User-generated Content

content-marketing-tag-cloud-09The good news is that from a content marketing point of view, some of the most successful content may be easiest to create. User-generated content has a big impact on both readers and search engines. Often, user-generated content gets higher rankings than an organization’s home page. This is due to the popularity of this type of content and where user-generated content is housed on the web.

User-generated content includes:

– Message boards

– Product reviews

– New uses for your product or service (sometimes called “hacks”) such as using clear nail polish to treat insect bites and stings, using a dishwasher to cook a whole salmon, etc.

– Testimonials or case studies (how users solved problems)

– Social media pages

– Twitter feeds

– Video contest submissions

– Q&A interviews with users

– Online groups or communities

Many organizations have a following or fan base that will happily create content if given the web space to do so. Some organizations are afraid of user-generated content for a variety of reasons. Their first concern is that the users will create something illegal or immoral. It is possible to set up a system where other users can flag content as inappropriate, or have a moderator in place to review content to maintain its quality. In many cases, user-generated content can be self-policed by the community with minimal moderation by the host organization.

The other main concern about user-generated content is that people (maybe even the competition) will write false or bad things about the organization, its products, its services, or even its personnel. While that does happen, a loyal fan base will often refute the charges with more authenticity than someone inside could. Savvy marketers include a content management plan in their online marketing strategy to monitor user-generated areas and keep them fail-safe.

Create a participation policy that includes no personal attacks, no immoral comments, no solicitations, and other basic ground rules. Few users will protest if you remove user-generated content that is objectionable or just comment spam (people promoting their products via your website’s comments field). But if a debate rages in the message forum and the discussion gets heated (as at some point it could), ask people to debate the topic, and refrain from personal attacks.

If inappropriate fighting persists and the moderators need to ban someone, be up front about it. Address the line(s) crossed, and include a link to the policy code that the user agreed to when he or she signed up to participate on the site.

For most sites a flame-war happens once in a blue moon or, in some cases, never. Often the payoff of user-generated content is more than ample reward to compensate organizations for any possible trouble. The cost of moderation is small and knowing the risks helps organizations be proactive.

Content That Converts: Customer Reviews

If a website sells a product or service, consider the gold standard of usergenerated content: customer reviews. These can have a huge impact on site traffic (increasing it by as much as 80 percent), overall conversions (60 percent increase), and average order value (40 percent increase).

Many e-commerce website managers are afraid that negative product reviews will hurt sales. Opening up the conversation can sometimes attract negative comments, but the negative feedback can help solidify the desire to buy if tough feedback is managed strategically. The saying “All press is good press” can be true, if managed well. Listening to the market allows leaders to improve products and services and it has been shown time and time again that users trust organizations that post both negative and positive reviews of their product if organizations address the feedback constructively. Acknowledging customers and owning your product’s imperfections with authenticity have tremendous online selling power. It isn’t just having reviews but showing users how to sift through the reviews.

How to Handle True Negative User Comments

If the charges against your product or service are true, then user-generated content allows you to give great customer service in full view. Look at negative customer postings as free product testing that will allow you to fix problems in real time. Even if you can’t give an immediate fix to the problem, users appreciate that your organization is on top of the issue and dedicated to investigating problem resolutions.

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