Jun 04 2008
Part 1: User-Generated Content
The seminar was coming to a close and the speaker opened the mic to the crowd of about 200 for questions. The questions were excellent, forcing the presenter to clarify his point as it related to specific situations, and uncovering details that were touched on from a high level. No one left their seat as questions kept coming, and then the moderator abruptly ended one of the best Q&A sessions I’ve experienced.
That speaker has what most business websites lack: in-demand content.
When a business engages its online audience, captivates them and invokes them to participate and ask questions, the audience gets what they want and they often reward you by telling others what they are missing.
What makes a site engaging or link-worthy?
- Focuses on one particular group of people or audience
- Identifies with the frustrations, problems, hopes and joys of that audience
- Provides solutions to problems and frustrations in a way that fits the audience
- Opens the conversation for users to participate
User-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media is in high demand because it reveals real opinions, beliefs, misconceptions and ideas about the audience and what they really want. For example, TripAdvisor.com provides opinions about hotels, flights and cruises from people who have been there and done that – valuable info to help travelers make decisions. TripAdvisor would be worthless without those volunteer opinions!
Assuming all things are equal, user-generated content can improve your organic search ranking because it acts as a link magnet by gathering links to that page from interested communities on the web. It sometimes starts as an innocent blog post, product review, interactive tool or forum question and it’s equipped with a way for visitors to leave their opinions. Then, a special person or group leaves the comment that attracts more and more of the same. These comments increase the value of the information presented, links to the page increase the content’s reputation and search engines rank it higher for relevant search terms.
Is it any wonder that certain web pages tend to rank well in Google?
- Wikipedia – Anyone can edit the info, and this openness encourages inclusion of a tremendous amount of content.
- Blogs – Comments after a post are sometimes more interesting than the post.
- Amazon.com – Customer reviews are available for most products.
- YouTube – Anyone can upload and share videos.
- Flickr – Anyone can upload, organize and share digital photos.
- TripAdvisor – Features real advice from real travelers.
- Facebook – Upload photos, share links and videos with friends.
- Epinions – Unbiased product/service reviews by real people.
Product reviews are driven by real people’s real-world experience with a product or service, according to survey data from Nielsen CGM/Homescan Buzzfacts. “Over half (55%) of consumers said they posted because they had used and liked a product; 28% because they had used a product and didn’t like it or wanted a refund; and 27% said they had read a comment about a product on a site, blog or message board and responded to it.”
UGC can make you feel vulnerable because you don’t necessarily have the last word. But if you don’t initiate the debate at your place, someone else (likely a competitor) will – and they might be credited with the solution that results. Capitalize on such opportunities and let your audience do the marketing for you. For those concerned about being held liable for the actions of their web users, there are ways to reduce that risk.
Believe it or not, everyone’s a marketer now. It’s part of the shift in marketing today that’s been going on since the Internet and business met. Nick Usborne, in his book net words, said it this way, “The audience you are writing to is no longer just an audience. It is composed of active participants and co-owners of the same environment through which you are trying to market your goods and services.”
Seth Godin, in Meatball Sundae – Is your marketing out of sync?, writes “As traditional marketing fades away, the new tools seem irresistible. But they don’t work as well for boring brands (‘meatballs’) that might still be profitable but don’t attract word of mouth, such as Cheerios, Ford trucks, Barbie dolls, or Budweiser. When Anheuser-Busch spends $40 million on an online network called BudTV, that’s a meatball sundae. It leads to no new Bud drinkers, just a bad case of indigestion.”
In this fast-changing new media environment, businesses must learn how to stay in control by listening to their audience, taking appropriate action to engage these individuals and, in effect, compelling them to join your marketing team.
Does your web content pass the “in-demand” sniff test? Stop expecting your staff to know what’s hot and go right to your customers. Do they like it? That’s fine, but do they love it? If you don’t hear your extroverted customers say something like, “I’ve got to tell Beulah about this right now!” you could be working on placeholder content. It could mean you need to listen more intuitively – forget about what customers need – what do they want? Cut the fluff and get right to the good stuff.
What tricks have you used to get good USG on your site?
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