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User-generated data: Customer insights straight from the source

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Technical Writer

Think about the conversations at the last party you went to. Likely the majority of guests were patiently, or impatiently, waiting for their turn to share a story. We are drawn to those who can tell enticing stories about themselves. Most of those lasting conversations with strangers venture deeper than small talk because the people have something in common.

These truths of human nature are the main reason that user-generated data is an exceptionally powerful and useful tool for businesses. According to TechTarget, user-generated content, which results in user-generated data, is an unpaid contribution to a website in the form of a photo, blog post, discussion or forum thread, poll response or social media interaction. A Nielsen survey found that 92 percent of consumers trust word-of-mouth above all other forms of advertising, especially through these channels. Online reviews came in second, with 70 percent of consumers trusting them.

For telecommunications providers, your services are integrated throughout most of your customers' daily lives, including when they are calling loved ones, surfing the Internet and watching their favorite shows. This means that customers have many opportunities to be inspired to create both solicited and unsolicited content about your products and services.

Unsolicited user-generated content and data

One of the two types of user-generated data is that which consumers create on their own without being prompted. It typically comes in the form of online reviews and social media posts. This type of data is powerful because it expresses customers' true feelings and gives accurate insight into what really matters to them. It is important to mine social media and review posts about competitors to pinpoint competitive advantages and dissatisfied customers. You should also monitor unsolicited user-generated data related to other industries to gain an even clearer picture of your target audience's priorities.

However, it's also essential to understand the type of data that can be gathered from each individual social media network. A 2014 Business Insider Intelligence report found that Facebook and Twitter are the prime social media networks for determining what people care about, with 2.7 billion likes per day and 143,199 tweets per second globally. This information can then be analyzed for insights to influence marketing campaigns, content generation or partnerships.

Additionally, because YouTube is watched by more U.S. adults aged 18 to 34 than any single cable network, it is an ideal channel for insight from this valuable demographic. To a lesser extent, your company can mine Foursquare to learn where customers travel daily and what businesses they frequent.

Campaigns for user engagement

A prime source of user-generated data is in campaigns that encourage customers to create content around a certain theme or answer questions via a poll or survey. This type of user input is especially valuable because consumers typically share their work through social media, allowing companies to gain valuable public insight. As reported by Postano, T-Mobile conducted an exceptionally effective user-generated content campaign where the company paid the early termination fee for competitors' customers as long as they posted a breakup letter to their mobile carriers on Facebook. This generated 80,000 breakup letters.

Many businesses overlook a critical step when aiming for marketing mileage: designing campaigns to ensure that the results give you valuable insights. In an article for the Content Marketing Institute, Jessica Ann recommended that businesses should focus on how data and content is created. When building a campaign for your customers, you should ask three essential questions. First, do you want your user-generated content to inform or entertain? Second, where do your customers hang out on social media? Finally, why will customers be creating content? By understanding the reasons and motivations for individuals' involvement, you'll be able to better choose how and where to use the gathered content.

Simply collecting user-generated data isn't enough to make an impact on your bottom line. It must then be used to improve customer service, attract new customers, launch effective marketing campaigns or influence new products.

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