In this episode, we’ll talk about UGC. User Generated Content (UGC) can be gold for many businesses. There is nothing better that having users create content about your business to become brand ambassadors.
Ken: Hey everybody. Welcome to this episode of The Marketing Guides for Small Businesses Podcast. Today I’m joined by Ian, Jen and Paul, and we are gonna be talking about user-generated content.
What is it and how the heck do you get it? This is something that if a business can solve for this equation and get user-generated content, it can add massive value to their marketing. It makes marketing easy. So if we can help you guys figure this out today, then mission accomplished. So, I think we’re gonna have a lot of interesting conversations.
I think user-generated content is really gold for many businesses, and really it doesn’t make any difference what type of business you have. When you get somebody to become a brand ambassador in sharing content about your business, it doesn’t get any better than that. So let’s just hop right in. Jen, what is user-generated content and why is it so important?
Jen: Why is it so important? I just wanna jump off on something that you just said is when you have a brand ambassador and they get sharing your content, but this is unpaid. They’re not affiliates, right? They’re not paid to promote you. They’re not earning anything you didn’t ask, didn’t have a deal with them.
They’re doing this on their own, which is so amazing and that’s what’s so neat about it. So user-generated contents, much like many of the things that we have here at our marketing discipline, it’s a big name, but it really means that your customers or clients, whatever you call them, but your customers are either sharing tips, sharing different ways of using your product or service, sharing feedback, sharing the actual content that you produce.
And this is typically digital is what we’re talking about. Mostly in social media. It could be through email and that kind of thing. But usually when we refer to user-generated content, it’s not the kind of thing where I find something and then I email it to you, Ken. It’s the kind of thing that’s done more publicly.
Like I find something, I have a tip on how to use a certain piece of software differently, and I’m sharing it publicly with the world. Either to go, Look how smart I am, we can do this with the software, or here’s a tip, or I found this thing that was really a problem and this is how this piece of software solved it.
The content is out for public consumption, and it is something that I, as the user do on my own. That’s what it is. It’s really valuable. So there’s a couple different things about that. One, it can show your customers or your potential customers different ways to use your product.
It can also show some of the emotional attachment that somebody has to your product or service, which is really beautiful when you get that done organically. And so that’s why I wanted to make the point at the beginning, this is not paid. They’re not making money on the back end for it. They’re doing it, I wanna say out of the goodness of their heart, but it’s like they’re motivated to share something that they found, like another use for it, or this was helpful, or I love this so much. That would be user-generated content.
Ken: Yeah. Okay. Awesome. Ian leaves just as I was getting ready to ask the question.
Ian: That’s my new thing, as soon as you ask one question, I’m gonna leave the room.
Ken: I think there are ways to ask people to provide user-generated content, and one of those ways we frequently talk about, and again, it’s not a paid thing, but you can still ask.
And one of those great ways is to ask for online reviews. Ian, how does a business go about nailing the process of asking for online reviews and getting that user-generated content using a review channel?
Ian: I must be like the review guy on this podcast because I know I talk a lot about them, but I really love helping businesses generate more online reviews because they’re so vital for ranking on Google and for showing social proof that you deliver on your promises as a business. The first thing a business must do, this is really true with any user-generated content, there are industries where people are more apt to leave you stuff, even without you asking, just because it’s very experiential.
But for many things, we as businesses need to be proactive. We need to ask people to be involved. To take up the banner let us know what their experience is like, and reviews are a very good example of that. So you have to be proactive. You can’t be passive about it, especially with reviews, because you won’t get many.
The statistics are so clear, and they’ve changed over the years, but they’ve only gotten more pronounced, meaning that statistics show that only 6% of customers leave unsolicited reviews. So you have to actually ask people because they forget. Especially with things like when you’ve been at a restaurant or you purchased a product, you’re now living your life with that experience behind you and you forget about it even though it was a really good experience.
So the first thing is to be proactive. Asking for reviews for many businesses feels uncomfortable. First of all, it’s putting yourself out there. You don’t want the negative reviews, none of us do, but we do need to hear back from customers. We need to overcome that. And one of the ways we can overcome this feeling of discomfort in asking people to tell us what they think about us as a business is to actually have a review funnel system whereby as customers go through your business, they’re basically automatically asked to leave reviews.
