Ever since Google has begun to rank websites based on the frequency of content updates, businesses have gone hungry for more content; thus, they have started to bring in more content creators on board for the sole purpose of improving their website’s visibility in the search engines.
The wide acceptance of web 2.0 in past one decade has given the power of user-generated content (UGC) to businesses that want to enhance their online presence.
Every day, users create valuable content for brands – whether it is on their social media profiles, comments on blogs, review on online business listing, and so on. Good thing is, businesses are aware of its importance, as about 86% of them are already using user-generated content to have a better online presence. But the catch is, for most businesses UGC is limited to earning trust through reviews.
The true potential of user-generated content lays well-beyond user-reviews, which we will find out in this post as I take you through the 3 most effective ways of using UGC for your business growth.
1. Business Expansion
The most popular websites of this generation are social networks, and they solely depend on the content created by users like you & me. You’d be surprised to know how much money these websites make from the content we create for them. Take a look at this chart:
Source: Statista (the stats are from 2010; though, it is safe to assume that these numbers would have only increased)
Not all businesses will fit into the social media category, but it doesn’t mean that they cannot benefit from user-generated content too.
You would have noticed that most websites these days let users create profile to perform various activities, including interacting with other users. Such platforms are architected in a way that promotes social interaction and make users create content for them. You will mostly see such content cropping from online communities / Q&A forums, reviews on products, or by simply allowing users to contribute to one’s site content.
Apart from the certain search engine advantages, this type of user-generated content can be used as an extended business arm.
For example, CNN’s ‘CNN iReport’ project, which gave them the freedom to user-generated content in their reporting network. Fox News & BBC had set up similar programs based on citizen journalism.
Another example is Chegg, an online book rental marketplace, which opened its online-tutoring platform for college students (Chegg’s target audience) with class-recordings submitted by users.
Apart from these, the most viable way to expand your online business is to open a community Q&A forum. Yahoo!’s ‘Yahoo! Answer’ is a good example in this context. Although Yahoo! chose not to make any direct money from this initiative, it certainly helped the ones leading search engine gain lots of traffic.
Whichever of the above-mentioned business expansion plan suits you; remember to use moderation for the user-generated content being shared on your website, especially if you are media business. Otherwise, you might fall into a pit of troubles like Facebook recently did for the Fake news issue.
Ads with user generated content get 4x higher click through rate than ads created by brands.
User generated content on websites can increase conversion by 74%.
About one-fourth of search results for world’s top brands are user-generated content links, etc.
Stats suggest UGC is a great resource to reinforce marketing efforts – whether it is for branding, advertising, or simply boosting your search engine ranking.
For branding purposes, you can run contests to entice customers to create content for you. For example, in 2015, Pepsi Co. ran the ‘Crash the Pepsi IPL’ contest in India during the popular cricket tournament IPL (Indian Premium League). Through the contest, the company asked customers to create a 30 seconds video ad for their soft-drink’s promotion.
The campaign not only further promoted Pepsi as a brand in the country, but also helped the company in coming up with creative ad ideas, and that too at a much lower budget.
Other examples for advertising include using customers’ pictures as social media ads (video, carousel or simple display ads). Brands of travel, fashion, food, & lifestyle industries can easily create such social media ads & benefit hugely form ads created with pictures/videos shared by users (like in the image below).
When it comes to search engine visibility, advantages from UGC are natural. Search engines prefer unique, user-friendly content; and that’s exactly what UGC is. User-generated content is interpreted as social signals by crawlers when coupled with useful links, geo-tagging, etc. and has a positive impact on ranking.
Besides, user generated content also usually contains relevant keywords. For example, after buying iPhone from an online store, a happy customer leaves a review saying ‘this website offers best price for iPhone’ or something like ‘best place to buy iPhone from’. Both of these statements contain important keywords that would help the store rank higher for queries related to them.
3. Social Proof
If you ask me, dozens of ads won’t pursue me into buying something, as much as a little suggestion from a friend would. Different studies suggest a similar consumer behavior as per the findings that say 80-90% customers look for user reviews before buying a product or opting for a service.
As a result, today, the social proof of brands’ products/services are most widely used since user-generated content is best when it comes to engaging prospects. For instance, one of our clients from Canada recently shared a picture as a thank-you note for our services, and sharing it on Twitter, Facebook and other of our social profiles gave us instant boost in terms of likes/followers/impressions/etc. Now this update acts as a social proof of the quality of service provide by FATbit and the quality that a prospect must be seeking while hiring a design & development agency.
Every business relies on credibility and looks for social proofs so companies trying to get more user reviews /client testimonials are doing the right thing. Sadly, there’s much spamming goes around in the name of reviews & testimonials. In fact, a study by Cornell University on hotel industry found that 1 to 6% of their reviews are fake.
To make your social proof more authentic, you can curate them in image & video form (like in the example above).
Another thing to keep in mind about user reviews/testimonials is that they can also be negative. And if they happen on public portals like review sites & social media, their impact will be quite reverse to business growth.
To prevent negative reviews on public portals, proactively ask customers’ for their complaints with your service/product through email right after they have done business with you. Even after taking such precautions, negative links can still happen publically. For that, be ready with online monitoring tools like Google Alerts, Mention, Trackur, etc. & keep a close watch on all of your brand mentions that occur online. And most importantly, tackle them timely to prevent the pain it may cause in your neck if ignored or not fixed for a long time.
By nature, people want to be heard. And the inception of the web 2.0 era has provided them with the option to present their opinion in front of the whole world. It is obvious that in coming time the amount of user generated content will only increase, and will dominate the web world. It is up to businesses now to learn, implement, & innovate different ways (like the ones mentioned in this post) to leverage the power of UCG for their business growth.