All posts in User Generated Content

Man With A Megaphone 2In today’s competitive online atmosphere, your site – and you – has to stand out as authorities. Credibility is key: the buzziest site, the most sophisticated features, the smoothest salespeople are for naught unless people trust that you can deliver on your promises and fill a need for them. One way to convey both your expertise and your integrity is through customer or client testimonials. The power of word of mouth is more important than ever.

“I Love this Brand!”

Just how powerful is this “social proof”?

  • 92% of customers give greater credence to online customer reviews than sales or promotional information.
  • 70% of customers look at online reviews, ratings, and testimonials before purchasing.
  • 69% consider online reviews as credible as recommendations from friends and family.

So, how do you incorporate testimonials into your website, blog, or other online platforms?

Ask! If you want customer reviews and testimonials, ask them. Request they write a (quick and easy) review of their experience. Some sites find success in offering a reward, such as a discount on a future purchase or another incentive. Ask that customers are clear and specific. Instead of, “I used XYZ and increased sales,” for instance, “XYZ helped me boost sales by 20%.” It is far powerful and effective.

Remember to ask for permission to publish or post these testimonials.

Never, ever fake it. If you don’t have genuine testimonials, or feel that the ones you have don’t adequately describe your service offerings, do not make them up. Some sites think it’s a “victimless crime,” so to speak, but you are eroding your credibility. We’re all familiar by now with online language; we can spot a fake.

Don’t limit customers to written testimonials. Make it as easy as possible. Some customers may prefer to leave a video review – and, many visitors to your website prefer video content, so it’s a win-win. Another option is a simple photo with a caption.

Make them visible. Don’t bury the testimonials. Place them prominently, so they are one of the first elements visitors see.  At the same time, make sure the specific testimonials coincide with the content. If you’re a business consultant, for instance, you might have different services: business coaching, strategic planning consulting, etc. Put the right testimonials with the right services.

Don’t ignore the negative. Not everyone is going to give you a glowing testimonial. But what do you do when you receive a negative review? Address it immediately before it blows up. Determine if you have done anything wrong or if you could have done more right! Respectfully respond, thank the customer for the feedback, and, if appropriate, offer to remedy the situation. If you, in fact, have done nothing wrong or cannot do anything to satisfy the customer, do not attack. Let it go. One bad apple will not hurt you as long as you deal with it calmly. And then make sure you have a dozen positive reviews to counter.

Testimonials demonstrate your credibility and ability to meet customer demands and needs. Don’t tell visitors how great you are – let your customers do it for you.

Paper Emotions - Aggressive

It can be so discouraging to receive negative comments about your business, your writing, or some other endeavor.  After all, this is your passion in live, it is what you have dedicated tireless hours, and very likely, copious amount of your hard-earned capital to.  So, when someone attacks it, it can be very difficult to take the personal element out of it. You must remember that generally negative statements are made by those that don’t know you and are only unhappy with some small piece of what you do. It is not a personal attack and with a little forethought, you can smooth it over and come out looking even better on the other end.  Just think about how happy you are when you experience excellent customer service.

Move the Comment Down the Feed Before you do anything else, it is a good idea to generate a lot of new content on that particular social media channel to push the negativity from the forefront of your page.  Social media platforms replace old content with new as soon as it is created, so get busy.  Once you have lessened the threat and the number of potential customers likely to see the negativity, you can react to the attacker.  If the comment is not on your page, but on someone else’s, then consider requesting that they remove it in a personal message.  If it holds a true potential of damaging your reputation or that of your company, then there is the option on some platforms to report it as defamation.

Respond with Grace Don’t retaliate or spout out with anger.  It will serve you much better to take the higher road.  Remember, every company makes mistakes and if you were caught in one, the best thing that you can do is admit fault, apologize, and showcase your willingness to work with unhappy customers.  If the complaint is related to a product that you manufacture or a service that you provide, you might consider smoothing the problem over by correcting the reported problem or offering a discount to the individual in question.  If it is a more generic attack, then consider the source of the anger that fueled the comment and how you might politely diffuse it, while upholding your image.

