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Making the most of user-generated content–online and in print

For several years now, journalists have been newsgathering online, and using what they have sourced across all their channels – including print, radio, websites and TV. Now communications and marketing teams need to do the same, because what happens online cannot only stay online.


We all engage with user-generated content on a daily basis – offline and online. It’s everywhere: from radio phone-ins to book reviews on Amazon; hotel recommendations on TripAdvisor to vox-pops in news reports; from customer reviews to magazine letters pages.

To communicators, user-generated content is the holy grail. It lends authenticity and colour to everything it touches. It provides peer-to-peer endorsement that’s highly trusted by potential customers and gives existing customers a sense of belonging and recognition. That’s why writers, communicators and marketing professionals have historically put so much time and money into gathering it from offline sources.

But now, with the advent of digital tools, it’s a case of sitting back and watching the content flow in, because users are generating it constantly.

This change in sourcing presents new opportunities. Finding the location of the perfect user-generated content could boost your messages and maximise the potential of this rich seam when creating new branded content.

For instance, is the photograph you want to commission already on Flickr; the comment you want to collect already on Twitter; or the case study you want to discover already on a forum or online community?

Most companies have Twitter, Flickr, Facebook pages or online forums. But where else are their best advocates leaving content – perhaps in their own accounts and on blogs? Take time to find out. And check your rights to using it. A company may own the copyright if user-generated content is posted on their site. But copyright may be owned by the individual if content is posted elsewhere, so you may need to contact users to ask permission.

In-house digital teams are not just monitors of user-generated or online content. They also need to be the recorders and gatherers of it so it can be tailored, developed and dispersed across all types of media – be that company websites, publications, advertisements and leaflets.

The concept of user-generated content is so much part and parcel of almost all information today that any communications without it look old-fashioned and lifeless. And if you need some specific content, what better way of finding it than through digital channels? Whether it’s by way of a competition or just a straight question to the online community, the quality and speed of content on the web will give you more engaging copy much more quickly.


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