For any small business, content is a vital ingredient to building brand awareness and engaging potential customers. Without fresh content, it’s hard to get noticed online, your social media channels become stale, and people lose interest in your brand.
Fortunately, in a content-saturated market, it’s not just what you say about your business that matters, it’s what others say about you that counts. This is where user-generated content comes into play.
Here, you’ll discover how to leverage the power of user-generated content to extend your brand’s reach and grow your small business.
What is user-generated content?
User-generated content is any kind of content related to your business that is created and shared voluntarily by individuals who are not associated with your business. In many cases, it’s created by customers who’ve had a positive experience with your brand.
User-generated content comes in the form of social media mentions, customer photos, reviews on third-party websites, forum comments, blog posts, and more. Because it’s created freely by customers and not paid for by your business, user-generated content comes across as authentic and acts as a powerful word-of-mouth marketing tool.
The benefits of user-generated content for small businesses
One of the best things about user-generated content is that it’s essentially free marketing material. Basically, you’re outsourcing content creation to customers, which saves time and money.
It helps build trust
Consumers trust user-generated content much more than traditional marketing. According to a report by content marketing firm Stackla, consumers are 2.4 times more likely to say user-generated content is authentic compared to branded content.
It provides useful feedback
When consumers post content related to your business, it shows you what people like – and don’t like – about your business. You can use this feedback to eliminate any problems and focus on what customers actually value and want from your business.
It builds brand community
User-generated content is a great way to build a community around your business, products, and services. It’s why many big brands use social media to start conversations and encourage people to interact online. This feeling of community fosters brand loyalty.
It boosts your search engine rankings
Social media comments, reviews, and testimonials all play an important part in boosting your online visibility and driving website traffic. This all helps to increase your search engine rankings with Google and other search engines.
How to find user-generated content for your small business
If you’re running any type of business, it’s important to find out where your customers are spending time online. When you know where they are, you can listen to what they say, find out what they think about various issues, and also discover content related to your business. Use the following strategies:
- Search online local business directories and third-party review sites for reviews of your business.
- Study your social media platforms. Which platforms have the most engagement?
- Check your website analytics. Where is your traffic coming from?
- Set up Google Alerts so that you’re notified whenever your business is mentioned online.
- Use brand monitoring tools that let you track online content according to specific keywords or criteria set by you. For example, you can monitor when your business name or a certain product is mentioned.
- Use your social media platforms’ in-built analytics to search for specific keywords or hashtags.
How to cultivate user-generated content
Claim your business listings
First, it’s important to claim your business listings on sites like Google My Business, Bing Places, Yelp, and Yahoo Local. Customer reviews that appear on these sites are one of the most powerful types of user-generated content.
While it’s important to claim your business listings on review sites, you should still continually encourage customers to leave reviews. In a 2020 survey of US online customers, 94 percent of respondents said that positive reviews made them more likely to use a business.
Ask customers for feedback in post-sale emails, on product pages, and on social media. Remember to make it easy for users by including links to specific review sites.
Social media campaigns
Social media is one of the best channels for driving user-generated content. These four tactics are a great place to start:
- Encourage followers to post pictures of themselves using your product. Create a specific hashtag to boost engagement.
- Ask questions based around your business or products.
- Ask for customer opinions on issues that are important to your business.
- Run a photo contest that offers a prize for the best entry.
In any contest, make sure that the rules are clear to your audience. Also, if you plan to use a review, repost customer content, or do anything with user-generated content, it’s important to get permission from the original content creator. Finally, always credit the original creator in some way. If you’re unsure about where you stand legally, it’s always a good idea to consult a legal specialist before using any user-generated content in your marketing.
How to promote user-generated content
Once you’ve located user-generated content, what do you do with it? Here are a few of the most effective ways to use user-generated content to support your small business:
- Publish reviews on your website. Consider creating a dedicated testimonials page. Additionally, insert reviews on your homepage and alongside images on product pages.
- Feature customer photos on product pages.
- Use reviews and customer photos in advertisements.
- Insert user-generated content into emails to build trust and increase engagement.
- Display user-generated content in-store and at trade shows.
- Repost customer content on social media.
Leverage user-generated content to strengthen your small business
User-generated content offers many benefits for any small business. Put simply, it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to raise brand awareness, gain the trust of potential customers, and build a community around your business. What’s more, cultivating user-generated content can strengthen your search engine rankings.
While user-generated content won’t replace your content marketing efforts entirely, it can play an essential role in your marketing strategy as you work to grow your small business.