Ways I’ve seen that working really well is old school kind of brick and mortar stuff. You can have a business card with a QR code where people take their phone, they take a picture of the QR code, it takes them to a review page, and then they then give a star rating. The other option is posters within your checkout area of wherever you are.
Whether it’s a restaurant, a dental clinic, whatever it might be, a store of some kind where there’s a physical location. And then there’s the digital versions, which work extremely well, where you have a drip campaign where you consistently, over a period of several days, you reach out to that customer and you say, Hey, thanks so much for choosing us. We’d really like to hear about your experience with us. Please click on this link to leave us a review. So email has been the most common way of doing that, and SMS texting is an even better option because it gets 90% response rate, whereas email’s lower than that. Lots of options for you, but be sure to be persistent. Ask several times and be sure to respond to the reviews. That’s another part of user-generated content, is you don’t want crickets when people actually do proactively do something on behalf of your business. Whether it’s negative or positive, you need to handle that appropriately and a little bit dispassionately. Especially if it’s a negative, you might even want to have a third party, like your marketing agency handles some of that stuff because they can do it a little bit more appropriate and they understand the impact to your business without getting your hackles up for anything like that. Is hackles a term that everybody uses?
Ken: Oh, yeah. Oh yeah. Absolutely. Negative reviews can be turned into a positive too if you do it in the right. So that’s certainly something to keep in mind. So Paul, do you have a ninja way to generate viral referrals?
Paul: I guess the first thing we need to talk about is what’s a viral referral or a viral loop? It drives referrals for growth or continuous referrals for growth. One of the best ways to do that is with a text messaging platform. Trying to figure out the best way to say this, but you get your customers to refer you and that just feeds on itself. And that’s where the viral part of it comes in and it just feeds on itself.
So you basically, you turn your customers in to fans that promote your business, whether it’s through text messaging, that’s the best way to do it, but it just creates this viral loop, and that’s what it’s called.
Ken: I think a key component to this is gamification. So you actually give people the ability to earn rewards and points toward something that they perceive as value.
It could be discounts, it could be giving ’em free merchandise, shirts, hats, whatever. But the key thing is you want to give people a reason and an incentive to share content, share a link to an offer.
Paul: Yeah, I was gonna go into that a little bit later.
Ken: Yeah, so a really important thing, gamification is something that we probably haven’t ever really talked about on this podcast.
It’s basically just trying to make something more compelling, make it a little bit of a game where people play and have a little bit of a challenge. If you structure that properly, you can see some really nice viral kinds of things happening. So now we are gonna move to the experimental section of this podcast.
Jen, I’m gonna ask you a question and Jen has recorded an answer by video, and we’re gonna test this out. As a way to see how this technology works on StreamYard. The question I asked Jen is how can a sports nutrition focused business get user-generated content? And I asked her to give me some examples of that. So let’s see what happens here.
Jen: So how can sports nutrition or a nutrition brand gets some user-generated content? It’s really funny because, typically food products, drinks, they lend themselves to personal preferences. You just gotta think. You just gotta go for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or a snack with anybody, and you’re gonna immediately find out like, Oh, I like this. I don’t like that. I never eat this. This is too salty. Whatever. Like people can’t help but tell you their personal preferences around food, around drinks. It’s an easy category to get that kind of personalization. So what in sports nutrition can get user-generated content? So if we’re sticking to the food part of it, and what I mean by that is cuz typically within sports nutrition that area, some of the user generated content goes over to different types of workout. How strong am? How fast am I? Competition, funny things going on in the gym or on the football field or whatever sport it is that your users are doing their own thing. If you think right about that product, what comes to mind is recipes. And I know recipes and sharing the recipes and your own personal recipe has been around way before social media obviously.
But that is one way to really think Oh, user-generated. Oh, like recipes, like my own twist on this kind of recipe. So in sports nutrition, if you think about that being like a protein shake. So there are many people that are able, you add this much water or I add ice, or we do this vegetable to the protein shake, or we do this flavoring, or this or however they do it, and it’s all personalized.
