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July 16, 2020

No Time for Content Creation? Let Your Fans Do the Work for You

By Hannah Stonehouse Hudson

Let’s face it. Not everyone’s a creative genius. But keeping your customers interested in the products and services you offer—and drawing the interest of people who should be your customers—requires being creative on some level.

When it comes to marketing your FFL or range through today’s many social media channels, creativity in the content you post is essential. But for those lacking the ability to come up with peppy tag lines, take eye-catching photos or stream a live video without mumbling and saying “um” every other word, content creation can become an odious task. Even if that’s not you but you find yourself with little time to do more than reply “yes,” “no” or “call us for more information,” creating user-generated content can ease the pain.

Can I Have That Photo?

User-generated content can be as simple as asking your audience for the content, or as complicated as setting up an online contest with big prizes in exchange for customer images and videos. Either way, the good news is that your biggest fans want to provide others the content they’ve created—everyone wants their time in the spotlight—they just don’t know if you want it or how to get it to you.

Why should you create a user-generated content strategy? Primarily because it gives you engaging content your users will want to interact with because they created it. Fans and followers who provide you content that works in tandem with your products or offerings, content that you then post, are proud of that—and when that happens, they’ll share those posts more than usual.

Let’s say you sold a semi-custom 1911-style pistol to a customer who’s been shooting IPSC for a while but is starting to get serious about it. She messages you on Facebook that not only did she love the new gun, in her first match with it she won her class for the first time. You make a new post of that story, tagging her, and she shares that on her feed, saying “Hey, everyone, did you see that Supercalifragilistic Firearms posted my story about the match win I had with the new Whiz-Bang .45 I bought from them?”

Think such a post might have you reordering a few more handguns and ammunition to fill the empty spaces on your shelves?

It’s not hard to see that this kind of user-generated content creates posts with your products and services in them that are not “salesy” in any way. These posts give your audience an idea of what products and services they could purchase from you, and so you’ve become a resource for them.

Five Ways to Create a User-Generated Content Strategy

1. Photo or Video Contests

There are a variety of ways to do these. You can use formatted systems like ViralSweeps to have your fans and followers opt-in to rules and submit the images. You can also ask your followers to send their photos through email, Facebook Messenger or as a comment on a post. Keep in mind that if you don’t use ViralSweeps or a similar platform, make sure to explicitly follow the contest rules the social media platform has in place or your account could be taken down. Also make sure you include a way for all parties participating in your contest to provide permission for you to use their images/videos/text in your communications, social media or otherwise.

Once you have all the entries in at deadline, you will of course feature the winner of the contest. But you have lots of other photos that didn’t take top prize, and that’s content you can use all year long. Reward those people who participated in the contest. Share their photos every couple weeks, caption them, say that even though they didn’t win you loved the pic and can’t wait to see them in your store again, tell them you have a new deer pee scent to reel in a bigger buck or that you’ve got a new powder in stock that’ll tighten up that .280 Ackley Improved round they’re playing with. Just as with the winning IPSC shooter above, these people will also share your post about them, which will spread to their friends and others and so on. But then post other entries throughout the year with captions you supply.

2. Themed Days

Expand beyond “Throwback Thursday” and make a regular day of the week or month fan and client-centered. Try “Member Monday,” for instance, in which you ask your members to submit a short bio and have them tell you about their favorite thing to do on your range (either in text or video form). Voila, you have content you can post to the platform of your choice.

3. Schedule a Hashtag Campaign

This one is a little different because you will not be asking your followers to submit content ahead of time and you will not be posting directly to your platform. Instead, you’ll be sharing from their page or Instagram feed to your Facebook page or Instagram Story. Create a fun, branded hashtag, schedule a day to feature it and then promote the hashtag campaign in your social posts and emails. For added “oomph” ask your biggest fans or influencers to encourage their fans and followers to hashtag their posts with them on the scheduled day. On the day of the hashtag campaign, reshare some of the best images to your Facebook pages and Instagram stories.

4. Ask for Comments on a Facebook Post

Make a post that says, “Comment with a favorite photo of you with your ____” or something similar. You will get an incredible amount of comments—valuable content—from this! Sure, you could simply make the post, watch the comments roll in and leave it at that, but if you download the images that people share (after you have asked for and received explicit permission to share that content) with the name of the person and the date. Put those images in a desktop folder marked with the subject matter, and then can use these photos later in other posts when you are running low on banked content. Again, this gives your customers their moment in the sun, they’ll share those posts and your reach to other people will expand.

5. Testimonials

Ask your favorite customers (your “super fans”) if they would like to create a testimonial. This can be in either video or image with a caption form. To make it easy, create a workflow that creates an email with a Google Doc link. They can upload their video or image there, and then you can schedule the content to share.

Three User-Generated Content Musts

There are three very important points with any user-generated content that you need to remember and employ diligently:

  1. NEVER share without asking permission to post the image.
  2. ALWAYS credit the image or video in the post.
  3. ALWAYS ask further permission if you would like to use the image or video in an ad.

If you follow these rules, you will avoid copyright issues and PR problems that run from a bad headache to nightmare status. Remember, the internet loves drama, and someone posting “So-and-so used my photo without asking” can quickly turn ugly.

Take Easy Street

The key to creating a successful user-generated content strategy is to make collecting the content as easy as possible for your fan base and cataloging the content as easy as possible for you. If your fans can’t get it to you, and you can’t find it after the fact, the strategy will fall flat. Make sure that with any of the strategies above you choose the easiest (and, of course, legal) way of collecting and cataloging the content. If you’re either lacking that creative bent in your gray matter or just don’t have time to write, film or host snappy postings, this approach will surely ease the burden of creating the content you need to keep your current customers engaged and attract the many new clients who could benefit from the great products and services you have to offer.

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