How To Get Website Content From Your Fans

The relentless need to continuously create new content pains marketers across all verticals. In fact, 20 percent of B2B companies cited “producing enough content” as their greatest marketing challenge. Fortunately, marketing teams can offset content creation demands through user-generated content.

There are many ways to collect content for your website from your fans, followers, clients, etc. Consider these options for user-generated content for marketing:

Content Contests

Content Contest

All Images Courtesy of Vertical Measures

Contests are a great way to acquire content from your followers and fans. Some industries are better fits for contests than others, but most businesses can hold some kind of contest. Contests seeking user-generated content can take on many forms. For example:

  • Ask your fans to create a video and upload it to YouTube, tagging it a certain way
  • Ask followers to tweet a photo and use a specific hashtag
  • Create an app for your Facebook page to incorporate video, photos or written word content contests
  • Ask your audience to write a poem and submit it on your website or via email
  • Ask your audience to create a caption for a photo or to name a video

All of the above contest examples involve users providing content you can then use to promote your business. Once you have content from your audience, you can feature submissions in a blog post and across your social networks. Depending on how large your company is or how big your contest gets, you may end up with content for a few weeks or months.

There are many ways to get your audience excited about a contest, and excitement = entries. For example, last year, the American Red Cross launched a contest that combined a few popular themes with their own mission and ended up with some great content because of it.

They launched a website,, for their contest that tied into the zombie phenomenon and the Mayan apocalypse (that was supposed to happen last December). The American Red Cross asked users to create videos explaining what they would include in their “go bags” — a survival kit that includes three days worth of supplies — in case of the zombie apocalypse.

The contest was successful because not only did it tie back to their original message of being prepared for a disaster; it sparked the interest of many due to the zombie and Mayan calendar hype.

Online Communities

Whether you ask or not, customers usually have something to say about your product or service. Perhaps your audience has ideas on business enhancements or would like to connect with other customers? One way to combine both ideas is by creating an online community.

Creating a community for your audience not only connects people with similar interests, but it can be a content creation goldmine. Have users create and submit content through your community.

For example, Starbucks created a website, My Starbucks Idea, for customers to submit ideas that could potentially come to fruition. Once one posts an idea, others are allowed to comment and vote on the idea. On the Ideas in Action section of the website, Starbucks employees announce ideas that are being brought to life. Currently, there are more than 143, 000 ideas posted on the site.

Starbucks was able to harness the passion that customers share for its products and turn it into something useful for both customers and the business, while promoting user-generated content creation.

Another example of an online community that uses fans to generate content is Breast Cancer Answers, a frequently asked questions video library where leading experts answer questions on video for breast cancer patients. In the Breast Cancer Survivor Tips section of the website, there are videos of breast cancer survivors sharing their wisdom and providing support for those still in treatment. Many of these women have large personal followings and promote the videos directly to their audiences, which is highly-targeted free marketing.

Breast Cancer Answers simply converted the passion and camaraderie that is characteristic of breast cancer survivors into powerful content that contributes to the community while simultaneously advancing search and exposure for Breast Cancer Answers.

Encourage ReviewsEncourage Reviews

Something as simple as a review of your product or service can go a long way when it comes to content marketing. Encourage your customers to leave reviews and allow them to leave those reviews in a number of ways.

For e-commerce sites, asking for a review on the product page is a great tactic, but consider going a step further by sending a follow-up email requesting a review after an order has been received. Additionally, through social media listening and monitoring, you can ask online users discussing your product or service for a review.

For other types of businesses, try to solicit reviews in a way that is specific to your business and industry. You can ask for reviews through email marketing campaigns, on social sites, through a form on your website or in person through review forms.

Partner With Your CustomersPartnership with Customers

Depending on your business, you may know some of your customers really well – especially long-time and repeat customers. If this is the case, contemplate partnering with these customers in a way that will benefit both of you.

You can do this in a number of ways. For example, case studies are a great way to highlight customers while simultaneously highlighting your own success. If someone has had tremendous experiences, made notable strides or achieved something new as a result of your product or service, a case study is a way to showcase their achievements while promoting your product or service. Many times customers will agree to be featured in a case study because it isn’t self-serving to your company – it provides them exposure as well.

In some cases you may be able to partner with a customer for cross-promotion marketing. It’s simple: you can promote their business/blog/art/etc., and they will promote you as a vendor. These types of partnerships can be very beneficial, as your business will be introduced to a new audience.

Double Promotions

Another positive attribute of user-generated content is on the promotion side. When users are involved in content pieces, they will want to promote their content, too. As a result, not only will you be promoting the content, but the user will as well.

For example, when a user enters a video contest, they will most likely share it with their network — family, friends, Facebook, Twitter, etc., especially when voting comes into play. Because of this, their network will share the content, too, promoting their loved one or friend. A ripple effect of promotion is created, which can benefit your business greatly.