And then they wanna share it typically on social media, online, about their own personal recipe. And it can be the form of, it’s what they like or they found this product a little too sweet. Here’s how you sweeten it up it’s a little too bland. Here’s how to add a different flavor to it. Whatever.
Here’s how you keep it cold for a long time. If you have to travel a long way before you’re at your sporting events or your gym or whatever. The very nature of it being like a consumable, typically lends itself to personal preferences. And most people I don’t know, we’re funny as humans, we wanna talk a lot about what we like or what we have found works better.
So, those kind of areas or those kind of categories really lend themselves easily to user-generated content. A few different ways you can get that kind of content from your folks is ask what are you doing with your protein shake? How do you do this cereal? How do you do this? How do you do that? What’s your favorite way to?
What’s neat, and this can happen in any industry. I guess it’s very familiar. We all have to eat, so it’s very familiar to do that kind of example with a food product is, there could be different uses for it. So if we stick to protein drinks, you think, Okay, protein powder in a blender and water or juice or milk, whatever you want. Throw in some vegetables or some fruit or whatever it is. But, Oh my goodness, Why don’t we put a scoop of protein powder into pancakes and then now our pancakes, instead of being super carb heavy, have a lot of protein in it. Oh, neat. For many people, there’s pancake mixed companies now that are focused on protein pancakes, but if you go back a little while, that never used to happen.
So, there is ways that people are using, or come up with different uses of your product that can open up a whole other market for you. Open up a whole other category for you. I think we’re going back maybe 20 years now, maybe more. That’s how the Frappuccino at Starbucks started. When you say user generated kinds of, it was employees that came up with it.
They were doing, they were messing around with some ice and some coffee and blending up something that was, had a bit of a different flavor to it and Boom, Frappuccino was born. So the very same thing can happen for your product or service. You let your customers be mad scientists with it.
So, I think it’s a great thing and there’s always people that wanna share. Look what I did. Look how I did this. Look how I solved this problem. Look how delicious my recipe for this or that is. So it’s a category that really lends itself to having your customers give their 2 cents into how they’re using it and and what works best for them.
Ken: Okay. That worked better than expected, actually. So Jen, in that answer it makes me think about, there is a very distinct possibility that user-generated content would put your product in a negative light. And I think about Tide pods or something like that. I think it’s paramount that you can’t just turn it on and hope that it goes. And if you’re getting user-generated content, it’s always gonna be great and positive for your business. You need to be monitoring this and you need to be understanding what people are saying about your business. Anything else that you want to add to that answer?
Jen: That was a long answer for sure. But yeah, I did focus on the positives. Anything, really with all the home deliveries of virtually everything. People don’t hesitate to put their front door cameras, the film footage online about look how this delivery driver, how nice they were to my plants or whatever. Look how terrible they were. They just threw it there. So you have to be ready for it for sure. So you just gotta know that in this day and age, everybody’s gonna give their opinions and really it’s your kind of your daily report card on how you’re.
Ken: Yeah, we used a video where you provided an answer, but we could have very easily inserted a video from somebody who had an experience with one of our businesses about something in a live stream like this where not only are you demonstrating your product knowledge or expertise or solution knowledge or expertise, but now you can pull in user-generated content into a live flow like this.
Whether they’re live or whether you insert a video, like we just did, so definitely keep that in mind for a user-generated content opportunities as well. Ian, time for you to go hide cause I’m gonna ask you another question. Some businesses have a real challenge when it comes to getting-user generated content just by the nature of their business.
In fact, some businesses probably are prohibited from even asking for user-generated content. Can you talk about the types of businesses that should go all in for user-generated content versus some businesses that probably should largely stay away from it?
Ian: Absolutely. And some of this is from personal experience, what I’ve come across in my journey of creating user-generated content for clients.
But, before I talk about who should go all in, I think it’s good to talk a little bit about some of the industries where you need to be super careful. Industries that sometimes prohibit the asking and posting of user-generated content. As a business, that doesn’t mean the users can’t post content, so I wanna make that very clear.
There is nothing in any authoritative body that says, that your customers, your clients, or your patients can’t post content online. Of course that’s their own liability as the customer, but they can put up whatever they want. In many industries, the professional cannot ask or solicit that content.
