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Is User-Generated Content THAT Great?

User Generated Content

Regardless of what industry you are in, what type of goods you sell or what services you offer, there is one rule every business should follow: tell the customers that you care. Let them know that you value their opinion—that they are more than just another e-commerce transaction that will be stored in the depths of your analytics. We are blessed to have the power of social media for customer feedback. A few years back, companies relied on focus groups, mailed surveys and other costly methods of communication.

Social media has opened a gateway for businesses to efficiently communicate with their customers. There has been an increase in frequency, volume and quality of customer feedback through every business sector of an ordinary company. Social media reports such as FB Likes and Re-tweets have started become an indicator of success, too. Analysing social media signals is a good way to judge whether a website is worth getting a link from. The main benefit of increased communication between a company and its customers is the influx of user-generated content. Businesses can finally say that “we value your opinion” and mean it.

Having weekly guest posts to fill in your blogs, product reviews for more on-page content and a wiki for user-generated FAQ’s sounds great, doesn’t it? All you have to do is sit back and watch your traffic peak as your website fills in with words from individuals all over the world. But we all know that nothing is that clear-cut. So how much is too much? When does user-generated content go too far?

1) When you have to scroll to find your name. If you are looking all over your blog to find the last time you posted something, then you have gone too far. It’s easy accepting guest posts left and right when all you have to do is copy, paste and hit publish. But is it really your blog anymore? Do your fans and readers control what you post now?

2) When you can’t locate your website name. Customers, fans and readers do not try to actively promote your brand. Your business/blog is your beloved significant-other that you have spent years building up to get to this point. But have you lost control of it? External content posters will hardly —if ever —mention your blog name or internally link to appropriate sections.

This does not mean that user-generated content is bad.

If you play your cards right and aren’t a complete idiot about it, user-generated content can be quite useful. Here are a few guidelines you should keep in mind if you plan on making the most out of it.

1) Research – go to the source of your content and make sure it’s credible and authentic. Take some time to research the authors of your guest posts. Are they legit writers or is it written by someone outsourced in the Philippines for 50p/article? Do they credit images? Do they cite their sources? Is it unique content?

2) Have a content schedule – user-generated content can be addictive but you have to concentrate on your initial brand strategy. Having a community that interacts, shares and comments without your help can tempt you to take your foot off the gas. Use external resources only to improve your already-existing content.

3) Exclusivity – making something VIP and for ‘special occasions’ gives it value. If you’re publishing guest posts day in, day out then your blog will seem spammy, repetitive and unappealing. Keeping it exclusive will also raise the quality of the content you’re receiving.

There’s no going wrong if you plan carefully and manage a blog/website that has a good balance of external and internal content. I can’t give you a percentage, or tell you how many posts to publish per week—all that changes from blog to blog. Be smart about your approach to show your readers, fans and customers that you care, but at the same time maintain a strong brand presence.

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