In September 2010, Corrine Schmid addressed the risk that user generated content poses for a company’s content strategy. While it’s true that if left unchecked content generated by users or employees can work against an organization’s effort to control its message, new studies suggest that user-generated content can provide great benefits.

CMOs Embrace User Generated Content

According to a report by Bazaarvoice and the CMO Club, social media had become an key component of executive marketing strategies by the end of 2010, with 90% of chief marketing officers participating in three or more social media activities.

While it’s no mystery that proving ROI with social media is not always easy, CMOs are investing time to explore how social strategy might generate revenue. The study shows that a majority (96%) of CMOs seem to be looking beyond sales goals and web metrics to measure how social media might deliver strong insights that lead to innovations and improvements within a company and across industries.

Engaging Customers With Their Own Words

Using social media as a customer engagement tool is not a new concept, but the report shows that 73% of surveyed CMOs are facilitating customer ratings and reviews, with 59% reporting average or significant ROI -- making ratings and reviews the top social strategy to generate measurable return, followed by corporate/brand communities (56%), corporate blogs (48%), Facebook (45%) and Twitter (31%).

Despite the fact that half of the CMOs surveyed said that no real revenue could be legitimately linked to social media, 74% of them are confident that they will find the “missing link” between social media and cold hard cash in 2011.

If marketing departments are so sure they’ll strike gold in social media, how exactly do they expect to do so? And what can you do to maximize your efforts across multiple social channels?

  • Soliciting customer information: Companies can use various forms of user-generated content to inform product and service decisions, such as customer polling, Twitter comments, ratings and reviews, and product suggestions.
  • Showcasing customer stories: Popular and most-used types of user-generated content included customer stories, product suggestions and ideas, and customer reviews, which can help promote brands effectively without having to draft concepts or custom copy.
  • Engaging with customers: By contributing regularly to company blogs, company/brand communities or popular social networks like Facebook, companies can directly engage with customers to share ideas and opinions.

The Future of Social Media Marketing

As social media becomes more familiar to marketers, CMOs have less to fear about embracing it and more to lose by not. The voice of customers can bea  powerful marketing tool if harnessed appropriately. Companies should not only provide opportunities for customers to share their ideas, insights and feedback about products and services, but implement social media marketing campaigns that can serve as a catalyst for product and company innovation, which as it turns out might be worth more than just cold hard cash.