Baseless Negativity If you know for the fact that there is no truth in the comment or it is clearly some sort of misunderstanding, don’t be afraid to say so publicly.  However, do so with tact.  Don’t attack the other person, just simply state facts laced with humility.

Man With A Megaphone 2

If you want to see real organic growth, then you will want to encourage your readers, your customers, your clients to engage with you in a public forum.  Getting others to generate content on your page requires a bit of effort on your part.

Give Them the Tools If you want members of the public to interact, then give them the tools to do for.  Create a clear area for comments to be made, include social media buttons on your website, so people can easily share, like, =1, etcetera.  Nowadays, this is not a difficult thing to do.  The HTML code for these items can be found quickly via internet search and the addition to your articles and blog posts will likely lead to a boost to your organic growth.

Provide Teasers Those the invention of social media has demonstrated how willing people are to share and talking about things that interest them, there is also, very often, motivation for doing so.  Contests are a great way to give people a reason to generate content on your behalf.  The great part is that several free, online services are making it simple to build and maintain these giveaways.  Consider companies like Rafflecopter to assist you in creating the contest and offer prizes related to your area of expertise.  Authors might give away free ebooks or signed paperbacks, while a structural engineer could provide free blue prints of the most popular house layouts.

Know the Motivation Contests are an obvious draw for some people, but that is certainly not the only reason that people share content and talk about it on the web.  Topics that evoke emotion – whether it is an uplifting success story or an image that pulls at the heartstrings or something that simply makes a person laugh – are likely to be shared.  Similarly, many individuals are willing to act simply to showcase their involvement in a community.

Respond!  The greatest way to ensure that people keep generating content in response to your page is to take the time to read and respond.  Conversation is the ticket to real success in the social networking world.  Consider every comment and share the opportunity to engage a potential fan or customer.  A question should be answered, a complaint should be addressed to showcase your company’s stellar customer service, and even the simplest remark can provide a starting point for interaction.  Do not make the mistake of missing out.

Seo ConceptWhile local SEO has always been important for many businesses, the incredible rise in the use of mobile devices has made it a critical part of attracting new customers and helping existing ones find the information they need. In our last post, we talked about a few tips to get your local SEO efforts started. Now we’ll dive into social media and how it can help you shine a spotlight on your business.

Get Social

Creating and managing an active social media presence allows you to reach your audiences where they are and where they turn for information. That might, depending on your target customers, be Facebook; it might be Pinterest, Twitter, or LinkedIn. In any event, do some customer research to determine where you need to concentrate your efforts. Other steps you can take:

  • Add social sharing buttons to your site. Target the ones your customers are most likely to use. Make it easy for them to share your content with others who might find it relevant and useful. It’s all about convenience: a simple button-click encourages people to take action.
  • Optimise your Facebook profile for local users. While not every audience uses Facebook (teens, for instance, are starting to veer away from the social network), it does have a tremendously wide and deep user base. It makes sense for most businesses to spend some time here. When you create a page for your business, select the “Local Business or Place” category. If you have already created a page, go back to the Admin Panel. Select Manage > Edit Page > Basic Information. In the Category box, select “Local Business or Place,” and then choose the correct subcategory to specify which type of business you operate.
  • Try Twitter. Include your location and local-optimised keyword phrase in your information. Find local users (Twitter Grader and TwitterCounter can help) and start following local discussions with Twitter Advanced Search. Become an active part of your community; people don’t want to hear sales pitches. They want to engage and have their questions answered. Doing so positions you as an authority. Participating in a conversation positions you as a real person, not a faceless entity.
  • Get Googling. Google+ may not have the mass of Facebook or even Twitter, but it does have the weight of the world’s largest search engine behind it. Google weighs this content heavily, and being active can help you appear more prominently. Make sure your profile is visible to the public and use the Google+ search to find local users that may be interested in your business. Create a dedicated circle so you can develop and disseminate targeted communications. As with Facebook and Twitter, the key is being active in the community. Answer questions – but feel free to ask them. You can be an authority without being a know-it-all! And it makes you more approachable and likeable. Why not? Those are good qualities in a business!
  • Track your efforts with Google Analytics’ Audience Demographics data. You can see bounce rates, time spent on site, and pages per visit. Are you local visitors spending more time on the site? If not, how can you optimise your content or social presence to encourage more engagement?

