The Benefits of User Generated Content

As a website owner and content producer, there is always a stress to be producing more. More content, more images, more video. Just more.

And this content takes a lot of time and effort to produce, which is why they say today that every website owner is also a publisher. There is really no way around this.

But one method of producing content, without the time associated with it is by letting the users do it for you. This is called User Generated Content or UGC.

Benefits and Impact of User Generated Content

And in a post on SEMRush they have talked about many of the benefits associated with using such UGC content on branded websites such as yours. Another post you might like to read where many more benefits are mentioned is this one here.

There is also a lot of impact associated with having user generated content on your site as well, as covered in this detailed post.

Different Types of User Generated Content

It is easy to talk about user generated content without telling you the options, so first let us take a look at those.

There are a few user generated content options you can choose, depending on the kind of site you have and the users you want to have produce.

Forum

One of the oldest, yet most useful forms of UGC is forum content. This is where you have discussion centred around topics and categories of your choice. They will of course depend on the topic of your website.

So one example of this could be a website for dog owners, and the forum could be a place where owners talk about problems and training method related to their dogs. There are many other possible discussion topics, and the content generated by the users themselves can be immense.

Reviews

Amazon is perhaps the biggest and most well known of all the user generated content sites in the world. They have made it possible to create reviews and lists and other user generated content that means that apart from listing their products, the users do all the work. At least, it can seem that way.

In fact in some cases, the very top reviewers on Amazon get some additional benefits than just being well known.

User reviews are a great way of creating useful content for e-commerce stores, and also differentiating yourself in search results from your competition. Why is this important? well you have to imagine that all websites with the same products will often have the exact same description that was created by the manufacturer. People are lazy, that is true. So by having your own reviews on the product page, you are creating unique content that Google can index and rank you higher in the search result pages for.

Comments

Most websites have blog posts, and at the bottom of those blog posts are often reader’s comments on the content of the post itself. This is a perfect way of extending the content itself, especially if the topic is worthy of deep discussion. Often some blog posts on popular blogs can number in the hundreds, and extend the content way beyond the original post itself. Obviously this is a great place for readers to come and discuss issues on your website as well as create content for Google to index.

Video and Image Submission

With the web moving more towards the visual, people are more than happy to create and upload content to your website that is either images or videos. Competitions are one of the best ways to make use of this trend, rewarding your readers for uploading the best or most creative image or video centred around your product. What better advertising and content is there, than user created, based on your products and numbering in the hundreds. Many successful brands have leveraged this idea to huge success.

Conclusion

There are lots of benefits and impact of user generated content on your website as we have covered in this post. But on top of this, you have lots of options to add this type of content and created it without even lifting a finger. Ok you have to do a little bit, but not as much as you might think.

Experiment with it on your website and let us know how you get on.

The Role of Images in Social Media

Things are always changing in Social Media as we know. We never really have time to get bored. Some say it is a blessing?

One of the major things that has been happening in social media as technology improves is that images are starting to play a far bigger role.

Social Media Image Networks

One of the prominent changes is that actual networks have emerged, that are almost completely image based. You could say they are filling a niche, but perhaps in reality it is moving with the times and putting images as the priority.

A few of the networks that are doing this, you probably know well, are:

Facebook has even noticed the importance on images on their network and bought Instagram as a result. Or perhaps to stop anyone else doing it.

Social Media Using Images

On the other hand, we have older social media networks that are evolving and using images more and more.

As I mentioned above, you have Facebook where images are one of the dominant forms of media and accounts for a large proportion of engagement on there.

Then we have Twitter, who has added images, as somewhat of an afterthought, but they are also starting to stand out in people’s Twitter streams as you can see in the screenshot below.

Images on Twitter

Where do you Find Images?

One of the biggest problems for bloggers and social media users alike is where to find images?

There are a lot of stock photography outlets where you can pay to use an image.

Or you can go via the Creative Commons route, where images are usually available for free under a variety of conditions.

Sometimes, if you are lucky, there are simply photographers who provide images for you to use free of charge and with absolutely no restrictions, even not creative commons.

