Everything from a comment on a blog post to an embedded video uploaded to YouTube by some random person; can be considered to be User Generated Content. It has a unique attraction all its own that can develop a huge following.
User Generated Content didn’t start with the internet. Call in radio shows began in the early 1900’s. Newspaper columns designed to engage the readers like “Ask Ann Landers” appeared in the 1940’s, and radio game shows started in the 1930’s. Then TV came along and introduced us to TV talk shows that included audience participation. This user engagement morphed into the rag tag tabloid talk TV which then paved the way for today’s reality shows.
Many of our rich and famous people have been made by creatively using the public response and funnelling it into “User Generated Content”
User Generated Content Today
The internet era has brought with it a reliance on the general public for news stories and home video clips. People provide an abundance of information for free. Today, entire news events can be viewed by the world, introduced to us by the top syndicated news shows, that are just using videos from personal smart phones and interviews with “Joe Public” via Facetime.
The news television networks are quick to jump on the readily available news clips using people’s personal cameras. They have an open invite for people to send in their own personal recordings of neighbourhood events. This “give us your news” media invite was in place long before YouTube. At one time local news shows would actually pay top dollar for breaking news clips. Now people fall over one another to give it away for free.
YouTube is a HUGE resource of user generated content – it has taken us places we often don’t even WANT to go – but we just can’t seem to help ourselves and waste countless hours watching funny cats and gawd-awful pimple poppers.
Using the commenting ability on your business blog is another resource. Regardless of the business you are in, people do love to tell you what they think. Use this to your advantage and make sure you engage with your visitor when they leave a comment. People want to be heard and recognised. By communicating with them you keep your business in the forefront of their minds.
8 Places to Find Free User Generated Content
1. Review Sites
Make sure your business has a place for people to review your product or service. They will leave their thoughts just about anyplace but try and “direct” them to a place you can use to your advantage.
Most businesses and advertisers know the value of a positive review. Even a negative review can be beneficial.
User and buyers reviews will sway a buyers decision much more than just a series of advertisements. Publicly displaying comments from your customers about that product has an even GREATER impact on the potential buyer.
There are blogs around who harness this free content very well. Amazon has it down to a science.
2. Hangouts and Webinars
Hangouts and Webinars is a way to get your happy customers together, hanging out, and chatting it up with their positive experiences. You can use these platforms to have an open Q&A that will show your “listeners” how much you really do know about the topic of interest. Use these along with a sales promotion and you can use the comments people make as they are purchasing your products. This can churn up a buying frenzy.
Facebook is designed so you can engage the average person, bring them into your marketplace, and sell them your stuff. Not only can people just join up with your groups, you can actively advertise in a way that blends in with the conversations they are already having.
Products, promotions, and personal conversations are all taking place in the SAME space and become heavily influenced by “social proof”. Advertising in this media will capture and show what their friends think. Clearly displayed at the top of a paid feed advertisement is the name of who of your friends “Like” this, or which friend “shared” it. This social proof encourages others to do the same.
People comment on these feeds and they can go viral, and with viral marketing there is money to be made.
When you send out a tweet, people can comment, reTweet, and mark as a “favourite”. Even Donald Trump knew long ago that using Twitter to promote and engage your audience works great for exposure. Plus using their content to exploit will continue your exposure.
You can build a large Twitter following that will increase brand awareness and drive more traffic to your site.
5. Content Sharing Sites
Content sharing sites like Flickr, YouTube, Pinterest, and others; give the user a space to share their stuff. If you have something people like – they will share it. This is where your content becomes THEIR user generated content and new customers will be introduced to your brand.
6. Guest Posts
If you have a blog and want to have others write your content for you, it’s as simple as putting a link in your sidebar that says “write for us” and take them to a contact page.
You can pay for the content too but for most businesses you won’t have to. Usually the author will write an article in exchange for a link or recognition. One CAUTION: when agreeing to provide a link be sure to check the site you are linking to. Also, you need to ensure they are providing “original” content.
Wiki’s are written by users. The most well known is Wikipedia but you CAN start your own Wiki. By doing this you can tailor it to your business or point of interest, and invite people to participate.
Wiki’s can be used as support forums too. Users will offer trade secrets and tidbits. From an SEO perspective, Wiki’s get listed in the search engines too and the active communities can get good rankings.
You can create your own Wiki free with Google Sites or own your own Wiki by installing a wiki theme for your WordPress site
Forums are places that people go to hangout and communicate with one another in the specific area of interest. They ask questions, offer assistance, as well as complain and compliment. Forums can be major active places that you can profit from in your business. This user generated content can also build your social media branding.
Within the forums you can advertise your products and even have people pay to be part of the community.
User Generated Content Innovation
A small business can get really creative using all the tools available. The eight platforms listed above is only a small sample of what is at your disposal. Whichever tools you use just be sure to invite people to participate, and encourage and reward them when they do.
For example; you can have contests like a “best customer video” or “Top Commentator” prizes. You can involve even more people by having the votes come from the “audience”. By engaging your users and followers and making it fun, they will do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.
This video clip from the Carol Burnett Show is a spectacular example of user generated content posted to YouTube. It highlights how she was a master of engaging her audience!