touchscreen interfaceSocial media seems to have taken over the world. If you’ve looked into new strategies for driving attention to your brand, you’re probably well aware of this. You’ve also likely learned that your website is critical for providing information about your brand and promoting certain actions. Lately, a new trend has emerged, a trend that combines the appeal of social networks with the important foundation laid by websites: user-generated content.

User-generated web content allows your customers and fans to talk for your brand on your own website. Any time content comes from real users of a service or product, instead of from the company or brand doing the marketing, it boosts credibility. This makes user-generated content a valuable option for any brand looking to take its marketing efforts to the next level in an organic, simple way.

Wondering how to promote user-generated content on your website? Check out the following options.

Before-and-After Pictures

If you have a product or service that can increase the visual appeal of anything – an actual person, a home space, an automobile – then you have an excellent opportunity for requesting before-and-after pictures that could be highlighted on your page. There’s no better way to promote a product than by showing real-life examples of what it can do.

Custom-door company Clopay uses its blog to highlight user-generated before-and-after pictures on a regular basis. Website visitors don’t have to wonder or worry about if other customers are happy with their purchases; they can see the proof on the company’s website. This was effective enough to get me to spend over 10 minutes browsing their site even though I previously had no interest in a new garage door.

Just Ask

If you have loyal customers – no matter how small that group might be – you probably have users that are interested in contributing to your site and to the success of your brand. This is where just asking might be effective.

Send out an email blast to your customer list. Thank them for their business and support over the years and ask if they’d be interested in providing videos, photos or other content for your website. You might be surprised at their response.

Host a Contest Using Hashtags

There’s nothing social media users like more than a contest with a shot at prizes. Why not bring that excitement to your website?

By hosting a contest on Twitter or Instagram, you can invite fans and followers to participate, market your brand and share submissions on your website to generate excitement. To start, pick a unique hashtag that’s easy to remember and relates to your brand. Then, share it with your social followers. Outline the contest rules – “post a picture this week of XYZ product at work along with the hashtag #XYZ,” for example. At the end of the contest period, choose a winner and share submissions on your website.

Om Nom Nom Cookies did this on Instagram by encouraging users to post pictures of themselves with cookies. There’s no better way to generate buzz than by getting followers in on the action.

Set up a Feedback Form

Sometimes a simple testimonial can go a long way. When a potential customer is on the fence, reading about success stories might be what drives a conversion.

Gathering feedback doesn’t have to be complicated. Set up a Web form on your home page along with an email campaign that goes out to customers who have completed transactions. Check responses regularly and post those that provide credibility for your brand. Be sure to include a notice on your feedback form that responses may be shared to protect your liability, just in case. Then post the best quotes on your testimonial page.

Create a Forum

Sometimes, especially for brands, interacting on social networks can be difficult. Because social networks are designed for individual users, there are multiple distractions that drive attention away from your brand. Why not create a forum on your website that provides insight into your product while allowing users to interact in real time?

Sephora – a beauty products company – set up a discussion forum on its website. Users can ask questions and receive answers, highlight products in use and connect with one another. At the same time, new visitors to the site can see what users of the products have to say instead of relying on the brand itself.

User-generated content is an excellent, proven method of increasing brand attention while boosting credibility. Try one of the tips above, or think outside the box and come up with something new, to take your website to the next level.

Scott Huntington is a writer and blogger. He lives in Pennsylvania and with his wife and son, writing about social media and doing research for UB Solutions. Follow Scott at @SMHuntington.