We’ve spent a lot of time on our blog discussing ideas and best practices for content marketing, helping you and your marketing team to create content that adds value for your customers. But what about your customers? They’re already creating quality content for you, so how can you harness this passive stream of information to your company’s advantage?

User-generated content can be more effective than your own marketing content to drive sales. Recent reports have shown that 70% of consumers place more value on the reviews and recommendations of their peers than on professionally-written content. To them, user-generated content is more authentic, more trustworthy, and more likely to include unbiased and unfiltered information.

User-generated content is content that is created by your audience. It could be anything from product reviews, posts on social media or forums, blog posts, or any other testimonial. In short, and for the purposes of this discussion, user-generated content is “any type of content that’s relevant to the company and created by the user.” Of course, not all user-generated content can help you to drive sales -- ideally, it should be used to target your prospective customers at strategic points in their sales cycle, such as during the decision-making process just prior to purchasing.

Here is a look at some different types of user-generated content that you can include on your website and how they can help your sales process.

User Reviews

Reviews of products or services are the most common form of user-generated content, and also the most important. Econsultancy reports that 61% of customers read user reviews before making a purchase, and 63% of potential customers are more likely to make a purchase from a website that includes user reviews. Services like Reevoo, Trustpilot, and e-commerce platforms like Shopify provide opportunities for your customers to leave reviews on your products and services, which are then published to your website. This helps to resolve purchase anxiety, which is one of the primary reasons that potential customers may abandon their purchase before completing it.

Regardless of the tool that you use, remember that you have to ask your customers to submit a review. You’re more likely to receive one if you prompt them to do so.

Testimonials

Similar to reviews, testimonials are the opinions of your customers about your products or services, but it’s understood that the company chooses which testimonials to display on their website -- obviously, only the most favourable. They may not carry the same weight as user reviews because your audience will know that they’re cherry picked, but because you control the messaging you can use them to tell the story you want to tell.

Community Content

Providing a forum for your customers to discuss your products or services may not seem like an effective form of user-generated content to drive sales, but it benefits you in another way. Every post, question, or response will be scanned and indexed by search engines, which will help your SEO efforts to generate qualified traffic.

But more importantly, you can use this content as research to help you better understand what it is about your company that resonates with your customers or what pain points they might be experiencing. Armed with this information, you can refine and optimize the content on your website to better tailor it for your audience and their needs.

Wrapping Up

Your customers will already be talking about your products and services online, so why not delegate some of your brand building responsibilities to them? It’s unique, authentic, trustworthy, and will help you to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into customers. And it gives you valuable real-time insight into their thoughts and behaviours. Asking for reviews, using the best ones as testimonials, and providing a forum for community content are all effective ways to help your customers create content for your website on your behalf.