Your students want to learn are going to find the experiences of other students to be more believable and relevant than what your marketing team creates.
And the same is true for your faculty, staff, community, and other key audiences. They want to hear from their peers because their experiences carry more weight.
So, how can you leverage user-generated content (UGC) and reap the rewards?
Just so we are on the same page, “User-generated content (UGC) is anything on the web that users have a hand in making. Most of the photos, videos, and posts you see on the web are pieces of user-generated content. Basically, UGC is anything not made by a brand, though brands do leverage user-generated content for ranking.” Source: Wordstream
How do you get members of your key audiences to produce user-generated content?
The simple answer to this question is to ask them for their content submissions and create a simple process for them to submit their content.
You should also be very clear as to what you want. Explain your brand guidelines and rules. By providing guidance, you help to increase the quality of user-generated content you will receive, while also helping to keep the trolls away. (For examples of some epic failures, check out this article.)
Contests are an effective way to attract user-generated content, but hashtag campaigns can also be extremely successful. A hashtag campaign is when you create a hashtag for the campaign and ask your audiences to submit their content using the hashtag. For some examples of successful hashtag campaigns, as well as some great tips for selecting a hashtag and running an effective hashtag campaign, check out this article.
Start By Selecting The Social Networks For Your Campaign, Then Set Goals.
For each of your audiences, there will be social networks that are more appropriate. So if you are searching for ways to receive user-generated content from prospective and current undergraduate students, you might want to focus on Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok, or Twitter, per this report.
Next, you should focus on setting your goals so you can measure the effectiveness of your user-generated content campaign. Are you looking to increase engagement with your brand? Increase conversion rates ranging from generating more quality leads to developing more online applications, and even generating enrollments?
And remember that one of the goals for your user-generated content campaign can be to save time on content creation for your staff.
Now, at this point, you have identified your audience and the appropriate social media platforms, as well as established campaign goals. The next step is to determine the most appropriate content formats you want for those platforms so you can create your audience’s instructions.
For example, on Instagram, you want to focus on visual content (images, video) and a hashtag that helps you find the post. At that point, you will need to regram their post so it’s on your page. (You can manually regram by finding the post you want, taking a screenshot of that post on your phone, cropping the photo to ensure a clean presentation, and then creating a new post on your account with that photo.)
For an excellent example of TikTok, check out Indiana University – Bloomington and their #gitupchallenge. You can view the actual post here.
And this TikTok from Devil Clefs at my alma mater, Arizona State University, generated more than 8M views. Check it out here.
Remember, ask before taking someone’s content. It’s always best to be polite and ask for permission rather than assume you can take something that another person created and posted.
What To Do With All That User-Generated Content?
When someone creates something you find interesting, you are witnessing the start of one of the most valuable elements of user-generated content – engagement. Engagement helps you build a community, which is a much stronger bond than what is created by simply sending out emails and posting other content you created.
Some of the things you might want to do to build a sense of community with user-generated content is to acknowledge those that share their content and encourage them so they feel more a part of the community. With some, you might even want to reach out and offer to co-create content with them.
And of course, you want to analyze the performance of your campaign so you can determine how successful your work is, and if any modifications could help improve performance.
Based on informal research, there does seem to be quite a few colleges that haven’t put together a formal user-generated content strategy – and with budgets tight, and the world filled with so much change and uncertainty, it might be time to explore this option.
Start small. Keep it manageable. But remember that when you can motivate your audiences to engage with you, you have a unique and valuable opportunity to be build stronger and longer relationships that contribute to your ability to achieve your goals.
User-generated content can save your institution time and money, while moving you closer to your enrollment and tuition goals. And it can help with fundraising as well.
If you have any questions about how to get started with user-generated content, don’t hesitate to contact me.