Content marketing is important, yet time consuming. You could spend 60 hours a week writing original content and still not maximize your brand’s potential. There’s no such thing as too much quality content and time will always be a limiting factor.

The solution to this conundrum is to develop a content strategy that allows you to pull from multiple sources – including your customers. In the opinion of expert Eric Siu, “Good content marketing strategies draw on a range of user-generated sources to both grow online communities and minimize financial investment.”

User-generated content is a pretty straightforward term for an incredibly valuable resource. As the name suggests, it’s content that’s created by customers and published in conjunction with your brand. It could refer to guest blog posts, video testimonials, original visuals, or anything in between.

5 Ways to Harvest User-Generated Content

The issue most brands struggle with isn’t grasping the value of user-generated content. Rather, it’s finding ways to source user-generated content. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Provide a Platform for Recognition

For a lot of customers, all it takes is a little bit of recognition and they’re more than willing to create some original content for your brand. For example, there are a lot of aspiring writers who would love to have an article featured on your company blog with nothing more than a byline in return. The same goes for amateur photographers. If that’s all it takes to get some regular contributors, you’d be crazy not to pursue user-generated content.

  1. Host a Contest

Maybe a byline isn’t enough. If that’s the case, a social media contest could ramp up the excitement level.

“Well-designed contests immediately answer the basic question: ‘What’s in it for me?’ Through awards of cash, merchandise, free service and even recognition, you can encourage your readers to help you generate original content–content that will help you build your business and deliver value to your visitors,” says marketer Corey Post.

  1. Make it Easy

You have to make it super easy for your users if you stand a chance of gathering enough content to move the needle. Don’t make them jump through hoops to contribute content. It should be as simple as allowing them to submit a piece of original work by uploading a post, sending an email, or sending a direct message.

  1. Just Ask

Have you ever tried asking for content? A lot of businesses complain about not being able to collect user-generated content, but when you really probe them, it becomes clear they’ve never explicitly asked. Send out an email or put a little blurb up on your blog. You’d be surprised how many people want to get involved (especially if there’s something to be gained on their end).

  1. Curate Existing Content

You may not even have to get users to generate new content. Instagram, for example, is a goldmine for existing user-generated content. Check out what your followers have shared in the past and ask for permission to repost the same content on your own profiles (with attribution, of course). With the ability to schedule posts in advance, you can fill up two or three weeks worth of social media content in a single day using this method.

Put Your Customers to Work

Content is important, but you can’t afford to spend all of your time producing original content. You have other responsibilities to tend to and not enough time to deal with them. By putting your customers to work and collecting user-generated content, you can simultaneously relieve one of your biggest burdens and make customers feel special. What are you waiting for?