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Social Media and UGC

How to Generate Leads through Content Marketing

Every week, your digital marketing team is hard at work creating new blog posts, directing email marketing campaigns and launching new social media posts, photos and videos. For many marketers, it's exhausting. In fact, research from the Content Marketing Institute shows that producing enough quality content is considered a major challenge for most digital marketers, but what if there was a way to help alleviate some of that stress?That's where user generated content (UGC) comes into play. This phenomenal type of content marketing puts the power in the hands of your followers and readers. Now it's their turn to share their thoughts, opinions and photos with you, and with the right approach, you might get fresh, new content from the people who matter most: your customers.

So what is the true value of UGC marketing and how can you better encourage your readers and followers to create it? In this article, we'll outline what makes UGC worth pursuing and discuss the best tactics for getting that content into your hands.

Benefits of User Generated Content

When researching your product or service, most people will probably do an Internet search, read your ads or blogs and maybe even visit your Facebook or LinkedIn profile pages. Before they purchase, however, they will probably ask their friends and families for advice.

A 2014 Ipsos Millennial Social Influence Society Study found that user generated content is 50% more likely to be trusted than traditional media. Quality consumer content shows that a consumer went out of his or her way to speak positively about a brand, which says much more about the company's character than a banner ad.

You can also identify your brand influencers by engaging with customer photos. These are well-known bloggers, video makers and Instagrammers who have large followings that look to them for advice. Getting one of these Internet celebrities to engage with your product and promote it can help you tap into their followers. You might find the followers will be inspired to create UGC as well.

More online engagement also benefits your SEO standing. You know that Google favors websites that are posting new and fresh content frequently, and the same goes for social media sites. Though you will be doing most of the work by posting blogs and updates on your social media pages, more activity from users helps as well.

While all of these reasons are more than enough to convince you of UGC's benefits, there is one other major reason to encourage it: free marketing. Of course, this is not a reason to start firing your digital marketing team and start relying solely on UGC, but you should look to UGC as a way to help take some weekly pressures off your team. As you will see in the examples below, good UGC can help fill in some content gaps.

How to Foster UGC on Social Media

In order to generate leads through customer photos on social media, you have to go to your audience. On which platform are they most engaged? More creative audiences might favor YouTube, Pinterest or Instagram.

Once you have a chosen platform, create a small contest or a call to action that will inspire followers to create their own content. Offer an incentive or small award to encourage participation, then create a hashtag to categorize all posts to be able to find them at once.

If you are looking for examples, look to your peers. Take Microsoft Mobile for example. In December 2014, the company drew from research about New Year's resolutions to create the #MakeItHappen campaign. Followers created short videos proudly proclaiming their resolutions. Researched showed that people who publicly proclaimed their resolutions had a better chance of keeping them, and Microsoft thought this would be a great way to help some people keep their resolutions. On each day in December, the company chose one person's resolution and promised to help 'make it happen' in 2015.

While you might feel that your resources are not as large as Microsoft's, you do not always need a massive budget. Powershop New Zealand asked followers on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to post photos of their most hilarious baking fails with the hashtag #BakeFails. Those who participated got the opportunity to take home some special prizes, but more than anything, it was fun. General interest in the company grew, as did an interest in cooking.

User generated content can help to increase brand awareness and add 'average Joe' value, meaning that other real users find your product or service valuable, but how does this translate into leads?Social media contests bring in followers who may not have come into contact with your brand previously. As they see how 'average Joe' users support your company they may be so inclined to do the same. You can better advertise to these followers and capitalize on that great word-of-mouth value.

Michael Bird is a director at Social Garden.

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