User-generated content (UGC), otherwise known as consumer generated media (CGM), is arguably the strongest aspect of social media marketing. You can consider user-generated content any blog, video, meme, comment or review created by a non-professional entity made to be publicly shared on the web. Those of us who want to strengthen their visibility on social media (both brand and user) must engage, share and repurpose user-generated content effectively and responsibly.
In healthcare marketing, these needs must also be met, but it can be a little tricky when regulation and confidentiality conflict with sharing relevant content made by someone else. First let's explore the appeal of user-generated content.
The effectiveness of UGC stems from the psychological nature of trust and social proof. Online, we are inundated with media shared by our friends and interests—entities we have chosen to trust and follow. Depending on who we follow, the content we see is often a mixture between user-generated, sponsored or journalistic news. Genuine content created by an unsponsored source is more trustworthy, more approachable and more inviting than a obvious marketing message. Why? Because it is relatable. It was made by a person just like me and you, not a corporate entity, and there is no clear marketing agenda behind its creation. It's social content in its most natural form. When brands and advertisers share and reuse UGC, they reflect that relatability onto their followers and, in doing so, inject a marketing message through a positive association that shared content evokes. This, essentially, is the marketing value of a retweet, a re-pin, a revine or a share.
Proper use of UGC is to leverage the social proof behind a particular piece of content. If a piece of content found online positively aligns with your social goals (i.e. branding), then you should share it! This is a key aspect of how social networks operate. However, we can’t just share anything. User-generated content is owned by the creator. If used improperly, marketers can easily infringe on a creator's intellectual property or privacy, resulting in harsh legal ramifications. (Take a look at this slideshare by Nevium. It shows how to assess IP infringement damages on social media). That being said, how can healthcare marketers navigate between the legal reuse of content and strict compliance regulations? Nowhere is this more important than in online healthcare marketing.
When sharing UGC, transparency is vital. Just like in journalism, accurate attribution of a piece of content’s source is not only ethically responsible, but also generates trust through transparency. If you see the perfect image on Pinterest, or if you read a great blog on Twitter, do your best to find the creator’s name and tag (him/her/it) in your reuse. If you use someone else’s content and post it as your own, without attribution, you are stealing.
Today, most digital content is optimized to be shared via social media. That must mean all publicly shared social content is fair game to be reused, right? Wrong. Experience has taught me that just because it's on the web, doesn’t mean it was intended to be shared. Personal content shared without consent, even with attribution, can infringe on a user’s privacy. If you come across must-share content that would be great to republish on social, consider (1) your source and (2) the possible breach of personal privacy. This especially applies to patient confidentiality, where media published about recent visitors or past patients may violate HIPAA regulations.
There are several different ways to search for, acquire and reuse user-generated content as a healthcare marketer. Below are three successful examples:
Shared user-generated content encourages conversation. It reveals to your following that this particular page stays up-to-date and tuned-in on relevant subject matter. The best type of social media content for healthcare institutions is emotional and informational—better yet if it comes from an enthusiastic patient or customer; just make sure to respect the legal and ethical boundaries expected from you as a healthcare marketer.
Photo Credit: wcct, Jonathan Cohen, Mathew Lucas