Corporate Eye

How to Motivate Your Customers to Market For You: User-Generated Content

A social phenomenon sprouted in the early 1990s with the introduction of the Internet. Since then, traditional customer engagement has been derailed, shifting from one-way marketing to marketing based primarily on consumer trust and loyalty. The appearance of user-generated content in 2005 further fueled this shift. User generated traffic is now the guiding force propelling organizations forward one reader at a time.

User-generated content is any online content produced by a member of the general public as opposed to paid professionals. The most common forms include blogs, forums, wikis, and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

User-generated content is profitable in several ways:

  1. Enriches user experience: The user feels a sense of community
  2. Increases page rank: Social search is quickly becoming a mainstay in Google’s ranking process
  3. Improves customer loyalty and trust: Direct interaction with the brand and company are far more effective than traditional advertising.
  4. Enhances the interactivity of the website: Interactivity leads to engagement, which then encourages the user to justify their time-investment

But the question lingers…why would someone write for your company? For free?

Motivation: The Remedy for Impossible

There are many theories on sources of motivation. The concepts of implicit and explicit incentives explain why customers will voluntarily create user-generated content.

Implicit incentives meet unconscious needs, and appeal to the emotions and traits. The effects of these types of incentives are stable over time, energizing people through social interaction.

In contrast, explicit incentives meet conscious needs and their effect doesn’t typically last as long. Based on tangible rewards, these incentives appeal to the attitudes and choices of the individual. They are not energizing with mere pursuit; they are only rewarding once the goal has been met.

Connecting with the customer is key when approaching user-generated content.  Once organizations establish trust with their customers, they find that providing the correct type of motivation makes the creation of user generated content much easier.  Here are several motivation tips:

  • Implicitly motivate your customers – This revolves around the concept of community involvement. By offering social incentives that make the user feel part of a community, organizations can increase amounts of user-generated content. Examples include rewarding participation with badges to mark their ‘status’ on the website. Increases in status may or may not be associated with increase in privileges.
  • Explicitly motivate your customers – This involves tangible rewards that directly benefit the user. These can include incentives such as vouchers, financial payment, or coupons that reward the user for creating content.


 As marketing techniques continue to polarize, the divide between online and offline advertising will continue to grow. It is crucial that organizations stay up-to-date on the current trends. But as the Internet continues to consume the marketing turf, it is difficult to know which trends to follow and which trends will fizzle out. User generated content is a trend with well-established reputation for success. Thus it is safe to invest in this rapidly moving social phenomenon.


For information on implicit and explicit motivation (Schultheiss et al, 2009)