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Content marketing: Do it all yourself? Forget it. Let users propel your efforts

In marketing today, content marketing remains king, but how you get that content is changing in a way marketers might never have imagined. Sure, you still need to crank out new, valuable, engaging content of your own, but to be even more successful, you should be leaving some of that content creation in the hands of your audiences.

Did I just feel you cringe?! Though the thought of giving up some of the control of content creation to your consumers may make you uneasy, it’s already happening.

With the increase in social engagement and interaction with brands, consumers have some control – actually more than ever before – in shaping how your brand is viewed. The days of a few key brand managers setting the stage for each specifically planned message are gone. The consumer is now riding shotgun when it comes to content marketing.

According to a 2015 Benchmark, Budgets and Trends report by the Content Marketing Institute, 70 per cent of B2C companies and 48 per cent of B2B companies leverage user- or fan-generated content in their marketing strategies already and plan to continue doing so in the upcoming 12 months. While this is not a new concept, it is a huge shift in how we’ve historically looked at content creation. And it makes sense. Everyone is online at all hours of the day searching for information and commenting on their personal experiences with brands. Peer recommendations trump carefully planned and tested brand messaging when it comes to buying a product. People believe their friends over canned brand messages.

So the day has come that we need to comfortably strike a balance between user-generated content and content of our own in order to continue to evolve our relationships with our key customers. Successful brands who are constantly looking to further engage with their audiences know how to adapt to the consumers’ journey and respond to consumers’ unpredicted actions and voices at every turn. Essentially, while conversations are still in the hands of consumers, marketers are able to steer consumers’ conversations in the direction they want them to go – while not being too obvious about it, that is.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Keep an open mind and view your brand from your consumers’ lens

Start (if you haven’t already) monitoring online mentions, news, conversations – you get the point – about your brand. Listening is critical for brands that want to continue to hone their messaging and meet the needs of consumers. The answer to your brand’s messaging breakthrough could already be on a social media site – and it never hurts to switch lenses and see your brand through your consumers’ eyes.

2. Join the conversation and reward consumers for spreading the word

Engage (if you haven’t already) in all conversations surrounding your brand online and in the news, and create opportunities for consumers to tell your story for you. That would make your life easier right?! Think about all the extra time you’d have not having to write all the content yourself! Actually, you’d probably still want to take some control over the content, but at least it’s not all on your shoulders.

Loyal consumers LOVE brands that notice them. Ask them questions about their experiences with your brand. Encourage them to tell you what would make your brand better. Create contests online to drive engagement and create user-generated content. Take advantage of trending hashtags to reach and engage with a broader audience. Interested parties will start to tweet, placing more content (for free) at your fingertips.

3. Show them by taking action that you are listening and their opinions matter to you

That action could be a small tweak in messaging that was inspired by your audience, or it could be an action of reward to thank them for the information provided. Make them feel special – always.

Embracing user-generated content is a great way to keep brand messaging fresh and current. It can also be a cost-effective way to keep your content engine full. Inviting audiences to take part in your messaging shows that you trust them. And, in today’s world, creating brand loyalists starts with building trust. Brands that adopt strategies for curating and utilizing user-generated content will continue to win over their audiences and thus create brand loyalty for the long term.