by Jennifer Lonoff Schiff

How to get and leverage user-generated content

Dec 18, 2015
CRM SystemsE-commerce SoftwareInternet

Content marketing pros share their top tips on the best ways to acquire customer reviews, ratings, photos and videos.

customer feedback ts
Credit: Thinkstock

Adding user-generated content (UGC), such as ratings and reviews, to your website can enhance not only your search engine ranking, it can build trust between you and prospective customers – and mean the difference between you getting the sale or a competitor getting it. But how do you get customers to give you their honest feedback and how (and where) should you feature that content?

Dozens of content marketing and customer experience experts offer their six top suggestions regarding the best way(s) to acquire and leverage customer-generated content.

1. Ask customers (to rate your products, leave reviews and/or send in photos and videos). “A great way to get user-generated feedback/content is to connect with a customer after they have used your service or product,” says Jake Lane, growth analyst, LawnStarter. “A simple email asking for feedback on their experience can help provide you with content for testimonial areas on your site or even get customer submitted photos of the product in use. Using this content can help increase consumer trust and, ultimately, conversions.”

2. Reach out to your customer service and sales people for material to put in case studies (and elsewhere). “I have found that one of the easiest ways to get B2B customer testimonials is to talk with our account service team right after we launch a new brand, website or digital campaign,” says Caitlin Devereaux, content marketing specialist, BrandExtract, a branding and brand strategy consulting company. “Happy clients will frequently email our brand strategists a thank-you note or positive feedback they have received about their launch. I remind our account team to keep client testimonials in mind as they read these post-launch emails and encourage them to reach out for permission to publish and share these comments.”

As for putting these positive customer experiences to good use, “we have had great success leveraging these quotes as proof points in news articles and case studies for our agency,” she says.

3. Provide a platform for sharing feedback, reviews, etc. “Be it on your blog, a page on your website or a client portal, creating a platform which will allow your customers to share their stories and engage with each other means you have access to authentic material,” says Anam Khawar, digital marketing executive, HighQ, a provider of enterprise cloud software. “It will also allow you to track and monitor the behavior and interests of your audience to help come up with future content.”

4. Create a unique hashtag and advertise it online and in store. “Creating a hashtag that is relevant to your company or product is not only of the strongest ways to engage with your audience, but it allows you to easily track and curate content on social platforms,” says Khawar. “The two hurdles to execute this successfully are 1) [Creating a] hashtag [that is] unique to your company [as] quite a few companies create hashtags that can easily be misappropriated. And 2) actively encouraging people to use it so it generates content.”

“In addition to social and digital, retailers [should] also consider signage at their physical stores,” says Carrie Middlemiss, U.S. director of marketing, Metia, a digital marketing agency. “Brands can engage with their customers through [in-store] messaging encouraging customers to share photos on their shopping experiences with a unique hashtag [online].” They can then “interact with contributors [online] and repost [the] best content.”

5. Hold a contest. “Competitions are a great way of encouraging user-generated content,” says Patrick Tonks, director at Great Bean Bags. “Last year we launched a bean bag competition where we asked customers to post images of how they’re using our bean bags to our website. The more creative the entries, the better chance they had of winning! We had a dedicated competition area on the site and users were encouraged to share their entries via social media. The competition received 81 entries in the end and received over 10,000 additional landing page visits over the course of three months.”

“Consumers love a good contest,” adds Jim Rudden, CMO, Spredfast, a social media experience platform. “The other day I saw BeachBody’s Instructor of the Year competition, and it’s entirely driven by UGC content. To submit you have to create a video, and to win you have to get the most votes. The contest is a win-win since the brand gets to learn more about its audience and the audience gets the chance to win prizes.”

6. Reward customers for leaving a review. “It’s important to let your customers who do participate in UGC campaigns know that you appreciate them for creating and sharing content,” says Matt Ryan, director of Sales, Yotpo, a customer content marketing solution provider. So “incentivize them by giving rewards, like coupons, for sharing content and getting other people involved.”

“To encourage reviews, we send an email out after all orders have been delivered, thanking the customer for their purchase and inviting them to review the product,” says Andrew Horner-Glister, owner, MCA Leicester, a provider of motorcycle accessories. “We incentivize this by offering the customer a 10 percent discount off their next purchase if they leave a review.”

Final words of advice

“No matter what content you’re looking for – feedback, star ratings, images – you need to make it as easy as possible for customers to share,” says Ryan. “When requesting content, the call to action should be clear, and the submission process should be simple with little navigation. This is probably the most effective way to boost your UGC return.

“The most common reason people get turned away from participating in UGC campaigns is because it’s simply too difficult or time-consuming,” he explains. So “make the process simple, [something] that customers can do on the go, like snapping a photo and uploading it to Instagram or Pinterest.”

Also, “it’s important to note that the most successful companies don’t just focus on a single method for collection of consumer-generated content, but create a holistic program that encourages a variety of audiences to share their honest opinions,” says Rachael Genson, PR manager, Bazaarvoice, a provider of user-generated content solutions. “Consumers want to be engaged with. This is what reviews help accomplish and why they are so effective in driving influence and conversion for brands.”