Quality User Generated Content: How To Fill Your Calendar

3 Types of Quality User-Generated Content To Drive Results

3 Types of Quality User Generated ContentMy dad was a World War II veteran but he never celebrated Veteran’s Day. His green army uniform hung on a wooden beam up in our attic.

Maybe it was because my dad served behind the lines in the US Army’s Signal Corps in London.

His job was to decode enemy messages and transmit them to Allied headquarters.

Like my father, marketers work behind-the-scenes to create quality user-generated content (aka UGC) for their key audiences. As part of your content strategy, UGC can yield results associated with your business goals.

To fill your editorial calendar with quality user-generated content you need a plan like an army.

CAVEAT: User-generated content can’t fix these 3 content marketing problems. They’re key to your business and must be done internally.

  1. No content strategy. You must create your own content strategy. It must be aligned with your business’s goals.
  2. Not enough resources (people and budget). Like original content, user-generated content requires resources. Assess how you can redistribute your resources across your entire business to reduce redundancies and increase results.
  3. No content distribution. Even the best content won’t support your business objectives if it’s not distributed. This includes owned, social media and third party platforms. Also advertising where needed.

3 Ways to improve results with quality user-generated content

User-generated content can be a useful addition to your content offering. 3 Types of Quality User Generated Content

1. Have a guest content strategy (aka Guest blog posts)

User-generated content can produce what Rand Fishkin call’s 10x content guest posts if you do the key behind-the-scenes work.

Social Media Examiner is built on guest blog posts. They have a well-defined editorial process and high standards. Even top bloggers complain about the amount of work involved to get a post accepted. In return, they get a ton of exposure.

Heidi Cohen's guest post on Social Media Examiner

To get quality guest blog post content, follow these tips:

  • Decide what content you want from contributors. Be very specific. Define content originality, length, content focus, links, content format, supporting promotion expected, and comment response requirements.
  • Set contributor rules. Define what content is acceptable and your terms. Include copyright, publication and usage terms and ownership. State who is responsible for clearing copyrighted material in the post such as images.

    Social Media Examiner Guest Blog Post Submission Form

    Social Media Examiner Guest Blog Post Submission Form

  • Outline your editorial process. Set contributor expectations. At a minimum, you need a copy editor, creative support and technical help.
  • Set your editorial calendar. When and where will guest posts appear and how will you distinguish guest content from your own?

Here’s more information regarding guest blog posts.  Please note that Actionable Marketing Guide does NOT accept guest posts.

2. Tap into the power of influencers

Influencers broaden your reach because they have wider audiences and are trusted information sources.

4 Types of influencers generated content

  • Interview influencers. Ask one person an in-depth set of questions. Use tools like Blab, podcasts or email. Spin Sucks’s Gini Dietrich interviews key influencers like Ann Handley weekly on Spin Sucks Inquisition.

    User Generated Content Curation Format

    Spin Suck Inquisition with Ann Handley

  • Gather influencer opinion in a roundup post. You ask a group of people the same question. (BTW, I’m the queen of roundup posts.) Roundup posts involve a lot of work. Co-create Content
  • Host a panel of influencers. Ask a small group of people the same set of questions. This works well for live events, webinars or email. Top Rank’s Lee Odden has perfected this approach with his pre-conference ebooks. (Here’s more help with epic curated content.)
    Content Marketing World
  • Ask influencers to write for you. Influencers create content for others for compensation, either to expand their reach or for a fee. This is easiest when they’re promoting a book or speaking at an event.

Focus on influencers that matter to your target audience. Select people who are important to the audience you want to reach, not just big names.

Use your personal connections. This is a great reason to attend live events. Don’t assume you can email a top influencer and he or she will jump to respond. They get LOTS of inquiries every day.

To improve your results, follow these influencer tips.

  • Keep your request short and to the point. Be specific as possible.
  • Realistically define your timing. Don’t tell people you need a reply within 2 days when you have 2 weeks.
  • State “What’s In It For Me” for the influencer. How will he or she be better off by participating in your effort? Mention any related promotion.
  • Be polite. You’re asking someone with limited time to do something for you.
  • Limit your follow up. Wait a week before you follow up. Don’t be the person who sends 5 emails in 2 days. (Yes that’s happened to me. I kept the emails to see how many he’d send without a response.)
  • Let contributors know when you publish the content. Say thank you in a short email. Don’t expect influencers to share your content or see your social media shares.

3. Ask your qualified audience to contribute

Note the word “qualified audience”. You want your core audience who know your brand and have experience creating content.

The type of content, amount of work involved and your request promotion determine the number of people who contribute. If you’re seeking Instagram photographs, you can expect broader engagement. Most people have a smartphone and are able to take “good enough” photos.

Customer rating and review sites like Amazon and TripAdvisor are exceptions as is Ravelry. Customers contribute their input including commentary, votes and photos. TripAdvisor encourages hotels and inns to promote their standing on TripAdvisor.

TripAdvisor Page for Crabtree Cottage

TripAdvisor Page for Crabtree Cottage

To promote their ebook, Attention-Driven Design: 23 Visual Principles For Designing More Persuasive Landing Pages, Unbounce created a user-generated content contest to win a an all-expenses-paid trip to Vancouver for their Call to Action Conference 2016. Participants had to use Unbounce’s free product to develop their landing page.

Example of User-Generated Contest On Unbounce

Example of User-Generated Contest On Unbounce

What I like about this user-generated content is that it gets people to use Unbounce’s product to create a promotion for their content. Further, the prize is a trip to attend their conference, more live Unbounce content!

  • Over 170 people entered Unbounce’s contest. That’s a lot considering the work involved to create a landing page.
  • 10 entries surfaced to the top; the top 4 entries including Sherif Makhlouf, the winner, were featured in a contest recap post. The blog post garnered lots of social media shares because it explained the winning traits of each landing page.
  • Generated 100s of incremental ebook downloads. The top entrants generated 55+ ebook downloads on average, above Unbounce’s projections. One participant ran a paid Twitter campaign to promote his landing page!
The Click-Through Landing Page Contest Winner -Unbounce

The Click-Through Landing Page Contest Winner -Unbounce

To get the most out of your audience created content, here are 6 tips.

  • Ask your fans to create content related to your product. Determine the content basics including type of content, timing of delivery and means of transmitting it.
  • Set content requirements. Create the “rules” for what content is eligible and how you’ll select it.
  • Add gamification, where appropriate. For Unbounce this was a free ticket to their conference and $500 towards travel expenses.
  • Promote your call for user-generated content. This depends on your business objectives, house file and budget.
  • Remove barriers to content contribution. Reduce the steps contributor must take to participate. The more you expect, the smaller your pool of content donors.
  • Give potential creators a reason to contribute. Reward participants with recognition on owned media or social media or offer a coupon or monetary reward.


Incorporate quality user-generated content into your overall editorial calendar to increase measurable business results.

But remember, that like my dad, you’ll still need to work behind-the-scene to ensure that your user-generated content provides real value to your target audience.

What’s your favorite way to create quality user-generated content?

To the veterans among our readers, we thank you for your service.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.


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