One of the buzz words in building online communities over the past several years has been user generated content. A good example of user generated content is photovision and what they are doing on their instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/photovisionprints/). The lure of user generated content is that you, as a business owner, are able to use the content of your customers to build your brand and your business. Unfortunately, nothing comes for free and this holds true for building your business and customer community.
If nothing comes for free, how do we go about creating user generated content? Let’s back up a step and define user-generated content. User generated content is content that is created by individuals outside of your company or organization and then shared with the company to use in a way that promotes the company’s brand or marketing.
Now that we have a definition, what can we do in order to encourage our customers to share content with us that we can use to build the customer community and grow our business? This is one of those things where it is easy to identify others doing this well, but it can be hard to translate this into practice. Let’s take a moment to consider what motivates people to action.
Recognition – People like to be recognized and feel important. They are happy to share with others when they are presented as an expert. People are also willing to talk if they feel that they are being heard.
Quid-Pro-Quo – People like to give back when they feel like they have received something from someone else. An example is when a person has a question answered by a community, they are much more likely to try to help someone else with a new question in the same community.
Community – People like to feel that they are a part of something bigger than themselves. This is often one of the challenges in starting – How do I get the first 10 people to participate.
Let’s start with these three motivating factors, how do we turn them into an ongoing source of user generated content?
Step 1 – Prime the Pump – As a small business owner, chances are that you are very closely associated with your company’s brand. You know your best customers and your customers know you and respect your opinion. For this reason, you need to be willing to create some content to jump-start the flow of content from your customers. The second level of content contribution should come from some of your employees. If you pick the employees that are respected by your customers to participate, this will lend credibility to the initiative. With you and your customers participating, we have created a community that people can feel good about belonging to.
Step 2 – Provide value – What customer problems can you help solve. This is easy to identify, just think about the questions that you get in your store 5 times a day where you do not have to even think about the answer. Write down those memorized answers and provide them as content for your community to help out. At the end of each article ask your customers to suggest their own ideas to improve your suggestion. This empowers them to add to your expert opinion. Once you have provided enough value, as you start to see new questions, consider throwing some of them out to the community first for suggestions and then following up with the official answer after a week the incorporates (and references) the answers of your customers.
Step 3 – Fan the Flames – Once you have the attention of the people that you want to help generate content for your business with the valuable expert content, you are ready to kick things into high gear. This can be done designing an event or a contest to produce the content of your choice. An idea would be asking users for their best tips on catching early morning photos in nature. Have them submit the tips along with a picture of the results and award a prize for the winner. The more prizes the better and even if you do not have prizes for everyone, if you can recognize honorable mentions and share their suggestions as well, more people will feel like winners.
One day you might be able to walk away from a fully functioning user-generated content machine, but in most cases you will need to keep encouraging the community and acting as a moderator or expert author in the group. When your customers see that you care, they will start to care too. Once the entire community cares about the community, your job of branding your business is significantly easier.
Photo Vision does a great job of recognizing people and making them feel special, of course those people would then want to contribute back to the community. Picking the right platforms for your goals is another important step and that is an area where the Social Ruckus can help you get started on the right foot.