A lot of times it’s because the authoritative bodies, and I’ll explain one industry that I came across this, and it actually was very surprising to me, and that was the veterinarian industry. I was working with a veterinarian. In this province where the veterinarian was, the authoritative body said, you cannot ask for reviews. You cannot ask for anything nor post it from customers. Really, they weren’t even supposed to post pictures of the dogs or anything, because whatever would frame them as a better veterinarian than another veterinarian that this authoritative body governs they said that’s not appropriate for the public, which is crazy, right?
We as consumers that’s ridiculous. I wanna know who the best veterinarian is for my dog. Who cares the most? Who posts pictures of the dog? So fields that you have to be super careful in. There’s probably tons of them, but veterinarians, some dental stuff, some medical stuff.
Lawyers is always a touchy area, which makes sense. I always recommend that a business check with their governing body to understand what they can and can’t do. Some governing bodies simply slap your hand if you do something. Others, you could get punitive damages against you because now they’re trying to say, Oh, you did something against our rules. We’re trying to create a common rule set for all people in this industry. You need to pay up, resolve these issues and pay up.
Having said that, let’s look at the positive side. Industries that could absolutely rock this. Jen touched on this on her video is anything where you’re having an experience, you’re eating something, drinking something, going down a flume ride, anything you’re experiencing as a person or your customers are experiencing, that’s perfect.
Even if you’re shipping something. Unboxing. It’s not quite as popular as it was, but that was huge for years and people are still very interested in that, especially with new products. When Beats brings out a new set of headphones, people love watching the first person unbox that thing and talk about it, or a new iPhone or whatever it is.
And those are great examples of user-generated content. Other industries though, that you would think less of them. Or you would think less that they, it would be applicable for them are even things like orthodontists. We see it all the time where they’re doing before and after shots of people or the reveal after somebody gets their braces off.
Those are great examples. Electricians, I see electricians getting this stuff all the time and it’s fantastic. Or contractors where somebody has a before, and after video of their home or their office. So there’s tons and tons of options. Restaurants, and that’s such an easy slam dunk. Get those people to share their experience and it’s gonna go across the web.
Ken: I think anything dealing with lifestyle, entertainment. If you’re in an industry that is like that, getting a new roof on a house, that can be a lifestyle kind of a thing. It may not seem like it at first, but eating, sports, nutrition, wellness, all of those things.
Ian: Sure. One more example, so this one just came to mind as you were talking Ken.
Elon Musk and is Starlink satellites for getting rural internet. I actually know someone who has a rural property. They have a home in Toronto, but they have a rural property way out there, and they were on the early list to get a Starlink internet system. And so like immediately after they got it, they were posting photos of the cool dish thing, about their experience. And that’s exactly what Starlink wanted, right? They wanted people to be able to see, Wow, this is life changing and this is an actual user that’s sharing this with people. Sorry, that just, I didn’t mean to cut you off. I just thought that was a good example.
Ken: Yeah, no, that is a great example.
Paul, we touched upon this a little bit earlier, but talk about how a business could use either hashtags like a, in a digital way or even their physical store or their packaging, like Ian talked about in the unboxing, to really help facilitate and encourage people to create that user generated content.
Paul: Yeah, like I said, Ian did touch on this. As far as hashtags, Instagram is probably the best place to do that. What a lot of brands are doing is they’re creating a hashtag and encouraging their audience, to share that hashtag. You have to get the right content to share because it has to be content that someone wants to share. Ian touched on, ask for reviews.
You have to ask for reviews because people aren’t gonna do it. The unboxing part of it, this is all user-generated content. If you have a physical location, you can put up a sign right there or have your office people ask someone to leave a review because they’re not gonna do it like Ian said. People being irritated is a more powerful motivator, so people are more likely to leave negative reviews. So you have to ask if you like the service, can you leave us a review and make it easy? And that’s one thing we do when we send out review requests or whether our clients send out review requests. All they have to do is click on a link and it opens up that review box on Google. They don’t have to go find it. One of the things is surveys. People love surveys, and BuzzSumo says the average survey gets shared like 1900 times or something like that. Surveys are a great way to generate that because you can take those survey questions, either make it anonymous or make sure you get their permission and you can use those survey responses and that’s user-generated content.
