Leveraging User Generated Content in your Marketing
What Your Customers Can Do For You
Content. Content. Content. It’s everything and it’s everywhere.
Platforms full of channels, full of posts, full of delicious juicy attention-grabbing content. From small morsels of meme-based content to hearty meals of engaging thought-provoking conversation to high-performance product videos, everywhere you go there’s content.
Which is kind of unsurprising really. Right? If you consider content to be words and images then content is not so much king/queen, as it is simply a substantive part of everything that we do online, as businesses or as people. If I want to talk to you about a topic, there are more ways for me to do it as content, than not.
So, content comes in many forms and those forms fit into different categories. Two of the highest-level categorizations concern point of origin. Content created by the brand and content created by customers. In the former bracket are all the things you’re familiar with. Social posts, blogs, advertisements, infographics, videos, podcasts, and any number of other things, but what content does the customer generate?
Let’s take a slight diversion.
How Video Games Relate to User Generated Content
In 1993/4 id Software released a pair of games that came to define an entire genre of video games. To say that these games are important is an understatement. The legacy of Doom and Doom II can still be felt in games today. This, in itself, is not uncommon. Platform games of today like Celeste and Super Meat Boy owe something to Super Mario Bros and Sonic the Hedgehog. Enter the Gungeon contains procedural generation in the same way that Rogue did all those years ago. But outside of speedrunners and nostalgia travelers, not many people play Rogue or Super Mario Bros much anymore.
But people are still playing Doom and Doom II. Specifically, they’re playing user generated content for those games.
More than 25 years after its release onto computers that could be outwitted by modern bread making machines, Doom still has a thriving community. User generated level sets, new environments, monsters, weapons and game mechanics have kept Doom relevant.
Doom is a game that probably could have ridden into the sunset at the turn of the millennium, taking its place at the home for retired video games alongside Mr. and Mrs. Pacman and that snickering doggo from Duck Hunt.
But the love that people feel for Doom, the effort they put into creating content for it, has boosted its longevity beyond all expectation and has succeeded in bringing the game to new generations who invest their creativity, time and effort into creating more content for the game.
So, how is this relevant to your business?
The Benefits and Types of User Generated Content
The creators and players who have kept Doom alive are advocates for the game. The quality of the game inspires them to action. Then, those actions attract the attention of others, converting them into supporters.
One of the types of content that brands produce is the customer success story. In it, a brand takes a step back and allows a customer to talk about the problem they faced and how the brand’s product or service helped them overcome their challenge. Instead of a brand saying their product is brilliant, someone else is staking their reputation on saying it’s brilliant.
And if the brand takes one more step back, removing themselves from the picture entirely, what you’re left with is customer reviews.
Sylvia from Orlando said, “OMG! I love this blog so much, really interesting perspective, there’s no emoji for what I’m feeling right now!” ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Often, user generated content is about perception and when prospective customers are looking at your brand, your product or your service, these perceptions can come to the front and be an influencing force. The people who support you are brand advocates and their recommendations to prospects carry weight.
Different industries have different ways in which customers can leave reviews. Amazon product listings have customer reviews. Hotels, restaurants, bars and other hospitality venues are reviewed on hospitality sites like TripAdvisor or directory listings like Yelp.
A crucial part of being a modern hotelier is managing your reviews on third-party sites. Studies show that the better a hotel’s rating, the more they can charge without hurting occupancy rates. Some hotels even penalize guests who leave bad reviews.
Sebastian from Denver said, “Encouraging user generated content is my new business jam and it’s all thanks to this well-written and informative blog” ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer reviews are one of the most common forms of user generated content and can be crucial in the success of a product, service or business.
Other common forms of user generated content include posting photos at locations or of products with an @ mention or a location geotag. These posts often also take the form of commentary or review, though are likely on more general platforms such as Instagram, Twitter or Facebook than dedicated industry specific sites.
Finding ways to generate or elicit this kind of advocacy content from customers can provide a shortcut to raising awareness amongst interested groups without marketing spend. On the basis that friends share interests, a happy customer posting your product on social media is a natural hit in the feeds of that customer’s friends. What’s more, it comes with a level of trust that a sponsored post simply doesn’t.
Another popular type of user generated content is memes, which leverage current events and trending topics, as well as humor. If approached carefully, brands can use memes in their marketing, so long as memes aren’t the only marketing strategy they deploy on social media. After all, balance is key.
How to Effectively Respond to and Use Customer Content
How your brand responds to user generated content is a mix of planning and adaptation.
Part of your marketing playbook should cover how you’ll respond. For example, if you receive a positive mention on Twitter, do you respond directly, do you quote tweet a response, do you like the post, do you retweet on its own without comment?
What if the comment is a negative mention? Is there a benefit to dealing with it in public where people can see you try to resolve an issue, or should you head to the DMs and resolve it in private, or direct them to a form on your website?
Kratos73 from Memphis said, “This blog was self-indulgent and uninformative and wasted five minutes of my life I won’t get back and if I could give this blog no stars I would have given it no stars but I have to give it at least one star to leave a review but really this is no stars.” ⭐
Kratos73 is, of course, entitled to their opinion.
You should be adaptable to how you respond. The same formulaic response seems disingenuous, but perhaps emotionally super positive doesn’t fit your brand voice, and being acerbic or confrontational rarely looks good, no matter how in the right you might be.
Across many channels the emergence of an individual persona is common. Instances of big brand accounts interacting with one another, bigging each other up or adding a bit of snarky humor, as if they were actual real everyday people, is part of modern marketing social media. This should carry through into your interactions with customer mentions.
Whether someone is saying that they love your product or complaining your salesman is clearly three kids stacked up in a trench coat, respond personally. Accept the positive without self-aggrandizing, seek to resolve the negative without losing grace.
Ultimately, the way you respond to user generated content, particularly where that interaction takes place in public such as a comment thread, can help you mitigate the effect of the initial complaint and show others that, even in adversity, you place the customer and their experience at the center of what you do.
If you want to engage your audience and find ways to encourage them to create content, contact us. We can help you create strategies that encourage user generated content and construct a plan that let’s you respond and capitalize when they do.
Mike McConnell is a Creative Lead at Mulberry Marketing Communications. An award-winning full-service B2B communications agency based in Chicago, London and Melbourne. He has years of experience creating and editing written work alongside developing ideas for a diverse range of clients across multiple formats. He is currently playing through the re-release of Super Mario Sunshine on the Switch.