Social media is an invaluable set of tools that you can use to boost your local SEO efforts and see greater results.

 

 

SEOFoot traffic and paper directories just don’t cut it anymore.  A confluence of events – from the meteoric rise of mobile to the emphasis in many communities on supporting local establishments – means that local businesses need to create a lively, optimised online presence to engage their customers. Over 46 per cent of shoppers use their mobile devices to research local products and services. Will they find you? Here are a few targeted tips for being on top of the local game.

  • Set up your Google Places space. Run, don’t walk. You can control the information you provide to Google, and to your audience. Use this opportunity to disseminate the essentials: hours, contact information, images, and a keyword-optimised description. After you fill this out, all you have to do is verify your account via phone or mail. Bing and Yahoo also have “Local” services for businesses, so if you want to target these engines as well, follow their specific procedures to get your account set up.
  • Get social with Google+ Local. Here, you can connect with your customers and others related to your specific industry using Google+ circles. You can control the information and the “story” your business tells.
  • Use a real address and phone number. People who search for local products and services want a “real” address, not a virtual one. Not only does it tell them where to go if they want to visit the brick-and-mortar location, but it lends your business greater credibility. Same goes with the telephone number. Adding a map is another nice touch that will help visitors feel more comfortable visiting either in person or onine.
  • Encourage customers to leave reviews and ratings. These are terrific for boosting your online authority and profile. Make it easy and convenient for them. Try printing a link to a review site on a receipt or adding one to an email communication to solicit feedback. If you should get some negative comments, address them immediately! Stay respectful, positive, and helpful – remember, these things can go viral.
  • Make sure your site is mobile-ready. While people do search for local businesses from home, it’s a mobile world. Is your site optimised for smartphones and tablets? If not, work on creating a responsive website or creating a separate mobile experience.
  • Don’t forget SEO. Keywords, site speed, metadata – all critical in local search campaigns.

Customers are out there, searching for quality local businesses. Make sure they find you by implementing these SEO strategies.

The value of user generated content, at least according to Google, is almost immeasurable. Adding it to your site can do amazing things for your rankings that other optimisation techniques simply can’t provide. The desire to include user generated content, though, and the ability to do so are two very different things. So, how do you get users to participate in your site? Here are a few tips that can help.

  • Feedback rocks! People love to offer their feedback. It makes them feel like they actually have a bit of input into your services or products in the future. Giving them a chance to give feedback on any part of your site is a great way to get them to participate. You may need to moderate what’s being posted, but in general, you’ll get constructive responses that will be as helpful for your brand as they will be for your optimisation programme.
  • Reviews rule! Sites like Amazon have been incorporating user reviews almost since their inception, and many shoppers expect to see reviews and ratings before they buy a product online, so ignoring the potential could be damaging for your site. It’s a platform for customers to rave about great products and bash the bad ones, and people love to become ace reviewers, so go ahead and let them express their feelings on your site.
  • Forums still helpful! Forums haven’t disappeared, even in the age of Facebook. Instead, many sites still find them a useful place for customers to interact, and it’s a natural way to incorporate user generated content into your site.

User generated content is a great way to increase organic search performance. This level of power is phenomenal, so if you haven’t yet considered it, it might be time!

Count On Us

Who are the key visitors to your website? Who are you trying to attract, the crucial – and buying – audience that you want to engage with winning content? Most businesses have a general idea: i.e. we sell football shoes, so we ‘re targeting young athletes or older enthusiasts who star in weekend leagues. But they don’t go much beyond that. Creating user personas gives us an in-depth look at potential audiences, their needs, and potential strategies for converting them into customers.

