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The Meteoric Rise of User-Generated Content


We all want to be creators.

We can all learn a thing or two from Tom Sawyer. Mark Twain’s carefree character may have made his mark on the world long before the Internet and social media (the novel was published in 1876), but some things transcend time.

If you’re not familiar with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, or you need a refresher, one of the subplots involves Tom’s approach to whitewashing a fence – which was his penance for having skipped school to go swimming. With a bit of reverse psychology, he ends up getting a group of boys to actually pay him for the “privilege” of painting the fence. Creating content that attracts people to your website shouldn’t ever be something you look at as an unpleasant necessity ¬– along the lines of Aunt Polly’s fence – but you have amazing benefits to gain if you can convince your visitors to help you with it.

Hardly a new concept

While the Internet and user generated content (UGC) has only put its mark on the world for the past few decades, the concept has been around for as long as we’ve found ways to share communication. The first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary was compiled from slips of paper submitted by the public. Back in the days of newspaper dominance, one of the most read sections – letters to the editor – was created daily by readers. Columnists like “Dear Abby” cultivated daily audiences of more than 200 million readers by sharing and commenting on their personal life challenges.

Fast forward to the present. User generated content continues to set new records. We have to look no further than YouTube for a prime example. Users upload more than 300 hours of video to the site each and every minute. Why is UGC so popular? We all want to be creators.

This is a powerful benefit for marketers. The Nielsen Consumer Trust index ranks user generated content at 92%, meaning that consumers trust organic, user generated content more than traditional advertising. 

Facilitate it on your website and you’ll conserve resources, while at the same time boost credibility and increase your search rankings. 

Reclaiming the “O-Word”

Alas, when we think of outsourcing today, we conjure images of people losing their jobs to inexpensive overseas workers, or technological advances like artificial intelligence and robots. Judge outsourcing as you like, but there are times when it becomes a requirement. Your customers literally expect you implement it. Outsourcing content to your users falls into this category.

Besides, it’s not as if you actually get to sit back and set your content creation on cruise control. You still absolutely must curate it. UGC needs to be sourced, annotated, and promoted. In exchange for these editorial efforts, you’ll:

  • Jump-start lead generation
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Boost your social media metrics
  • Establish thought leadership

Read our recent post on establishing yourself as a thought leader when you have a moment – but the big takeaway here is that the most successful thought leaders have mastered the art of interaction. They are not massive fountains spouting content they create themselves. They gather and share content created by others that generates further perspective. Others are painting that fence for them.


Kissmetrics recently published an infographic with some statistics that can help you to understand the huge potential of user generated content. More than a quarter of search results for the world’s 20 largest brands are links to user generated content. 

Mining this content and using your findings can greatly enhance keyword optimization. From an organic standpoint, you’ll benefit from the growing number of backlinks as people publish this content on their own websites. Especially on their blogs.

Constant Insight

UGC is indeed a goldmine. We have been surveyed into a stupor, already. Many organizations find that those who do make themselves available for surveys simply end up telling them what they think the organization wants to hear, rather than actionable information that’ll allow for improvement or innovation. 

When you cultivate a continuing source of user generated content, you have a ready source of information that can provide you with perspective. You’ll know when you’ve hit a hot spot for engagement. You’ll know what to cultivate more of.

There’s another reason you want to find out what pushes buttons for your visitors. The more you know about them, the more you can personalize their experience. Marketing Dive, which covers industry news, recently reported that new Adlucent research shows a staggering 71% of respondents said they prefer ads tailored to their interests.

It’s not a sit-back-and-let-it-happen process. Leveraging user generated content creates new responsibilities. The return on investment is highly favorable. You’ll increase lead generation, boost SEO, and drive engagement to new heights. Even Aunt Polly would approve of that.