This goes back to the first quote, the viral loop thing is that when people share these surveys, that creates this viral content, these viral loops. Ian said, a lot of it is just asking people, because they’re not gonna do it if you don’t. It’s not that they don’t want to, they just don’t think about it.
Ken: Yeah. I think surveys, quizzes, I saw that statistic as well. I think it pertained to quizzes. When you think about it, somebody takes a quiz and they learn something about themselves. They may very well wanna share that on social media. That can be super viral. I also think back when I wrote the Social Media Marketing for restaurants book, one of the things that Nina Radetich had experienced with working with her businesses and she did new restaurant launches in Las Vegas. They actually created selfie stations.
Where people would bring their food over and take a selfie with that. And there was a designated part of the physical space of the restaurant. Retail stores could do this as well, where you encourage people, give people guidance on what hashtags you want ’em to use. You know what? For 99% of us brand hashtags don’t mean or help us at all, because nobody knows to search for those.
You wanna leverage popular hashtags. So incorporating a brand hashtag in, by all means, consider that. Do that. But also leverage the real hashtags that people are naturally using to search for. It could be location based hashtags, it could be lifestyle or product related type hashtags. The key thing is I think if you really take advantage of your physical packaging or your physical store and guide people and make it easier for them to give you the user-generated content that’s gonna be the most valuable for you.
Paul: You have to promote those hashtags, whether it’s through packaging or whatever, because there’s what, a hundred billion hashtags out there. People don’t know what to search. When it comes to hashtag, yes, a hashtag is a search phrase or a keyword, but they don’t know specifically what to search for.
A lot of the bigger brands are doing this. If you create a hashtag and then you promote that hashtag, now people know to search. And you can use your packaging to do that. You can use your physical space to promote those things. And yeah, I forgot about the whole selfie thing that Nina did, which was a really good idea.
Ken: Brooke Patterson, who we all know from, our involvement with Duct Tape Marketing. One of the things that she offered through her business is actually branding of the inside of a physical space. That was actually a solution that they had in place and I know that they factored in those kinds of things.
If you think about the design of your space, it’s probably just gonna help to facilitate people wanting to take the actions that you want ’em to do anyway. So make that a conscious part of your design. Jen, let’s talk about business to business and professionals. How do you recommend that they would get user-generated content? As Ian mentioned, a lot of those professions have limitations. In the U.S. here, for example, up until May of 2021, financial advisors could not ask for reviews. There are medical professions that have to be super careful about HIPAA requirements. People might share individual health information. Or the business certainly has to be very protective of that. So talk about your experience with business to business and professionals.
Jen: Sure. With business to business it’s so interesting because never in, so I don’t get this when I talk to business to customer brands, but business to business and the customers, one of the hesitations has been the stuff I’m buying. So let’s talk about software. Some of this software that we’re buying to run our company, I don’t want my competitor knowing that we’re using this. So why am I gonna give you a song and dance, even though I think it’s great, and I renew it all the time. don’t want anybody to know I’m using this. So that sometimes happens. We often hear that across different business to business industries. Why would I give away my secret sauce about we’re doing this.
If you think about this, and probably all of us have gone either are using say Excel or Google Sheets and you’re pulling your hair out. You go on to YouTube to figure out how you’re supposed to do this one thing, cuz the help documentation is no help.
Nine times I would say, I would bet you, I’m gonna put money on that. That episode that comes up is going to be someone not from Microsoft, not from Google, some kind of power user who has figured out how to do this, drop the down thing in Excel, or how to make the Sheet finally do what you wanna do and it’ll be 60 seconds to 90 seconds and it’ll be exactly what you wanna know.
And that is user-generated content. If you can get to that, that’s absolutely golden. But I bet you everybody, at least on this podcast or listening, has gone there to find out that kind of information. One of the things that could help with with business to business and we have tried this. We haven’t noticed the success of that, but we have peaked interest in people about this.
