Three Easy Ways to Leverage User-Generated Content

Lululemon Sweat Life contest

In the world of search engine optimization, the more unique and informative content a website has, the more likely it is to perform well in search results. Due to this huge SEO perk, marketers are creating content like crazy, from blog posts to case studies.. There’s another type of content you should be aware of that not only boosts SEO, but is even more influential than your own words: user-generated content.

What the heck is user-generated content? It’s a fancy term for content, such as reviews or images, generated by your customers or clients.. This type of content can be a gold mine for marketers – it’s free and it carries tremendous weight in the eyes of prospective customers. A 2012 Nielson study found that while the vast majority of people view most forms of online advertising with deep suspicion, a whopping 92% of customers trust recommendations from friends and family and 70% trust online reviews, As a nifty bonus, it frees you up to spend more time on your other marketing efforts.

Ready to find out how to start gathering user-generated content? Here are three easy ways:

1. Ask for it!
We’re in the age of over-sharing online — take advantage of the fact that people love sharing their opinions on anything and everything! Sometimes all you have to do is extend an invitation for customers to share their sentiments on your products or your services, and they will oblige. You can easily do this by sending an email to your customer database or posting a request on your social media accounts.

When you ask, be specific about your needs so you end up with exactly what you’re looking for. If you want more reviews on Yelp, ask for them to post a review on it. If you need testimonials about your services for your website, specifically request that. If you want images of people using your products, invite them to share their best shots and offer submission guidelines (i.e. should they email them to you or post them on a certain social site?).

2. Offer incentives.
Customers always appreciate a little something in return for taking the time to share their thoughts and feelings on your business. If you ask customers to fill out a survey, submit photos or even write testimonials, a little incentive can offer the motivation needed for them to act.  It also shows them you appreciate their time and understand they are providing you with something of value.

So how can you get them motivated? It can be as simple as offering an exclusive discount or coupon code for future purchases. Or, get creative and incentivize user-generated content with a contest. Offer a chance to win a great prize if they submit a specific type of content. You can leverage your social media following and run a contest via Facebook, asking clients to send in photos, essays or whatever type of content you need. You will simultaneously gain content for future marketing and PR purposes while boosting your social media engagement. After all, people love a little competition!

3. Create a campaign.
You can also take advantage of user-generated content as a way to boost brand engagement and sales. Yogawear company Lululemon did just that with their #TheSweatLife campaign in 2012. They asked followers to post photos of themselves pushing the limits of their bodies in Lululemon apparel on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #TheSweatLife, in addition to hashtags for specific products worn in the photos.

The campaign not only drove engagement and enforced Lululemon brand loyalty (they received more than 7,000 photos) but they also drove sales. How so? Smart marketing: when you clicked on photos with product hashtags, users were directed to those product pages where they could easily purchase those items.

Before you get started, be sure you’re fully aware of all the legalities involved when soliciting user-generated content. Facebook, for example, requires the use of third-party apps when administering any sort of online promotion. If you plan to use customer-submitted photos for future marketing purposes, this needs to be disclosed in your submission request or contest rules.

Want to be sure you’re gaining killer user-generated content while playing by the rules? Shoot us a note.

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