Here are a few of the lists I have found recently of image websites that you might want to check out in your quest for the perfect social media image:

http://restaurantcoverings.com/free-stock-photos/

http://designyourownblog.com/blog-design-resources/the-big-guide-to-free-images-for-your-blog-posts-part-2-creative-commons/

What size image do you need?

Another common issue people have with social media, is what exact size to use for optimal scaling on each social media platform. They are all different, and to make it even more complex, they change their sizes all the time, often because the layout of their tools change.

But luckily for us, Sprout Social is keeping an up to date list of all of the social media platforms and the image sizes you need to be aware of. I have this bookmarked so that I can always refer to it if I am unsure of what image size to use on social media.

And remember, it is not just the shared images you need to know the sizes for, it is also the images you use on your pages/profiles. They also have very specific sizes that you need to adhere to.

Final Thoughts on Images

Social media images are here to stay, and as I mentioned a while back, other media are also starting to poke their head into social, with the recent addition of Twitter Audio Cards.

So nothing is ever constant, and visuals are here to stay!

Using LinkedIn To Your Advantage

LinkedIn

A lot of people ignore LinkedIn because they think it is just a place to go when you are looking for a new job. As a results, people only put their job information on there and forget about it.

For your average Joe, this might certainly be the end of the story. New job, no more LinkedIn. But for a business owner, and social media saavy person, you need to know there is far more possibilities in LinkedIn than in almost any other social platform out there. Especially if we are talking B2B interactions, which many of us are.

LinkedIn Connections

The key to using LinkedIn correctly is to grow and leverage your connections. Many people just collect them and then forget about them. But, like any network that you have, on or offline, you have to nurture it in order for it to be active, useful and not die.

So one of the rules I use, when talking about LinkedIn Connections, is to actively communicate with your connections on a monthly basis. It is the same thing with email, if you are doing that as well.

Stay in Touch

You want to send your connections useful and interesting stuff, to keep them active and also to show your expertise. This could mean finding some great content through something like Feedly, were you keep a list of RSS feeds of blogs that you read, or just something that you saw fly by on Twitter or Google+. Wherever you are most at home, make a habit of filing useful information and sending it to your connections, like a little gift that they will thank you for. Maybe now, or maybe in the future.

Find New Connections

There are quite a few restrictions when it comes to searching within LinkedIn, but they also provide a powerful search. So in many ways, it is a double-edged sword.

I recommend making use of your circle of connections to find people that are interesting to you and your business and to make use of teh powerful search that they provide. You can really hone your search by things like:

  • keywords
  • location
  • level of connection
  • in-depth parts of their experience
  • name

and much much more. It really is a very powerful tool if you use it the right way.

LinkedIn Advanced SearchLinkedIn Groups

Another area I really recommend you get involved in on LinkedIn, is the groups area. You can not only find some really interesting discussions and information, but you can interact with people with similar ideas there as well.

I use groups in a number of ways. Firstly I join the ones that are in my niche, so that I can get to know some of my peers and see what is new and interesting in Social Media.

But, I also join groups outside of my niche, targeting specific groups that I think are a good fit for the things that I offer as a service. So then, you can come in at the right moment and answer questions about your specialty and perhaps make some business at the same time. Be careful how you go about this, as people do not appreciate being spammed just because they are in your group. So please be polite, respectful and helpful. and business will come as a result.

If you need some more ideas and detailed information on LinkedIn Groups, I suggest reading this article from Forbes which is a valuable resource.

LinkedIn Publishing

This is a new area of LinkedIn and not something I necessarily recommend everyone get involved in. It is like blogging, so time consuming. And if you have trouble already keeping up with your blog, then it will be difficult. But if you are very focused on LinkedIn, and have a little time to share your thoughts with your connections, then it is worthwhile.

I would however, focus on your blog first, as you own your website. Not only that, but the reach of your blog is far outside LinkedIn.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of options and ideas for using LinkedIn to your advantage, and I certainly hope you take advantage of them. If you have any other ideas or questions, please comment below
photo credit: Coletivo Mambembe via photopin cc

New Twitter Audio Cards – Great for Musicians

You probably think Twitter is just for text, right?

