While all online businesses need a professionally-guided ad campaign, perhaps the best way to promote your business is through your customers. If you believe that your products are the best, you can and should talk about that. But, if you’re honest, you will admit that you are not exactly the most objective person when it comes to your products. Potential customers know this, and, as a result, will only take what you have to say with a grain of salt.
If, on the other hand, one of your customers talks about your products, potential customers will listen to him or her and trust what is said. Your customers might love you, but that doesn’t mean that what they say will be all rainbows and butterflies. They will share the positives and negatives, giving anyone who hasn’t yet done business with you an idea about what to expect. If you’re doing your job, the positives will outweigh the negatives, and your user-generated content will be a bridge that people will cross to go from being potential customers to buying customers.
What Exactly Is User-Generated Content?
User-generated content is content that is created by the users of your products. This can range from feedback on your Facebook page, to an Instagram post, to a review of your business or products. Feedback of this kind is generally distributed on social media, but you can also feature it on your website. If you need inspiration, there are many examples of  user-generated ad campaigns online. The key is that you should go out of your way to encourage your customers to share their opinions.
Can User-Generated Content Help with Your SEO?
There’s no doubt that user-generated content can help with SEO. People are naturally interested in what other customers have to say about a business or product, and being appealing to a broader audience is a huge plus for SEO. User-generated content also thrives on social media, which also benefits your SEO. There are countless other tools, including Google’s Hummingbird algorithm, that help to differentiate between pages focused on sales and useful user-generated content.
While improving your SEO is important, it is not the only way that user-generated content can help your business grow. Here are some of the biggest benefits of user-generated content and ways that you can go about reaping these benefits for your ecommerce business.
The Benefits of User-Generated Content
- Provide social proof: People look for guidance from the people around them, even in an online environment. If they see that other people are enjoying and benefiting from a particular product or service, they are likely to gravitate toward it.
- Build trust in your brand: Customers typically don’t have much to gain from providing a business with positive publicity and are, therefore, looked upon as trustworthy sources of information. Regardless of how great the content is that you share, it will never replace giving your customers the chance to express their opinions. By allowing them this opportunity, you have a greater ability to respond to your current customers while providing your prospective customers with the answers in advance. Amazon is a site that uses this to perfection, as customer reviews largely influence whether or not other potential customers ultimately purchase a given product. On your site, this will not only increase sales, it will also increase your SEO on relevant product pages and provide social proof. Do not delete anything negative, as customers will notice and question your credibility.
- Leverage your relationship with your loyal customers: Loyal and high-value customers already have a preference for your company and brand. Having your most passionate customers generate content for you is a great way to leverage the relationship and encourage more sales.
Making User-Generated Content Work for You
- Ask for customer feedback and reviews: This is the most basic form of user-generated content, but it is also one of the most effective. Your customer’s opinion is invaluable, as it allows you to better his or her experience and provide a better experience for any new customers. This can be done by sending your customers a follow-up email asking for a review about their most recent purchase. The review request should be the focal point of the emails, but you can also use these emails to engage with your customers by adding helpful information, product suggestions, or even adding social sharing links.
- Encourage social sharing: Your customers sharing posts about their experiences with your business and products can bring your products to life for potential customers. You can start a campaign with a hashtag on one of your social platforms, inspiring customers to post images of themselves using your products.
Protect Your Online Reputation
With all of the good that your customers can do for your business by talking about it online, it is also important to consider the downside of the Internet. The online environment gives a huge platform for both your biggest fans and your most critical customers, so being proactive about managing your reputation is a must. Watch for extremely unhappy customer reviews, particularly on third-party review sites. Sometimes people are so unhappy that they make a point to go to several of these sites to express their negative view of your business. If possible, attempt to publicly address their concerns and move the issue to a more private forum.
Never Fear the Critics
Sooner or later, you are going to get a negative review. This can feel like a gut-punch to your ego, but what separates the great businesses from the mediocre businesses is the way they handle negative feedback. While you can walk through fire for some people and still not make them happy, great customer service skills can turn many critics into some of your most loyal fans. While you may give your best effort and still not win their business back, your efforts can win the trust of potential customers and may become the reason that potential customer chooses your brand over another.
The Bottom Line
When doing business online, we often don’t get to meet our customers face-to-face, and user-generated content is one of the best ways to bridge this gap. It gives customers the opportunity to get to know you, your business, and your products, while providing you with invaluable feedback on what you are doing well and what you need to improve. You may worry that this direct type of customer feedback may damage your business, but people will talk about your business whether you use user-generated content or not. For any negative comments you might receive, it’s clear that your business will be best-served by encouraging your most loyal customers to be a part of the conversation.
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