A Quick Look at User Personas

A persona is a fictional representation of your very nonfictional audience. For instance, we might have Sue, the weekend football star. Your research tells you that this is a demographic you want to hit. Sue is a professional with limited free time. She has children, who also participate in sports, and she wants to be more active and healthy. She is value-conscious, but she also wants great quality. This persona:

  • Describes this type of visitor to your shoe site: mother, busy, professional.
  • Targets her motivation: health, wellness, activity.
  • Hits on her need: budget, value, quality.
  • Implies potential objections: cost of top shoes, time. For instance, time is an issue – so are returns easy and convenient? Is shipping fast?

With this information (and much more – you can flesh these personas out so they actually have an accompanying photo and dossier!), you can develop content and design your website in such a way that her needs are met. What’s more, because you have different demographics within your customer base, you can create a variety of realistic personas.

Creating User Persona

It all starts with research. Who are your users? Why are they visiting your site? What expectations and needs do they bring with them? Can you categorize users? With social media and the ease of UGC, you can collect this data from your customers directly with online surveys, through comments and reviews, emails, and feedback forms. Questions you want to answer:

  • Where do they live? What types of jobs do they have, and at what level? Primary gender? Level of education? Average income? Marital and family status?
  • What types of beliefs and values do they hold?
  • What are their interests, passions, and hobbies?  What are their motivations?
  • What are their most pressing worries or concerns? What are their goals?
  • What’s important to them in life? What is meaningful to them?
  • What behaviors do they want to encourage or change in themselves?
  • How do they view themselves?
  • What value can you give them?

Using this information, develop 4-5 personas, and put as much detail into them as possible. Make them real people. You are trying to sell your product or service to a live audience, not a figment of your imagination! Address their needs and concerns, while offering solutions.

By understanding your customer base, you can build content that meets their needs (not every piece will be directed at Sue, for instance, but you’ll cater to each persona in different ways), and you can begin to optimise content to make it easy and convenient for them to take the next steps.

Do you use user personas to help you make content and design decisions?

 

Paper Chain In The DarkProducing quality, relevant content is an ongoing task for website owners, bloggers, and businesses. In addition to producing our own written, video, and image content, we can employ additional methods to ensure we give our audiences the material they want and need. Curating is one way to do this, as is using the words, images, and thoughts of our audiences themselves. Leveraging user generated content (UGC) can be an effective technique to enhance our websites.

The UK’s Guardian has recently launched a digital platform which enables users to upload video, photos, and text content to its journalists via apps or the website. They call this “GuardianWitness,” and they’ve leveraged it to allow up-to-the-minute, man-on-the-street coverage of major news events. This is just one example of brands leveraging UGC. Retail-based and service-based brands can also benefit: Brisk Ice Tea, for instance, crowdsourced a special edition label to fans of the beverage, using Instagram for help. The potential is enormous; how can you encourage and use UGC effectively?

  • Let users know you want their words, pictures, etc. Solicit user feedback, reviews, and ratings. Make it easy for your customers to leave feedback and share their experience via social media. Sharing buttons, review buttons, and/or a “Most Recent Reviews” sections on your website can be invaluable.
  • Give them something back. UGC is a favor from your audience to you – now give them something in return.  A gift card, free product, free sample, free shipping, and other perks are fairly inexpensive for you, and your users’ content may help draw in additional visitors (and customers!). This makes it a smart investment.  If a free sample doesn’t work for your business or site, why not feature a user each week or month? Post the content prominently on your site.
  • Create hashtags and ask your audience to tweet or post to Instragram. Lulumon did this with #sweatlife, and yoga-enthusiasts posted 40,000 pics of themselves in various yoga poses – and in Lulumon clothing. People like to feel a part of the community, and at the same time, they’re creating great content for you.
  • Ask loyal customers to be your testers. Give them a free product in exchange for a thorough review of said product. Amazon does this with its wildly popular Vine program, and the mega-retailer’s UGC is an indispensable part of its online brand.
  • Get current on the laws and restrictions surrounding UGC. If, for instance, a user modifies a copyrighted video or image, it can violate copyright laws and you might be complicit in displaying that content. Also, you’ll want to make sure your contests conform to the rules of the social platforms they appear on and winners should sign an agreement that their content can be used by your brand.

UGC can be an integral, vibrant part of your content creation strategy. Have you used UGC? If so, how?