Twitter Audio CardYou know, 140 characters and nothing more.

Originally based on the SMS system, back before data was available on cellphones. Twitter was all about text.

But social media is changing. And Twitter is adapting too. They have been slowly adapting over the years adding things like

  • images
  • links
  • video
  • and much more

Twitter Cards

A lot of the more complex ways that Twitter is expanding is through their so called Twitter cards system.

They have lots of card types already available to help people send Tweets that are very helpful to many different kinds of companies and marketers. Some of the types include:

  • Summary Card (default size)
  • Summary Card (Large Image)
  • Photo Card
  • Gallery Card  (Collection of four photos)
  • App Card (Direct App download)
  • Player Card (video/audio/media)
  • Product Card (Product information)
  • Lead Generation (opt in form)

Many of these cards have been rolled out over time to allow Twitter to expand beyond it’s original idea and keep up with the Jones’ so to speak.

Twitter Audio Card

The latests addition, which I kinda gave away at the top there, is the addition of the Twitter Audio Card.

Designed to have in app or in website playing of audio media, this kind of card is obviously directed at audio producers such as:

  • musicians
  • podcasters

Approved Tweeters

At the moment Twitter is slowly rolling this out to approved tweeters, but I am sure as time goes on that this will become generally available as all other cards have.

So if you are an audiophile, or simply an audio lover, then stay tuned for this next wave of changes to Twitter.

Is Facebook Only Pay to Play?

Is Facebook Pay To Play?
You might have noticed that things have changed on Facebook over the last year or so.

Not only is Mark Zuckerberg opening up and speaking to the public more, but Facebook is making money and is moving higher in price on the NASDAQ, instead of downwards!

Making Money Online

Like any successful online website with no business model to begin with, Facebook has had to start charging for something. And that something is exposure for business on its website. This has annoyed many people but ultimately is it unfair to have to pay?

After all, when you do anything in business, whether it is rent some office space, buy a car, have an ad for a billboard made, it costs money. One way or another. So why should it be any different online?

If you use any high-powered tools online, you might already be used to paying for something. Maybe it is to use Spotify or Google Drive extra storage? But you are probably paying for something.

The issue has perhaps come from the fact that in the beginning, when the web was big and in transition. everything was free. The New York Times had to give away content for free. They still had their physical papers to sell. At least in the beginning.

But what did Facebook have to make money with in the end?

Your data. And so Facebook Ads was born.

Facebook Ads

It may have seemed a long time in the making, but Facebook had to make some money somehow. Even though in the beginning, their IPO was a bit of a flop. Their recent 50% increase in revenue means they are making an impact with Facebook Ads.

Facebook Ads are starting to give Google Adwords a run for its money?

Only time will tell, but Facebook ads are a different beast to what is going on on Google.

Google Ads are for people looking for something. They are using search, and you are placing an ad that matches what they are looking for, more or less.

With Facebook you are targeting someone based on what they like. Who they are. Where they live, and what they do. But you are “annoying” them while they are having fun with family and friends, not while they are looking for your product or service specifically.

So running a Facebook ad campaign is a different thing, and you need to have a different idea in mind. But the power to target people is far greater than anything Google has ever been able to provide us with.

In fact, Facebook are now starting to work together with companies, at least in the USA, to provide spending data. So they are marrying that with what they know about you, and allowing advertisers to target us based on things we just bought too.

Scary? perhaps, but they have to make the platform more powerful and appealing to take the money away from Google, who has dominated online advertising for so long.

Pay to Play

And what this means for business is that Facebook has slowly turned the flow off for free traffic. By forcing businesses to pay, even for a post’s exposure, they are making us pay to play.

You might not want to advertise on Facebook, but even if you have a following, that have liked your business page, you will find that your reach has diminished to an ever-decreasing position. A place where you now have to pay.

But one final word on this. Facebook is not going to turn back on the freebies we were getting, and are perhaps addicted to as businesses. So you either have to find a new platform, like Pinterest, or pay. And even now Pinterest is starting to implement paid features. So nothing is free forever, and perhaps it should not be either?

Happy to hear your comments, and experiences below.

 
Image from