I’m gonna go on a bit of rant here, but I’ll bring it home, I promise. As everybody in their industry needs to be their own advocate for their own professionalism and their own expertise and whatnot. Showing how to do something within your industry can lead to your own expertise. So if we bring it back to that person who is doing the YouTube video about how to do this complicated thing in Excel.
And that person is very much working with say, financial documents and financial models every day. Doing that kind of content and putting it out there, even though it is, say in this example, one small thing in Excel, is working to lift their own professional status and their own expertise in their industry.
So that can be another way to talk to your customers about helping to generate the content for you. It’s not only, of course, it feels self-serving to the brand, but it can also help with your company raising the profile of the expertise in your area as well.
Ken: So I’m thinking if you’re a software provider, encouraging user groups to create content that can be shared across the community just helps with adoption rates. It helps with stickiness factor because they’re seeing people, they’re getting the experience, they’re getting their problem solved. And these are already natural allies to actually, to spend time with with other people talking about your solution. So I think there are ways that you could leverage something like that.
Ken: Yeah. All right. Ian, we talked a little bit maybe about this, but, and there he goes again, from a brand perspective, how can you protect your brand, but still get that user-generated content and build brand ambassadors? It’s a tricky thing, what are your thoughts on that?
Ian: Let me start off by saying I love how some other marketers I know call themselves corporate refugees. They used to be in the corporate world. They escaped it, it’s clutches. As a former corporate marketer who especially was part of the early days of social media marketing, a lot of the brands I was involved in would not allow ourselves as brands. They were even hesitant to have a social media presence at all, or to ask for reviews, anything like that because they knew that the potential, when you ask someone and open up the doors, you potentially are opening up the doors for some percentage of that to be negative.
And they were scared of that. But as we’ve all seen in the industry, as time has gone by, the pros very much outweigh the cons. Jen talked about that a little bit. Anytime you engage customers in social media and provide them with opportunities to share with the world their experience, you are relinquishing some control.
And I think that was the big thing in the corporate world, is it was all about control. We have to control the medium we have to control this platform. And so part of the learning we’ve all done is that you have to relinquish some control. You obviously have to be super vigilant in watching what people are posting, responding professionally if it’s on a platform like Google or Facebook, and it’s inappropriate and it goes against policies.
Somebody’s just sharing their experience and it was a bad experience. You need to respond appropriately. But then, if it’s against the policies of Google or Facebook or another platform, there are avenues to try to get those things down. So it’s really about playing within the courts, the playing courts that you find yourself on each of those mediums.
Being vigilant. Protect your brand as best as you can while empowering customers to share with the world the difference you made in their lives. And brand ambassadors were talked a little bit about, but those are really your biggest fans and those are the people you trust the most that are outside of your business, but you trust them the most because they’re your biggest fans.
If you can get them involved. You talked about incentivizing people, if you can do that to try to even grow their involvement. It’s a really winning combination and really winning equation.
Ken: I think we talked about this a couple of episodes ago. If you aren’t proactive, first of all, news flash.
We all lost control of marketing years ago. When the internet started to explode, we lost control and the consumers started to gain more and more control. So if you’re not recognizing that, it’s time to recognize it. But if you don’t create the message, if you don’t have the program, if you aren’t proactively asking for reviews or user-generated content and you just let it happen, then you run the risk of the void is gonna be filled.
And whatever is filled in that void is very likely to be what you don’t want it to be. And we talked about this. If you just let reviews happen, negative reviews are always gonna tend to be more negative than positive. You need to control this. And you can control the proactivity measures that you put in place.
You can’t control what happens, but you can be proactive about it. I guess maybe that’s the better way to say. Ian, are there any monitoring tools or anything like that make it easier for people to see what people are saying about a business online?
Ian: Yeah, absolutely. Before I answer that though, I wanted to contradict a little bit, something you said, we all lost control of marketing.
I actually don’t agree with that. I think it changed. I think it changed because as marketers we used to be able to control. Imagine we’re kayakers. And we used to be able to control the flow of the stream that we kayak in. As businesses, we can no longer control the flow of the stream, but we can certainly control where we take our kayak, how we paddle our kayak. So I wouldn’t say it’s a total loss of control, I would say it’s a different way of navigation. Just to throw in another boating thing there.
