If Tom Sawyer had been a content marketer, user-generated content and content communities would have taken off long ago. The idea of getting someone else to create your content while you reap additional rewards sounds almost too good to be true.
In one form or another, marketers have been finding ways to source content from outside their organization for years. One such tactic is user-generated content – any form of content created by your users as unpaid contributions. UGC can often take the form of social media contests, Q&As, use cases, reviews, or anything else your customers or audience creates that helps bring awareness to your brand.
This type of content is effective too.
According to Kissmetrics, 25% of search results for the 20 largest brands in the world are for user-generated content.
As marketers struggle to create more and more content, they are placing greater value on sourcing content from outside their organization. In their recent State of Inbound 2016 study, HubSpot found that every source of content, from guest posters to freelance writers, has increased in use this year.
This has led to the formation of Content Communities – the collection of in-house writers, guest posters, freelancers, and any other content contributors that all come together to crowdsource content ideation and help form your brand’s content strategy.
While marketers have used all of these sources in the past.
Their increased use has seen the need to put systems and processes in place to better manage and engage their community of content writers. In the past year, the use of freelance writers has increased by 77%.
The question is, does user-generated content deserve a place in your content community, or should it be treated as its own separate entity?
First, let’s look at some of the benefits both UGC and content communities share:
Views from Different Perspectives
Receiving content ideas from outside your organization provides a fresh perspective to what could otherwise become a stale approach to your content. Forcing your in-house writers to write about the same topic every day will cause them to burn out and the quality of their writing to deteriorate. Sourcing content from your own audience and from a community of expert writers ensures you always have new perspectives to convey your message from.
Internally created content will be shared by your company – hopefully successfully. UGC and content created by your community will have an added external force that wants to see that content succeed. This instantly allows your content to leverage the audience of your users, freelancers, guest posters, or other contributors for expanded reach.
Easy to Produce
Just ask Tom Sawyer. Both methods allow you to relieve the strain on your internal writing team and quickly scale up your content creation without investing in a larger content team. Allowing your content community and users to come up with their own content ideas will also make it even easier to produce a limitless supply of content.
Engage Experts in Your Industry
Your industry is full of experts who have keen insights of value to your audience. Whether these experts are your customers or freelance writers, engaging with your industry as a whole is a great way to tap and extend your network. Establishing yourself as a thought leader is important. Establishing your brand as a place for thought leaders to share ideas and engage is invaluable.
Whatever you call it, looking outside your organization for content creation and ideas is a great, scalable way to leverage experts and engage your audience. However, not all content sources are created equal.
Leveraging customer content provides a greater link to your audience’s perspective.
By tapping your customers and direct users for content ideas and user-generated content, you are allowing your audience to speak directly to…your audience. This is a sure way to create content that will speak to your user’s specific pain points and answer questions they have.
Using freelance writers gives you greater control over your content creation.
One of the most common forms of outsourcing is to freelance writers – who you pay to deliver content that fits your specific needs and guidelines. UGC must be very flexible and adaptive to your user’s communication preferences. Using paid content sources allows you to control content creation, delivery, and promotion. This allows you to better tailor your content to your overall content strategy.
The most important similarity between UGC and content communities is the idea of leveraging this vast pool of resources you have at your disposal. For most companies, the most they’ll look for from their customers is a brief feedback survey that they might then use to create new content. Most companies typically use their community of freelancers for is as words for hire. Instead, leverage these communities of users and content contributors to bring so much more value to your business. UGC and content communities allow your users and writers to truly contribute to the content approach and strategy of your business for much better results.
In the end, add both user-generated content and content sourced from your content community to your brand’s content strategy.
In fact, in a recent study, comScore compared content campaigns leveraging professionally-produced content, user-generated content, and a mix of the two. They found brand engagements rise by 28% when consumers have exposure to both professional and user-generated content. Participants also found a mix of the two content sources more emotionally intense, easier to relate to, and more clearly communicative of the key message than either source on its own.
So if both content sources deserve a place in your content strategy, should UGC be managed under the same umbrella as your overall content community, or should that source be engaged separately? This decision really depends on your organization and its structure to handle content creation. Whether they are together or separate, the important thing is that you have a clear process for engaging and managing each group so they can bring you as much value as possible.