Whenever creating any form of content, the customer should be at the heart of its intentions. It’s for them after all. But why not make it by them?

There are many ways of curating content from your audience, and it’s a tactic that bigger brands are leading the way in creating.

Sometimes the experiences are seemingly coincidental, much like this letter to Sainsbury’s from a little girl about ‘giraffe’ bread, or they are meticulously planned such as the Google Stories campaign. Either way, they make fantastic content that gets shared all across the web (and often beyond).

You don’t need monumental teams or budgets to curate and you needn’t try and stick rigidly to particular methods either, as there are several steps you can take in order utilise this technique in any business. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Consider your brand principles

First and foremost, you should think about what your brand stands for. Try and avoid the clichés of “excellent customer service” and delve deeper into your mission statement. Carefully consider how your offer helps people out, and what emotions are connected to that.

Also factor in any community involvement that your business has, and any charities or rights it is passionate about. These elements are all relevant to the larger picture that is your brand.

Brainstorm and write down all of these ideas and any relatable themes. Once your principles are clearly defined, you can begin to approach your customers for their views and experiences based around these areas in order to create content that delivers on a more emotionally provocative scale.

KFC did this particularly well during the Christmas holidays last year with their Unite campaign. The overriding principle was the idea of bringing people together, and with a successful TV ad and Twitter hashtag (#UniteThisXmas), people were invited to tweet their stories of who they wish to reconcile with. One tweeter was chosen to have their conflict resolved (likely with the inclusion of 11 herbs and spices), and also appeared in a second ad which showed during the X Factor final.

Undoubtedly, a significant cost would have been involved in creating and running the campaign, but with a bit of creativity, there’s no reason why your business couldn’t do something similar on a smaller scale.

Cut the sales

If you expect your customers, or potential new ones to buy into and share the content you create, it needs to be non-sales oriented. Despite this, testimonials should remain a part of your marketing strategy as they are absolutely necessary in order to stand up against your competitors.

Text based straight forward praise for your company can often seem fabricated. Spruce it up by implementing a visual element such as video testimonials or images of the customers providing feedback.

On top of this, it is well worth taking a look at what angle you position your testimonials. The Google Stories example is in essence a series of experiences showing how Google Search has helped people with their passions and various situations. It avoids simple clichés such as “Great service” and instead opts for the wider story around the use of their service.

So how can you implement this?

Try and take a journalistic approach to interviewing customers. Prepare questions that dig into who they are, what they do and how that relates to your offering and the principles discussed above. Let them talk for as long as they need in order to get the best responses.

This type of content instantly becomes much more shareable due to its visual element, particularly if the story resonates with others.

Ask the audience

Beyond testimonials and individual ‘branded’ stories, data can be sourced and used in powerful ways to create content.

A simple questionnaire sent out to your customer base can wield interesting results to a plethora of topics. These results can then be repurposed into Infographics, press releases, blog posts, presentations and more. The Content Marketing Institute cite a great example of how a single interview created more than 38 pieces of content – that’s a lot, and it can be incredibly valuable over time.

Be present on social media

Linking closely to asking your audience, by being present on social media you can keep an eye on how your brand is being discussed across social media platforms.

Make sure you have profiles set up on all of the main social networking sites, and never be afraid to encourage engagement – although I recommend exercising caution, as there have been several Twitter Q&A blunders in recent times, British Gas as a prime example. Don’t let this put you off from creating, or being involved in Twitter Chats as these can be great for growing your following.

So there we have it – 4 of the ways you can work with your customers to create brilliant content. Have I missed any out? Let me know in the comments.