Guest Contribution by James Daniels
User-generated content (UGC) can come from any text or media that is uploaded by a site user. This can be in the form of comments, uploads, status updates, forum posts, etc. One doesn’t have to look very far to see that some of the most successful websites in the world have been built around UGC.
For example, look at YouTube and Facebook. Both of those mega-platforms are literally just massive online mediums where people can post their own content. The amount of content that Facebook or YouTube publish independently is minuscule to the point of being almost immeasurable when stacked against the untold terabytes of UGC that’s uploaded to those sites every day.
Here are the top three ways brands are using UGC on social media platforms:
1. Provoking Conversation and Engagement
Attracting UGC is the name of the game when it comes to creating a noticeable improvement in the results of your social campaigns. Essentially, an applicable synonym for UGC in this context would be “buzz,” as in “buzzword” or “buzz-worthy.”
Ironically, speaking of a buzz, even the makers of some of the most popular hangover pills on the market have been using this tactic of provoking engagement and conversation through strategic and provocative posts. Generally, playing into common emotions works best. Whether you use controversy, curiosity, or comedy is completely up to you, but it has to be something that will elicit some sort of reaction.
2. Holding Contests and Challenges
Once you’ve gotten better at provoking conversation and engagement around your posts the conventional way (strategic posting), you might then want to look into more aggressive ways to incentivize the creation of UGC. Social contests and challenges(2) are an excellent way to attract content submissions from many people quickly. People are generally competitive, and most folks will jump at the opportunity to win a prize. Plus, contestants typically share their entries with friends and family, so there’s a lot of viral traffic potential with this method.
3. Encouraging Comments and Feedback
Comments are an often-overlooked form of UGC but they are one of the original and most important kinds to have on your site. You’ll notice that the top brands always ask their visitors to leave comments or contact them with feedback.
Even in the case of direct feedback through an email or chat interface, that’s still valuable advice you’re getting directly from the people who matter the most – your audience and customer base. As a rule of thumb, always place a call-to-comment to the end of your posts. This can be done just by asking a question related to the content you’ve posted and inviting readers to comment(3) with their opinion or answer below.
Give Your Audience an Outlet
Ultimately, brands that give their customers a voice are the ones that find the most success in the long-term. Going back to YouTube as an example, we see that one of the web’s most used sites is simply a platform that lets people upload and share content. Thus, in principle, it stands to reason that such an open-source model could benefit any brand.