Overall, there are many ways to work user-generated content into your content marketing plan. Whether it is through a contest, community, review or partnership, user-generated content marketing is some of the most influential marketing a business can participate in. Harness the power of your fans, followers, customers and audience through user-generated content marketing plans.

What tips do you have for user-generated content marketing? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Content Marketing | Content Marketing | Content Marketing Column


About The Author: is the president of Vertical Measures, a search, social & content marketing company helping their clients get more traffic, more leads, and more business. Arnie has held executive positions in the world of new technologies and marketing for more than 20 years. He is a frequent speaker and author of "Accelerate! Moving Your Business Forward Through the Convergence of Search, Social & Content Marketing" available on Amazon.

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  • Nick Stamoulis

    The CDC did a great tie-in with zombies as well. Even government organizations can be cool and fun! It goes to show that your industry is only as “boring” as you want it to be. Provided you think a little outside the box (and you don’t even have to go that far) you can really get the attention of your audience.

  • Arnie Kuenn

    I forgot about that one, but it is another great example.

  • Rand Wilson

    All very great tips!
    I run an online-community with about 90% user-generated and I do/have done almost all of these. It would be very difficult to create all of that content, or even a tiny percentage of it, myself.

  • Kaloyan Banev

    It sounds easier than it is. I am running several membership websites, forums and social networks. It takes a lot of time to get quality user generated content and unfortunately the first to arrive is spammy and low quality content.

  • Arnie Kuenn

    Thanks Rand. And congrats, it’s not easy to achieve that level of UGC. You are def doing something right!

  • Arnie Kuenn

    I agree. It can be a lot of work. Especially if you are running several websites. And yes, spam is just a reality. Everyone is looking for the “easy button” online. And I sure haven’t found one.

  • سواتر ومظلات المديميغ

    If at first you don’t succeed, get negative once again, seems to be the game plan at Microsoft. Having attacked Google Shopping with a “Scroogled” campaign last
    November, Microsoft is back again. This time it goes after Gmail as an
    evil service that invades your email privacy, armed with polling data
    showing consumer concern — and perhaps one valid point about an easier

    The Microsoft Survey & Consumer Disapproval

    Microsoft commissioned a survey of over 1,006 adults in the US from
    Feb. 1-4, asking about email services that target ads based on the
    content of your email. You know. Google’s Gmail, which is the only major
    service that does this, though Google or Gmail weren’t supposedly
    named. The results:

    70% of Americans didn’t believe or didn’t know whether any major
    email service provider scanned the content of personal emails in order
    to target ads

    83% of Americans agree that email service providers scanning the
    content of your personal emails to target ads is an invasion of privacy

    88% of Americans disapprove of email service providers scanning the
    content of your personal emails in order to target ads (and 52%
    disapprove strongly)

    88% of email users believe that email service providers should allow
    users to “opt-out” if they prefer that the content of their emails not
    be scanned in order to target ad

    89% of Americans agree that email service providers should not be
    allowed to scan the content of personal emails in order to target ads

    In short, pick your question, there’s a lot of disapproval supposedly
    about what Gmail does, which is to show ads based on the content of an
    email that you’re reading.

    Of course, some of the answers are contradictory. How is it that
    email users can both believe that emails shouldn’t be scanned for ad
    targeting purposes AND also think there should be an opt-out, at
    practically the same high percentage? If so many agree there should be
    an opt-out, then when you think about it, they’re not opposed that type
    of targeting as long as an opt-out is provided.

    Scroogle Gets Outed Early

    I’m still waiting for the actual questions that were asked; plus, the Scroogled site itself has yet to be updated to reflect the latest campaign. This is because it was supposed to go live at 11pm PT.

    Postscript: The actual poll is now up here.

    Microsoft had been briefing reporters about it, including myself.
    However, Dan Lyons over at ReadWrite who wasn’t briefed — and thus not
    subject to an embargo restriction — got some of the details and wrote them up. Embargo lifted, I was told, when I asked Microsoft — which is no doubt now scrambling to finish the site.

    This screenshot above is part of what will appear on the site:

    There will also be newspapers ads, such as this one below:

    Fair? Not Really, Though Opt-Out Could Be Better

    Is the campaign fair? I’d say mostly no, but there are some things that Google could do to improve things.

    Microsoft suggests that there is no way to opt-out of Gmail showing you ads targeted to your email content. Not true. There are several ways,
    ranging from using the HTML version of Gmail, to using an email program
    (such as Mail on the iPhone or Microsoft’s own Outlook software), to
    the $50 per year Google Apps service that allows anyone to opt-out.

    When I put this to Stefan Weitz, director of Microsoft’s Bing search
    engine (and apparently co-opted by Microsoft to speak on all things
    Scroogled), the response was that these options aren’t simple.

