Whether you’re a blogger, affiliate marketer, or website owner, you are on some level a content producer. Your produced content may include product reviews, blog posts, white papers or just basic web page content. Not only must this content be useful to your readers, but it must be produced constantly. Furthermore, the content has to be genuine and trustworthy.

Producing all this qualified content can be hard work. However, what if you could actually outsource some of your content generation efforts to your audience? It’s certainly possible, and it can even be done for free (or almost for free). Welcome to the world of user-generated content or UGC.

What is UGC?

UGC is, in essence, content that is created by your readers and customers and can consist of product reviews, comments, blog posts, Instagram posts, Twitter tweets, etc. UGC might seem like background noise that no marketer can control or repurpose, but it’s imperative that UGC not be ignored. Why?

Because according to a study conducted by Crowdtap and Ipsos MediaCT, millenials (those born between 1977 and 1995) are spending up to 30% more time with UGC than TV. Also, UGC is viewed as far more trustworthy than traditional forms of media including newspapers, radio and banner ads. In short, people looking for a truthful review about a product or service are more likely to believe what their peers have written than what some marketer or CEO said.

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What types of UGC are people interested in? When it comes to online content, the items that carry the most weight include peer reviews, emails, text messages, social media posts, blog posts and forum discussions. So, how can you encourage this type of UGC on your website or blog?

Start with a simple request.

It’s not easy soliciting in-depth product reviews or videos, but you might easily generate UGC if you ask your readers to complete a simple (and hopefully fun) task. For example, consider asking your audience to post a single photo of your product, with the best photo winning a small gift card or additional product from your website. Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook are all great places for holding small photo placement contests.

Alternately, consider asking your readers to submit their biggest issue/challenge with your product and (hopefully) how the issue/challenge was resolved. While it seems counterintuitive to ask for negative feedback, this is one way you can start an honest and open conversation with your readers, and in turn generate tons of goodwill and trust. In the process, you’ll gain some honest feedback on how you can improve your products and/or website/blog.

Create user groups/forums.

A community of product users is a great way to generate camaraderie, learn which products your users would be likely to purchase or recommend to others, and find out which issues or questions are of concern to the group. You could even use your online forum as another way to make money online via strategically placed ads or new product announcements/offers.

In terms of UGC, an online user group is a gold mine of content and technical information that you can re-purpose to create product reviews, blog posts and even entire tutorials. The more eloquent or involved group members can even be offered opportunities to generate formal reviews, videos or photo collages in exchange for some kind of incentive.

Recruit outside bloggers.

There are plenty of third party blogging boards, including PayPerPost and SponsoredReviews, that advertise opportunities to review a product or service in exchange for a small monetary fee or for keeping the reviewed product. If you absolutely need in-depth product reviews and can’t find a willing audience member, these blogging boards are a great alternative.

When selecting your blogger, be sure to check out his blog to find out if its theme and message match what your site is trying to sell. Also, find out just how large that blogger’s community is- there’s no point in paying for a blog post that only 10 individuals are going to receive and read.

Create on-site case studies and tutorials.

One of the ultimate ways you can participate in creating UGC is to recruit readers to become part of a case study involving your product or service. In such scenarios, your audience members can go through the process of testing your products in real-time and report on their progress at daily or weekly intervals. Alternately, to make things easier for your recruits, you might write up the majority of the case study and interject some unique yet profound quotes from them about the products and their merits.

Recruiting readers is also a good way of generating tutorials. While you will have to create and provide the initial “lessons” to your students, the progress that they make can all be documented and used as a way to advertise your products or services. For a great example of this approach, check out Dom’s Internet Marketing Mentorship series with Genevieve, his student.

If you have a unique method for coaxing UGC out of your readers, please leave a comment below about your approach. Thanks!

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