Should Your Website Have User Generated Content?

user generated content

Opening a store, whether it’s online or brick and mortar, takes a lot of money, time, and hard work. What better way to save yourself a bit of all three by having your fans do it for you?

User generated content is how savvy business owners leverage their existing audience to reach an even wider audience and drive those potential new customers to their website. It can take the form of comments, reviews, blog posts, forums, social media chats, contests, and more.

Why Use User Generated Content?

Here are three great reasons to consider user generated content as part of your marketing strategy:

Volume. It’s a good way to get a large volume of content under your brand umbrella without having to create it (or pay someone else to create it) yourself.

Trust. Study after study has shown that people trust user generated content. A review will always be seen as more trustworthy, more objective, and ultimately more useful than an advertisement.

Community. It gives your fans a way to rally around you and be part of a wider community of fans. When someone posts a witty comment in your Twitter chat, everyone following the hashtag can retweet it to their followers. Instant fame for your fan, and even more eyes are on your brand. Everyone wins!

The Pitfalls

All that value comes at a price. By letting users create your content, you give up a certain amount of control to a group of people who might not be as committed to your brand as you are. As companies that have had their hashtags hijacked, their forums brigaded, and their comments section filled with inappropriate sentiments can attest to, giving users that kind of freedom can be a mistake.

With smart planning, an awareness of your audience, and good moderation, most of these pitfalls can be avoided, but if you can’t bear the thought of giving up complete control over what appears on your site or next to your brand name, user generated content might not be for you.

How to Do It Right

Want to perform user generated content the right way? Take your inspiration from these brands:

  • Have users submit videos online of themselves using your product or doing something related to one of your marketing efforts. Then, either put the videos up on your site, take a leaf out of Target’s book and turn them into a commercial, or have folks vote on which video is their favorite.
  • When you open a store online and your main offering is clothes, one of your biggest challenges will be convincing people to buy something they have yet to try on. Overcome this by giving your fans a way to send you pictures of themselves using your product and display the photos the right way on the product page alongside the stock photos. Rent the Runway’s inclusion of user generated photos of real people wearing their clothes was incredibly successful.
  • Design your website to make it easy for users to review your products and display these reviews in an obvious place on your site, such as Modcloth. Give customers a way to leave star ratings and written comments.

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Katherine Penta
Brand and copy expert with over six years of experience developing brand personas, managing content, and writing copy for brands like Neutrogena, Visa, and Adobe.