeky goddess” post that offended several of its community members. Instead of apologizing or engaging with community members individually, the company deleted posts and banned members without debate. In this case, the UGC created by its community put a black mark on the brand.
While social media can help establish a dialogue between a brand and its community, UGC like user reviews can offer the kind of brand advocacy that carries real weight. Amazon’s massive ecommerce site allows users to share information about the products they love (and the ones they don’t).
The communities created on ecommerce sites like Amazon do two things: they give real-time feedback on products and services, and they provide the kind of data that can help brands identify target audiences for content creation. Information about the other products a user buys can give a brand the information it needs to hone its marketing message.
UGC can provide brands with user data, but it can attract more community members (and their ad dollars) to their site as well. LinkedIn isn't the first social network to pivot toward content, but by opening its publishing platform to its members, the network is hoping to position itself at the center of online content distribution for professionals and the companies they work for.
For LinkedIn, a site whose business model relies on memberships but is leaning more toward advertising revenue, attracting members to publish on their website can keep people engaged. And writers (Influencers) who build large audiences with their content can attract even more eyes for ads. The value of UGC, in this case, can be measured in real money.
Not every brand will be able to rely on user-generated content to help build community and brand advocacy. But for companies who can invest the time and resources, UGC can yield the kind of benefits that an in-house team can’t match.