As a blogger or small business owner, you know all about the importance of content creation. Your webpages, blogs, videos, podcasts, ebooks and guides are used to share information, build a brand, attract the attention of search engines, keep visitors on your website, and convert first-time users into long-time customers. There’s a lot of time, money and effort that goes into creating quality content. But as valuable as that content may be, some may argue that it’s not as important as what’s known as user-generated content.
What is User-Generated Content?
Chances are, most of the “stuff” that’s on your website was created by you or a team you hired on your behalf. Your website copy, your infographics, your YouTube channel, your social media feed are all put together by you. User-generated content, on the other hand, refers to the “stuff” that your website users create in response to your business.
Why is User-Generated Content Important?
In addition to having its own powerful role in search engine optimization, user-generated content is often considered to be more reliable than company-created content. In fact, some studies have shown that when it comes to researching a product or service, user-generated content is almost as influential as word-of-mouth. Online users will believe what other online users have to say before they believe any of the material you’ve put together on your site. Many Gen Y consumers won’t even make a purchase if they’re unable to locate information on what other consumers think. So if your website says you’re the oldest and most popular real estate agent in the area, but your online reviews are packed with disgruntled clients, this could be pretty bad for business. Similarly, if you’re a brand-new startup without much of a reputation, but you’ve got a handful of testimonials from satisfied customers, that can be very good. Overall, user-generated content cuts though the carefully-crafted advertising lingo and provides other users with a more honest depiction of what you have to offer.
How Can I Implement User-Generated Content on My Site?
While over time, your website users will probably interact with your site naturally, creating user-generated content for you, there are ways you can encourage it – and you definitely should. Inviting people to get involved on your website and provide feedback can often be enough to balance out those who are seeking an outlet to express themselves after what may have been a poor experience. You can inspire these interactions through a variety of mediums:
Don’t sit around and wait for people to discuss your products and services. You can get the conversation going yourself by asking your customers to submit a review. Using WordPress? By installing a plugin like Rich Reviews, you can capture customer impressions of your goods, your services, or your business as a whole. Weebly and Wix both include comment applications that could function the same way. If you sell products on Amazon, you can feed those reviews to your site. Yelp will also let you republish your reviews as long as you abide by their guidelines. In addition to prompting your customers to post reviews, you may also want to consider submitting your products to review sites or industry bloggers.
While positive reviews are important to your overall success, it’s crucial that you don’t make up reviews, hire someone to write reviews, or omit the less-than-stellar reviews from your site. Fake feedback is easily spotted, and it won’t take long for a disapproving customer to call you out on their suddenly “missing” criticism. Tinkering with your reviews will damage your reputation far more than a few negative ones will.
Ask For Testimonials
In addition to reviews, you may want to ask for a few testimonials. While reviews are objective, often combining some positive information with some suggestions for improvement, testimonials are all positive. They often come from customers and clients that you specifically choose to express why they’ve been so happy with what you have to offer.
Testimonials can be presented in all different forms. They can be obtained by you and then posted on various pages throughout your site, or they can be added by your users directly using a number of plugins and applications. Testimonials can also be audio or video recordings that you help to produce or that satisfied customers send in.
Even though testimonials are designed to give your business a positive spin, they can still be seen as reliable or unreliable. A strong testimonial will include specific details about why a customer is satisfied, as opposed to just saying “nice work.” It will also include some of that customer’s personal information, like their name, title, business, location or photograph. The more you can “prove” a customer is a real person, the more likely their testimonial is to be believed.
Encourage Blog Comments
While your articles may be helpful to your users, they are even more beneficial when they act as a two-way-street. You want your posts to be praised, shared, discussed and added to. Users are more likely to take interest in an article if they see others are interacting with it as well. What other users have to say about your topic can provide additional information.
You can begin to generate useful blog comments (not the usual collection of spam) first by ensuring that your blog’s comments are enabled. You’ll also want to ask for feedback at the end of your article so that readers understand that their perspectives are welcome. As you begin to receive comments, don’t just stand on the sidelines. Reply to what your readers have to say to encourage a discussion.
Set Up A Forum
Forums prompt a much higher scale of engagement than any of the other previous options. Unlike a one-time review or occasional blog comment, forums have the potential to foster an online community where users might check in as often as several times each day.
Just from your website forum, your website users can learn more information about your company, your products and your services. They can decide for themselves whether or not they fit into your target audience. If you handle customer complaints on your forum, they may also get a sense of your customer care.
Integrating a forum on your website doesn’t have to be hard. WordPress offers a number of plugins that make setup and management simple, including bbPress and BuddyPress. You could also download an open-source software like Simple Machines Forum (SMF).