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Harnessing The Power Of Consumer-Driven Content

The quest for content keeps heating up. More businesses than ever are using content-based marketing. And there is a seemingly-endless parade of new channels coming online where you can use your content. So, where can your clients find the “right stuff” to populate the channels they want to use with content their prospects want to see and hear?

The answer is right in their backyard – their customers themselves. Rather than spending a tremendous amount of time and money agonizing over creative elements and producing a perfect rendition of it for public consumption, they can just let their public create their own content.

OK, it’s not necessarily quite that simple, but in essence that’s consumer-driven content. And one thing you have to say about letting customers create marketing promotions – the content is guaranteed to be relevant and engaging.

Like everything else online, consumer-driven content has evolved.

There are actually levels of customer participation when it comes to content development, and your clients have probably been using some of these concepts for quite a while.

You can ask them for content topic ideas – through surveys and contests, social media posts, your blog, emails, your newsletter, on your home page, in your office. Ask them to submit photos or videos of themselves using your products. Ask them to post reviews or give you short testimonials. These things provide instant content you can use as is or expand on for informational articles and customer-based storytelling.

When your entire ad or campaign is a conglomeration of material provided by your consumers, you’ve taken this process to the ultimate level. This concept is now so popular with big-name marketers, the industry has given it an official acronym – UGC, for user-generated content. But you can still call it crowdsourcing. That sounds more fun.

UGC can feel a bit risky – the result may not be as “sophisticated” as what you’d create yourself. But when was the last time you read a study that said consumer buying behavior is driven by advertising sophistication? Never.

Your marketing goal is to speak to customers in meaningful ways about your products or services. By asking customers to create your marketing content, you’re letting them talk to one another about your products or services. Hmmmm. Isn’t that pretty much the same as social sharing – something highly revered by marketers?

The beauty is in the asking.

Whether you’re soliciting general ideas or specific text, pictures or videos from your customers, you’re building happiness and a stronger relationship with them, because everyone loves to be asked their opinion. You’re telling them you respect them as much as you want them to respect your company.

When you use what they give you, you’re telling them you appreciate their response as well as what they contributed. You’re promoting them while they’re promoting you. That’s worth sharing with their friends -- “Look what I did! Why don’t you join us?”

You get interesting marketing that’s truly one-of-a-kind.

Content can’t get any more fresh than that. And who knows better than your clients' customers themselves what they want to see or know about your company and your stuff?

This Mashable blog post discusses three excellent examples of user-generated content. And Julie Blakley wrote a great article for Postano about using consumer-driven content more broadly – read “more creatively” -- than simply augmenting social networking. Reading her detailed descriptions of three very different campaigns will give you plenty of good ideas you can use, no matter how big your clients are or what they do or sell.

Make a game of it and get even more marketing mileage.

The process of creating consumer-driven content has marketing panache all its own. Sharing as they’re creating further engages your prospects and customers, and it automatically promotes your client's brand. By the time their campaign is ready for prime time, everyone already knows about it, and they’re dancing with anticipation. You score with the content and also with the creative process.

Asking customers and prospects for advice on content topics is an easy way to generate new ideas. You can buff up those ideas and present them in myriad ways to your clients' various audiences. But when you let customers take the lead in content creation you’re harnessing the full power of UGC. You’ll get a very different – and remarkably appealing – result. And it’s not hard.

Try it. It works for B2B companies as well as for B2Cs. And, your clients will probably wish they'd added crowdsourcing to their marketing strategies a long time ago.

Topics: marketing strategy - user-generated content - content marketing - content marketing tips

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