Everything you do is marketing in one form or another, and user-generated content is one piece of it. Running an effective website that doesn’t crash (I’m looking at you healthcare.gov). Having a vibrant ratings and reviews community. Running an external blog. All of it is part of an overall whole.
What you need when you do all of that is great content. As brands have embraced user-generated content more and more, we are also seeing a trend away from the overly produced marketing that some of us grew up with. This trend has been embraced on TV and in the movies already. Look at the popularity of reality TV. In the movies, we got the Blair Witch Project and a genre of found footage film took off in popularity.
The new melting pot
Today, one form of marketing by itself will not get you to the finish line. You need to bring them all into a cohesive whole. That includes social networks, and user-generated content. Being silent in one area will lead you to unreached eyeballs. It also includes bringing your employees into the mix.
User generated content
We have talked on more than one occasion about user-generated content and leveraging free labor. The basics are well known. I am no expert in the birth and upbringing of those types of communities, only in how to manage the risk associated with them. Since this is the internet, though, I will say a few words.
Create a portal where your fans want to come. If they give up their own creations, give them something back. Recognition, badging, or a small slice of fame (highlighting them, for instance) are all ways to give them something of value. You can’t guarantee that what visitors will see will be good, but it will be real. In my eyes, real can trump good. Why? Because the creator is speaking the same language as the viewers.
This is both internal and external. Internal content reaches a captive audience. They have to be exposed to it. This may be in the form of electronic billboards. If you don’t think this is marketing, think again. Your employees are your best advocates. They are real people and what comes out of their mouth is genuine.
So their message is real, right. Real wins, right? With employees you get the greater benefit of helping craft their messaging. Give them the soundbytes to weave into their own words. Let them use their own words. If you try to control them, it will backfire.
Give some of your employees an external voice. What I mean here is not your team of communicators. I mean employees whose job is not that. I mean let the person who answers the phones to handle customer complains write something or record something. Let the world know what their life is. Put a face to your brand. Weave that into your marketing. Cross-pollinate those things onto your careers site, as well.
Everything is contextualized
The days of the brand sitting up on high and speaking down to the serfs is over. The brand is now amongst the serfs, as is one with them. This is especially true of social where the brand is truly just another user. Remember that social platforms were not created for brands. They were created for users.
Creating truly compelling content means having context behind it. The context of a user speaking in their own voice. The context of an employee speaking about what they are doing for the users. Weaving all those things together will create a wonderful tapestry of the most compelling content you will ever see
Watch the pitfalls
Since this is a legal blog of a variety, I have to remind you of the risks in leveraging all of this. So let’s bullet them out a little:
- UGC – make sure you have the proper ownership and the proper licenses before you re-use
- UGC – make sure you practice good moderation
- UGC – make sure you properly staff your communities
- UGC – always be wary of FTC disclosure guidelines and what could be considered a material connection
- Employees – Double shot here. FTC disclosure guidelines should be something you tell your employees about
- Employees – build up a good thick skin for problems
- Employees – training and regular messaging to employees about social and expectations
That’s it for today
I don’t think I have really told you anything you didn’t already know. I do find it humorous to observe that most companies don’t have a cohesive umbrella for all this. What ends up happening is that one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing. That campaigns for external audiences are not communicated internally, and vice versa.
If you really want to weave all of this together it will take some effort, but I think the content you create will truly be wonderful, but most of all compelling. It will reach your audience with an authenticity that will resonate.