But going back to your question, so monitoring, there are a ton of good monitoring tools out there. Some of them are omnichannel, which are the ones I would suggest for someone if you are serious about monitoring your reputation across different platforms, social platforms, Google reviews, all of that kind of stuff.
An omnichannel review system for monitoring and being able to respond saves a ton of time, makes it easy. It also allows you to build processes within your business with your staff in order to do that. You don’t necessarily need a dedicated marketer to monitor this stuff. It could be somebody’s addition to their job if they have the right system, and if they’re given some really good guidelines about when you see a negative review, don’t get all upset because you know who this person is. Here are some canned pre-cast, templated responses. You get to choose it, but don’t go all crazy.
Ken: And I think that’s important to have a response so that other people recognize that you are paying attention and that people’s opinions do matter.
We can’t all eliminate every bad experience that somebody might have, but we can mitigate the impact of those and show that we’re human and recognize that we are trying to do better. And I think that’s an important consideration.
Ian: The statistics show that consumers look at both positive and negative reviews because they wanna understand, first of all, what are people saying about you negatively. Sometimes as a consumer, I look at a negative review of a restaurant and I’m,That’s you’re way out there, you’re crazy to have expectations that a restaurant can even do that. But then it’s about how the restaurant responds to that person. Do they care that the person shared their experience and are they trying to resolve the issue?
And if a business is doing that, I think we as consumers, whether it’s business to business, business to customer we care about how people respond, and that actually plays a part in our equation of understanding the quality and integrity of a business.
Ken: Paul, how can you use user-generated content to help with search engine optimization?
Paul: Well, there’s actually a few things that you can do. One thing on the technical side, if you will, is schema, which is structured data. It actually has a UGC tag that search engines recognize, so that gives search engines relevant content for your business or your brand. User-generated content also helps with SEO because when people share it, it can create natural back links, which, we talk about the importance of back links and user-generated content creates that naturally.
You can also use that from an internal linking perspective. It helps you rank for long tail keywords. Which we don’t think about these things, but user-generated content, when we talk about writing content, the days of keyword stuffing are gone. It’ll get you penalized. We and Google will tell you right for the user.
But as marketers, a lot of times when we write content, sometimes we don’t think about that, but user-generated content, they’re not looking at it from a marketing perspective. User-generated content is naturally written for the consumer. They’re sharing your brand, what they like about it. Search engines like that, especially Google they like that and it helps. We touched on this a lot. It helps with social optimization because it tends to happen on social media, so it helps your social profile. So all those things together boost your SEO.
Ken: Do brand mentions actually send signals that are valuable from an SEO perspective?
Paul: If you are a big national brand, yes. Or if you’re a well known local brand it can. If you’re unknown. This goes back to something we’ve talked about in other podcasts is that if you’re unknown, then that’s another marketing issue. But if people don’t know who you are, then a brand mention isn’t gonna help you. And a lot of times when we talk about brand mentions. We think about big, well known national and international companies, but you can be a well known brand within your local market.
We actually have a signing company that we work with. They’re well known. You mention their name. People know who they are. Yes, it definitely can. If you have that brand recognition, even if it’s just local. If you don’t have that, then you have to work to create it.
Ken: All right, we’re getting close to the time we normally try to wrap up, but I’ve gotta ask one more question.
I’m a little surprised that I haven’t heard an answer that includes this yet, and that is the role of contests to help create user-generated content. You guys have any thoughts on that? To me, whenever I hear the word user-generated content, my brain naturally first goes to contests. Or this idea of gamification now with the way that we’ve got this viral text referral system in place where people can earn awards or points towards something of value. Contests play the same role. So you guys have any thoughts or ideas about that?
Ian: I can jump in. I’ve certainly seen them be very successful, so I would put them into two camps.
One is related to the incentives I mentioned previously or your gamification, Ken. Where you have some kind of point system you give your customers, patients, clients, Here’s what you can do to earn either ballots in a contest, which I’ve seen work very well, very often. Or you earn points in a system which will get you gift cards or toys or whatever it is, depending on who your clientele is.
Absolutely. Again, you need to be careful with this because some systems like Google doesn’t want you to even really be asking people for reviews. They don’t want you to be incenting reviews, and so you need to be very careful. But absolutely, contests are an amazing way to get people involved, create excitement.
