It was early 1964. The world was becoming more uncertain by the minute. One man was determined to find meaning…with his trusty harmonica. Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin’” became an instant classic and listeners instantly began analysing its meaning. What was he referring to – civil rights, campus unrest, growing tension between East and West? Or maybe Dylan was predicting the inevitable change that would come to the way digital marketers generate content. (Probably not…but just go with it like a rolling stone!)
He was probably talking about a lot of things, but the truth stands: content marketing is changing at a rapid rate. As the demand for content grows, companies and agencies often don’t have the time or resources to produce as much content as they would like. That’s where user-generated content (UGC) comes in. It’s a concept that’s been around for a while, but many organisations, especially B2B businesses, are hesitant to try it out. Yet, benefits far outnumber the risks and, in many cases, having users produce your site’s content is simply more effective. Still a little wary? Read on to learn the top 10 benefits of user-generated content, and you may find that the time has come for you to try it out for your own business. As Dylan said:
“You better start swimmin’, or you’ll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changin’.”
What is User-Generated Content?
User-generated content (UGC) refers to anything your customers create that helps your marketing: blogs, social media posts, photos, podcasts and even comments on your site all count as user-generated content. Marketers often recruit industry influencers and even customers to write guest blogs or lead their social media campaigns. This is useful for a whole host of reasons, and it’s not just a branding exercise; there’re measurable benefits to be gained by expanding your content horizons and embracing user-generated content. Perhaps most interesting of all is that users want to contribute to your site. Whether you sell an innovative new computer software or obscenely cute animal plushies, there is an audience out there who a) wants to write for you, and b) will follow those writers on your site. As the scribe himself said, “Don’t stand in the doorway; don’t block up the hall.” There’s a desire from users to write and a demand from their audiences to read. Embrace that and use it to your website’s advantage. Here are the top 10 benefits of user-generated content.
Top 10 Benefits of User-Generated Content
These first five reasons deal with the external benefits of handing users’ the reigns, exploring how you can improve customer experience and public perception.
- Build consumer trust
A study by Nielson shows that two-thirds of customers trust customer opinions published online. When readers see that a non-employee has contributed to your site, it instils a feeling of genuine trust. After all, most bloggers and influencers won’t endorse a product they haven’t tried for themselves and enjoyed. Build consumer trust by getting true brand advocates to write content that they believe in.
- Increase site engagement
Along with those outside writers comes an outside audience, as well. When readers have a personal interest in the author of one of your posts, they are more likely to comment and share. This means more engagement for your content, including external shares across other channels.
- Build a stronger community
Once you’ve earned your customers’ trust and increased your site’s engagement levels, you’ll be in the perfect position to build a strong community around your brand. Let’s say you are the purveyor of Hamish’s Veggie Haggis and you’ve recruited bloggers to review your products and tell your business’s story. Once you’ve successfully gained a following from your new audience, you’ll be part of the zeitgeist around veggie/organic food movement. User-generated content places your brand at the centre of your industry or niche’s community, enabling your business to become a leading presence within that sector.
- Improve brand perception
Nothing says success like boosting your brand’s image, and blogger outreach is a great way to improve brand perception. By reaching out to bloggers relevant to your company’s products and values, you’ll reach a whole new audience that is already interested in what you have to offer. A glowing review from a popular blogger will position your brand as reliable, valuable and desirable.
- Gain a better understanding of your target audience
Having created a strong community centred on trust, engagement and positive perception, you’ll have gained a much better understanding of your target audience. Who they follow, why they follow them, how they engage and when – all of this becomes clear and actionable once you’ve amassed a relevant, interested audience. These facts will inform you in strategising how to optimise future content and increase conversions.
These next five reasons look internally, examining how user-generated content benefits your business in ways that others cannot see.
- Less work for your content team
Your own content team will have more time and resources to devote to other tasks. Whether it’s a goal of yours or not, the time will be there, and your content team will surely thank you!
- More site traffic
Recruiting outside writers brings in an outside audience. While not every single member of their audience will follow them to your site, a good portion will. That’s valuable traffic that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. That increased traffic isn’t valuable simply because there’s more of it. Any users who follow a guest blogger to your site are more likely to be solid leads, since they already have an interest in your industry.
- More cost-effective
If your content team is reaching its capacity, it may be time to add some more writers to your staff. Unfortunately, it’s not always worth hiring a new staff member just to write a few more posts for your site. If you’re looking to curtail costs but still produce more content, why not open your blog up to users? Guest writers are often happy to write content in exchange for a bit of free publicity for their own blog – maybe in the form of a backlink – or at most they’ll be looking for a free sample or trial. For those who want payment, their cost will be far less than a full year’s salary.
- More social sharing
User-generated content is often more relatable, more engaging and, most importantly, more sharable. By detecting more likes and shares on your business’s social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, search engines will take these social cues and give you higher search rankings.
- Better SEO
SEO – it’s the bottom line for many businesses when it comes to digital. A good content team has you covered, but for better or for worse, the times they are a-changin’. Search engines are targeting well-worn tactics such as blogger outreach, instructing bloggers to use nofollow links when writing for a brand. This includes products reviews, testimonials and everything else. Unfortunately for digital marketers, one of the biggest benefits of blogger outreach is gaining those SEO-friendly follow links. With recent Google crackdowns, these ethical practices are suddenly falling out of fashion. The solution is user-generated content. When bloggers contribute to your site, they’ll often want to link to it from their own site in order to broaden their own exposure. They’re also more likely to make that link a follow link, as they are not linking to your site as part of a product review or other agreement, but because they want to direct their audience to their own content. In the rapidly changing world of blogger outreach, user-generated content may be SEO’s brightest beacon of light.
The digital marketing playing field is always changing. Whether it’s a surprise shakeup from Google or a sudden change in consumer behaviour, marketers must constantly update their practices and strategies to adapt to these continual changes.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.
If you want to know more about the changing times and new content strategies for your own site, get in touch with DAC – we’d love to sit down and discuss your business’s digital needs and goals with you.