A narrative is far more compelling than a list of features and benefits. And, it’s not surprising. Stories are the ways we feel connection and empathy. And, they are how we interact online; 80% of all online content is generated by users. The highly-soughtmillennial demographic spends 5.4 hours each day interacting with user-generated content (MobileMarketer). Together, web users create 5,700 tweets every second and upload 55 million photos and videos to Instagram every day.
A few ways to promote your brand through authentic and effective user-generated content:
1. Ask questions.
Every month on their We the Savers website, Capital One 360 runs blog posts contributed by their customers. The posts are based on a monthly question; those whose posts are published get a $100 reward. Topics include tips to increase savings, investment advice and financial philosophy. The posts are a win-win for the bank and their customers. Entrants get to show off their financial smarts while picking up some extra cash; Capital One 360 gets inexpensive and authentic branded content.
2. Create a space for sharing stories.
When diabetes monitor maker Medtronic launched their Facebook page in 2012, people began immediately posting to the page to share their own diabetes stories. Medtronics made it easier for them by creating an app that allowed people to easily read other users’ stories and to create their own. Facebook is the perfect platform for this activity; with 350 million photos uploaded each day, it’s the place users look to see stories visually told.
3. Offer incentives.
Love with Food is a monthly snack subscription company. When their users upload videos, share recipes, post reviews of boxes and engage in other actions online, they can earn points that can be used toward future purchases. So far, the company has over 32,000 user-created videos on Youtube that are tagged with their signature “lovewithfood.” User-generated videos are effective, getting 10 times as many views as brand-owned content (ReelSEO). Unboxing videos from popular Youtubers often generate 10,000 views or more.
4. Ask for stories that connect with specific events.
Holidays are an obvious time to seek out seasonal, of-the-moment content. A company that offers jams and jellies can ask customers to share their favorite Christmas recipes that use those as ingredients. But, seasonal changes and events like the end of the school year can also be a good time to ask readers to chime in. Ask questions that evoke emotion. For instance, a pool supply company can ask readers for their favorite summer swimming memory.
5. Follow up with users who share.
Medtronic doesn’t just showcase user stories on their Facebook page. They reach out to those who share to see if they are interested in doing videos, guest blogs and photo shoots. By continuing the conversation with an individual connected with your brand, you create a deeper and more involving narrative for your readers and viewers. This can be especially effective when you encounter users who are in the midst of large life changes such as graduating from school, buying a home, getting married or welcoming a new child.
The beauty of user-generated content is that it makes it easy to do what marketers sometimes find hard: focus on the customer and what he or she needs. By letting them tell their stories, you can create more compelling stories and stronger connections for your brand.