Jen, I think you were gonna jump in as well.
Jen: I was gonna jump in and just say, you have to be careful about it because contests appeal to certain people. There’s certain people, I think they’re very polarizing. Some people, obviously the ones that go forward with it are really excited about it. Others are just very much not interested.
I think you have to be a little bit careful in what you’re asking the contest participant to do. We see a lot of this, Share this and tag four friends. I’m sure there’s been things you’ve been tagged on that have nothing to do with you being interested in it. The whole idea of tag for friends, sure awareness, but those friends should probably be interested or potential customer of this, the service or product. I would just say just be very aware what you are asking your participants to do, especially if you’re getting them to lean on their own contacts in order to promote your brand. So just, yeah, be careful about that.
Ken: One of the things that I’ve seen that can work really well is like Ian talked about, people can either earn points or ballots or votes or whatever. You get like one if you fill out a form, but you can get five if you record a video with you and showing your experience of that product or explaining why winning would be so important for you.
Now you’ve got video content, which we haven’t really talked a whole lot about here either, but video content. People recognize human faces and that just draws ’em in. So if you can find a way to get user-generated video content, that’s the best thing that you can do. The thing I like about the viral referral system that we’ve put in place is, I suppose you could set up an ultimate winner, but really it’s just to incentivize everybody to take action so that they can see extra things that they see of value. It does gamify the process because, and it encourages them to go do it, but it’s not like you’re gonna pick this big grand prize winner to do that. What you’re really trying to do is build everybody who opts in for a particular offer that you’re providing, to turn into an affiliate or a referral army for your business.
If you can find ways to do that, you’re gonna see a great opportunity for your business to grow. Which we talked about last week, which plays a super important role in continuing to sustain your growth.
Ian: Yeah. One, one of the best examples I’ve seen of this, Ken. It was an orthodontist. His name was Dr. Jake, and he actually did a, Where in the World is Dr. Jake contest? It was like Flat Stanley, if anybody’s heard of that, where kids would get a cut out of Dr. Jake. This was when traveling was happening more, but he had a contest and the kids could win a contest if they got the most votes, like what you were talking about. Basically, they would take pictures or videos of themselves on any trip anywhere they were with their little cutout of Dr. Jake and it was brilliant. It got tons of user-generated content. And of course, there was the voting aspect and then the winning aspect, and that was one of the best ones I’ve seen like that in that particular field.
Ken: Yeah. All right, awesome.
So, we’re coming up on the hour here. Any last thoughts that you guys have about user-generated content?
Jen: This has been great. It’s very important, but don’t be chasing after this as the new shiny object. You gotta make sure you’ve got your strategy in place and the rest of your marketing plan is being executed before you start going adding something else like this.
Ken: Or make this, if it is an important component, make it part of your overall strategy so that it integrates naturally and it can amplify off of everything else that you’re doing.
In some businesses, this may be one of the most tactically important things to do, but don’t just let it happen willie nilly.
Paul: I would say, like Jen and Ken said, make it part of a strategy, but this kind of happened with social media. All of a sudden social media became the shiny object, the silver bullet that’s gonna fix everything. It’s effective because, they don’t trust advertising. Like reviews. People trust reviews because it’s an unbiased opinion. And same thing with user generated, which reviews are user-generated content, but it’s unbiased and that makes it very effective. But don’t think this is the new marketing strategy and this is all you have to do.
Ian: My last thought was gonna be just like with any marketing, you can’t gain momentum and experience unless you get started. So just get started. But dip your toe along the lines of being strategic. Dip your toe in the water and if it doesn’t get bitten off by the sharks, jump in and jump in a sustainable manner. Don’t blow your budget. Don’t blow all your time in this. It’s part of a larger strategy, just like you guys said.
Ken: So, we’ll wrap it up there. Thanks everybody for listening or watching, and if you like what we talk about on this, subscribe and write a review about us on your favorite podcast platform. And certainly you can do us all a favor if you guys help us share this out and create some user-generated content for this podcast, we would greatly appreciate that. So, thanks everybody, and we’ll talk to you next week.