    “There’s no easy way to opt out,” Weitz told me. ”These are not ways that the average consumer is going to know”

    The Google Apps Opt-Out Isn’t Easy

    That, I agree with. As a Google Apps user myself, I would never wish
    the horror of having to become an administrator for a wide-range of
    Google services, which is what Google Apps requires, if all you want to
    do is opt-out of ads. HTML mail is an option, but do most Gmail users
    know to do this?

    Microsoft, of course, has ads in It even has ads that
    are personalized based on your age, zip code and gender. I’m pretty sure
    if you asked consumers a question of whether ads should be targeted at
    them that way, you’d get a high percentage saying no.

    How About A $20 Per Year Gmail Opt-Out, Like Outlook?

    But, if you know where to look,
    you can switch those ads off for $20 per year at Outlook (though when I
    tried, I kept getting a error demanding I have a Windows Live ID, even
    though I was already signed-in. Perhaps, though, this might be because I
    already have an ad-free Outlook account).

    A smart move by Google would be to do the same. Offer the ability to
    turn off ads right within Gmail for $20 per year. Then, if people really
    are as concerned as the polling data suggests, they have an easy

    If People Want Privacy, How About Bing’s Personalized Search?

    Polling data is funny stuff, though. Recall that last year, Pew conducted a poll that found 73% of people felt personalized search was an invasion of their privacy.
    And yet, by default, Bing (like Google), personalizes search. If
    Microsoft really believes that Google should drop Gmail ad targeting
    based on its polling data, it’s pretty easy to say that Bing ought to
    stop doing personalized search.

    Why Attack Gmail Now?

    The ad campaign also felt odd to me because way back when Gmail launched in 2004,
    there was a huge amount of media attention to the idea of how the ads
    were targeted. Why does Microsoft suddenly believe this is an issue
    nearly 10 years later? Surely it was clearly accepted by consumers back
    at that time, who probably did hear about some of the targeting.

    “Even after a solid decade of the practice, people still don’t
    understand it, and when they do, they don’t like it,” Weitz said, citing
    the survey. He also said that it’s a good distinguishing point between
    Gmail and Microsoft’s recently launched email service.

    Reading Email For Security Deemed OK

    Another issue is that Microsoft, like Google, “reads” your email in
    an automated fashion (neither have humans that are doing this).
    Microsoft does it in order to help filter out spam and phishing attacks.
    This is also one of the reasons Google does it. So why is that reading

    Weitz said that for security, scanning like this makes sense. It’s
    the scanning for contextual targeting of ads that Microsoft objects to,
    based on the fact, Weitz said, that consumers seem to object to it.

    Microsoft Wants A Google Opt-Out

    And what does Microsoft want Google to do?

    “We’re calling on them to do some kind of change behalf of
    consumers,” Weitz said — in particular saying an easy opt-out should be
    provided, even if that’s a paid option.

    Google Says All’s Fine

    I guess we’ll see. When asked by another reporter that was briefed on
    this how Google might react, I said Google would likely mostly ignore
    the campaign. So far, that’s pretty much the case. When I asked for any
    comment, Google sent this statement that all media outlets are getting:

    Advertising keeps Google and many of the websites and
    services Google offers free of charge. We work hard to make sure that
    ads are safe, unobtrusive and relevant. No humans read your email or
    Google Account information in order to show you advertisements or
    related information. An automated algorithm — similar to that used for
    features like Priority Inbox or spam filtering — determines which ads
    are shown.

    In general, the Microsoft campaign leaves me cold, given how negative
    it is. Personally, what might get me to switch from Gmail to Outlook
    would be if Outlook had IMAP support. How about some of this negative
    energy going into making that type of improvement and others to pull
    consumers over.

    But, it would be nice to see Google provide an easy way to opt-out by
    paying right within Gmail. That would pretty much defuse any further
    Microsoft attacks. But even if not, I suspect despite what Microsoft’s
    poll says, most consumers on Gmail are going to stay there.

    Related Articles

    Microsoft Slams Google Privacy Changes With “Putting People First” Ad Campaign

    No, You Don’t Need To Fear The Google Privacy Changes: A Reality Check

    Bing Attacks Google Shopping With “Scroogled” Campaign, Forgets It’s Guilty Of Same Problems

    Bing Shopping As A Poster Child For Consumer Confusion About Ads

    Microsoft To Make Same Privacy Change Google Was Attacked For; No One Seems To Care

    EU Takes 10 Days To Question Google Privacy Change; After Two Months, Finally Looks At Microsoft’s

    Pew Report: 65% View Personalized Search As Bad; 73% See It As Privacy Invasion

    Related Topics: Featured | Features & Analysis | Google: Business Issues | Google: Critics | Google: Gmail | Legal: Privacy | Microsoft: Business Issues | Microsoft: Outlook | Top News

    About The Author: Danny Sullivan is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited
    authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has
    covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer
    for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan. See more articles by Danny Sullivan

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