User generated content is engaging visitors in a way that company generated content cannot. A user speaks with a purpose, not an agenda. The expression most often is viewed as authentic or without bias. I am beginning to think that nearly all companies can benefit from creating new websites for, or opening their current sites to, user generated content. What type of user generated content is best for your company? Here are examples I think work well for the brand and the user.
At Switchfast headquarters in Chicago I had the pleasure of listening to twenty-five year old Emerson Spartz, CEO of Spartz Media, talk about community building. Most of his company’s websites are created around a simple, engaging idea that anyone can contribute to and build on. They are currently reporting 160 million page views a month.
Sites such as GivesMeHope.com contain all user generated content. Spartz doesn’t decide what contributed content is best to share. A group of selected users decide. The websites’ purposes are “so others can learn, laugh and feel inspired.” And advertise. Multiple advertisers are reaching an incredible number of young people through this site. The company’s goal is to produce a new website monthly.
When a company comes up with a simple idea for a website to engage their target market, they can be the only advertiser (sponsor) on the page. That’s the power of an idea.
On the Caterpillar Construction Trades forum a customer asks about the sudden release of engine power on a machine he is operating. A Cat dealer responds with possible reasons including a fuel problem or valve calibration. The customer doesn’t know where to find the valve in question. The dealer lets him know where to find the valve on the machine. It’s a simple exchange but one that highlights the customer problem from which the company’s expertise and willingness to help a customer shines through. Here is their invitation to potential forum contributors.
Notice that they include guidelines and tips for first time users. Making it easy to contribute is important. Asking people to spread the word about the community is a good way to grow.
Ask for the Story
Lots of sites are capturing the voice of the customer through their websites. A “Share Your Story” button that opens a short template invites contributors to upload their story. It’s great for non-profits such as Team Boomer, a website that inspires and creates a sense of belonging for people with cystic fibrosis. Contributor stories are vetted and when needed edited by the community manager.
This Clutter Coach blog post is a hybrid example. Company content introduces the user’s story. Owner Jane Carroo said her metrics show the post was very popular with her audience.
Combining sources of content does give the user a sense that someone is listening. The best type of user generated content for your company gives contributors an opportunity to be a part of what you’ve created whether it is an idea, a product or a service. It’s a fantastic way for customers to feel that they matter and for businesses to learn from their customers. Have you increased visitors to your site with user generated content?