What is User Generated Content and Why Academic Institutions Should Be Using it?

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User Generated Content has become a popular norm on web space these days, especially social media. User Generated content helps to provide genuineness and builds on credulity of source. It is a good strategy to generate qualified leads and generate authentic engagement online. And that is precisely the reason why it clicks with your target audience instantly.

But what actually is User Generated Content. Let’s explore in this blog section and see how it can help educational institutions power their brand. This post will not only give a broad overview of what user generated content is, but will also delve into the reasons why user generate content have been successful in driving traffic and building engagement. Additionally. It will also look at some of the crucial challenges in generating powerful User Generated Contents.

What is User Generated Content and Why it is Effective?

Generally the content created by freelance contributors is termed as user generated content. But in simple terms, as is clear from its nomenclature, a content that is curated by any user on voluntary basis i.e. without being paid for it, is a user generated content. Such type of content is typically published online and could be either in the form of photos / images, videos, podcasts, testimonials, user reviews, blogs, or discussion forums etc.

User generated content can be easily shared and distributed among your online network. It gives wider publicity as compared to paid content. User generated content creates better connect with prospective audience due to its authenticity. While making informed decision in favour of a particular brand service or product, UGC is helpful in making a positive impact in the minds of the prospective buyer.

Social media campaigns that incorporate UGC are considered to generate 50% more engagement. Mainstreaming of User Generated Content has given boost to social media marketing. Social sites with featured UGC are more likely to get repeat visitors.

Besides the above, another strong reason for growing acceptance of User Generated Content among online visitors is the personalized connect that it creates with the brand. That is why, brands are also eager to promote UGC through their social media channels using relevant hashtags. UGC helps brands testify its genuineness to the potential customers.

Millennials are the major contributors in UGC campaigns and are the biggest content drivers of all User Generated Content. They are often more likely to engage with an academic institution if its current students or alumni share their experiences of life at campus through photos, videos, social posts or discussion forums across its marketing channels.

UGC not only validates your brand commitment but also helps in inducing new leads, and developing greater connect with your target audience. Today, almost every educational institute has its social media channel. To break the clutter it is therefore important that there should be some differentiator. And what best could it be than creating your own fleet of content drivers through UGC.

UGC campaigns have emerged as a potent marketing strategy due to the immense benefits it provides to content marketers. From increasing conversions, nurturing relationship to expanding outreach and optimizing online indexing, UGC has done it all for brands to consolidate their position in the market.

One of the unique advantages of UGC is that it instantly connects with your prospective customers. Several marketing researches have revealed that people are more likely to engage with an online post if it contains information generated by someone who has already experienced your brand.

In the digital world, as consumers, we are frequently fed with content and messaging that is sponsored and curated by marketers. But we generally get attracted to something which is based on user experience and brings first-hand account of users like us. Real accounts and real experiences add more authenticity and more credibility to the whole brand experience.

Let’s expand on some more advantages of UGC.

Key Advantages of User Generated Content

High Return on Marketing Investment

Besides the above mentioned benefits, content marketers believe that UGC helps in reducing marketing costs. Generating useful content in a time-bound fashion is a big challenge for social media professionals. Due to insufficient resources many marketing campaigns fail to deliver impactful results. Here, UGC can bring big relief by saving your Institute’s time and financial resources which was otherwise depended heavily on in-house resources and blocked precious business time and money.

One more thing, UGC is like a third party content but most of it is unpaid. This also saves lot of content curation cost. It is the most trusted source for a host of advantages such as building brand awareness, establishing brand credibility, effective lead nurturing, boosting social media metrics, improving SEO performance and supporting lead generation.

However, if you want to derive all of these benefits, you should thoughtfully devise a content curation strategy using User Generated Content.

Boosts Social Media Performance

Social media platforms work great using UGC campaigns. UGC campaigns on social channels such as Facebook and Twitter work successfully in engaging millennials. By responding to user content, you can create more engagement and build traction around your brand. It also encourages other users connected with your social platform to share their experiences and opinion thereby making the content viral.

These interactions result in increasing your follower base, extending brand outreach and brand awareness etc. ultimately boosting your social media metrics such as likes, shares, comments, retweets, increasing web traffic and/or page views.

Boosts Search Engine Ranking and Provides Useful Marketing Insights

UGC campaigns can boost online searches. Positive customer reviews help in raising your search ranking.

Your College can get informative insights helping you better understand audience preferences and their tastes. These insights further benefit in curating a data-driven content marketing strategy for generating leads and driving sales conversions.

But how do you go about finding useful insights. You can start by scanning the content your audience generates. After that, review the social metrics that builds around it in terms of likes, shares, comments. You might find certain engagement patterns in those posts. Do these patterns align with your content engagement goals?

All of this can throw many hidden benefits that might have been so far unexplored for reaching out to new audiences and bringing them on-board.

Unique Way to Personalize Content

User Generated Content helps to create variety and personalization. This is a significant advantage which gives fresh appeal to your content by making it interesting and encourages users to stay engaged.

Personalization can be another key advantage of UGC. It is an effective way to get your target audience to notice and engage with your content. Due to personalization, User Generated Content resonates well with any set of audience.

Challenges of UGC

User Generated Content has its own set of challenges too. So, being aware about them will help design UGC campaigns accordingly.

UGC can sometimes dilute brand image if the content is in bad taste. Not every post that is written by others will be in good spirit and present truthful user impression and experience. Therefore one has to be careful while outsourcing content and should constantly monitor comments section for any unworthy remark that needs a rebuttal or explanation.

You should deal with inappropriate content in a timely manner. Ensure that social interactions remain meaningful. Moderate online discussions wherever required. Refrain from deleting unpleasant comments. Let it be there for your users to crosscheck their authenticity. In this way you can project a positive brand image. A better approach would be to address negative comments with an appropriate response.

Since you do not know who the content contributor behind UGC is therefore communicating ownership and usage rights to users becomes critical to avoid legal ramifications.

Safeguard your institutional brand against any fake information or misrepresentation of facts. Not always the submitted information by a user will be correct. This is more of a challenge for Colleges to develop proper strategy to deal with such internet trolls. False information about your College or University could reflect poorly on your brand and therefore needs timely response from your marketing team.

This can be time consuming, but it’s worth it if you want to reap right benefits from your UGC marketing strategy.

Strategies for an Effective UGC Campaign

So, what makes UGC campaigns effective? There can be several but some have been listed below in this blog section.

Think of UGC campaigns to create difference and bring competitive advantage to your overall content strategy. Discover what makes your audience excited to create content and engage with your brand. It will help you develop an online community that strengthens the customer/brand relationship.

While planning a user generated content campaign, develop an execution framework for your content with timelines. It will allow you to seamlessly align it with your overall content marketing strategy.

Colleges can also engage micro influencers such as endorsements by high profile visitors and networks to tap on the potential of user-generated content on social media.

Customer advocacy is an interesting way to push User Generated Content. By relying on content generated by followers, college brands can utilize marketing channels more effectively. Colleges can turn their stakeholders such as students, alumni, parents, industry guests etc. into strong advocates through user-generated content.

Academic Institutes can follow these six important strategies to develop effective User Generated Content campaigns.

Choose the Right Social Networks for Your Campaigns

Not every social channel will fetch you the desired outcome as far as UGC is concerned. You certainly won’t want to be active on a particular social platform just because it is very popular. It is important to know where your potential audience is hooked online so that you can reach them.

So, the social network you choose should be based on your goals and target audience.

Digital consumers are more likely to make a purchase decision in favour of a brand where they find opportunities of a good interaction or a positive experience. UGC helps do just that. It’s a simple process to repurpose customer content for your brand.

Many consumers are twice as likely to share user-generated content with friends or family if it is positioned on the right social channel too.

Choosing the Right Type of User-Generated Content for your Social Networks

Besides figuring out the right social networks for UGC, it is also necessary to know what type of user generated content works with each network. Choosing the best user-generated content to post on a particular network is also part of UGC strategy.

For example, Facebook is great platform for sharing video content and brand stories. Twitter is effective with limited character posts and visuals. So on twitter, user-generated content in the form of images benefit brands. Instagram has the highest user generated content. LinkedIn can be best for promoting professional kind of user generated content.

Set Goals for your UGC

Just like any other content strategy, your user-generated content plan should also have time-bound goals and guiding framework to work upon.

Without a concrete goal plan, your followers might not stick to your social networks. That is why you have to set UGC campaign goals in place. You can set social engagement as one of the goal setting parameters. Another parameter could be increasing follower base for building brand awareness.

Try to be as specific as possible with goals toward user-generated content. You can start receiving user generated content instantly but much of it will not be usable if you do not state clearly what your expected outcomes from it are.

Without a proper UGC guideline or goal, you are extremely susceptible to negative publicity.

Use Hashtags Smartly to Generate User Content

User Generated Contents are a popular way to generate non-branded content. Another popular type of user-generated content is created through campaign hashtags. Hashtags can get your audience involved with your message or campaign. This type of user content drives users to follow, engage and send content further down the line using trending hashtags.

It also helps in driving more awareness to your social channels and build a community of followers.

Use the Power of UGC to Build Community

The best thing about user-generated content is that you can build communities around it.  It gives chance to connect with new audiences and start new conversations.

Your followers are extremely important to your social media strategy, so treat them well. Answer questions, give recognition so that they know that someone cares for their time.

Analyse & Measure the Effectiveness of Your User Generated Content

Besides posting user content, you should also analyse and measure its performance using social media analytics tools. Keep track of your overall engagement with user-generated content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram. Generate periodic audience reports.

Whether it’s contextual analysis of keywords, hashtags or customer experiences, these non branded contents will let you measure your efforts.

Conclusion

User-generated content can be a very powerful content marketing strategy. You can use it to your academic brand’s advantage if you follow the insights given in this blog post.

Consider UGC as a great opportunity to engage your target audience and build a better connect with your community of followers.

If you think creating UGC campaigns can boost your social media efforts, now is the time to take it seriously. Best social media brands in academia are already gearing up to use the power of User Generated Content extensively in 2019.

So, what are you waiting for?

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