Of all the ways for marketers to capture eyeballs, it seems user-generated content (UGC) is the wave of the future present. One study shows Millennials spending a third of their “media viewing time” interacting with UGC – just under the 33% spent consuming TV, print and radio combined.
What is this so-called UGC?
User-generated content is content about a brand that comes from users or customers – it can span anything, from the written word to photos to audio to video. UGC has been around a while, even before social media – remember America’s Funniest Home Videos? Today, UGC is inextricably linked with social media and is what we see on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest. It’s product reviews. It’s cat videos. UGC is everywhere you look online. It’s the new norm.
How brands encourage UGC
Many consumer brands drum up UGC with a traditional tactic: the contest. From cute-kid photo contests from Target to product-generating contests from Volkswagen asking fans for ideas for a new app, today’s connected consumer typically likes to share, either for a prize or recognition among peers. Or, in some cases, to help others make more educated decisions, as users do on this dress rental site.
B2B hasn’t been as quick to leverage UGC as consumer brands – either out of misgivings (loss of control) or uncertainty about how to encourage and use UGC. However, UGC can be just as useful and effective for B2B brands if it’s guided by your overall content strategy. Although you can’t control what users say about your brand, you can provide the platforms (e.g., website, forum, Facebook page) and sometimes the themes, as with a contest.
Why marketers should embrace UGC
- It’s engaging. What’s exciting for marketers is that UGC not only attracts views, it encourages interaction and engagement. Content created by peers is perceived as more authentic and often more believable than content that comes from corporate-land. Nielsen reports that 84% of consumers trust word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family and 68% trust online opinions from users they don’t even know (as evidenced by the products that are positively reviewed on Amazon.com).
- It fosters loyalty. Interaction and engagement are indicative of developing customer loyalty, the golden egg. If someone takes the time to talk about and interact with a brand, chances are he either likes or dislikes your brand. Either way, the fact that he’s engaged may be an opportunity to make him a believer.
- It’s like a focus group, but way cheaper. UGC also can provide amazing insights to a brand about its customers, whether a company is asking for direct feedback and ideas or just observing customer comments and contributions.
UGC for B2B
With the ubiquity of UGC, it isn’t just for B2C brands anymore. As more B2B companies use social media, they are getting in on the UGC action too. Here are a few examples:
- B2B communities. Many B2B companies have been leveraging UGC for years by providing community platforms or user forums on which customers can help each other troubleshoot or share tips. A more user-friendly (and formal) incarnation of this tactic is AmEx’s Open Forum, which provides a way for business owners to share ideas, discuss trends and ask advice from peers. More traditional FAQ sections also have evolved to become “crowdsourced FAQs,” where users (versus the company) provide and discuss the answers to questions about a product or service. A comprehensive example of this is Dell’s IT Ninja site.
- Contests. For B2B, a contest might hinge on how customers use a brand’s product, such as software, as Google SketchUp did when it asked designers to submit design ideas for building a $300 house for use in developing countries. Social platforms like Facebook are a popular way to promote and manage contests today, especially since Facebook made it easier for businesses to do so by revising its guidelines.
- Surveys. Some B2B companies survey their own customer base to identify trends and insights that are useful to existing customers and prospects. Feedback and quotable quotes can be compiled, analyzed and published in multiple ways. Surveys can be distributed via email or on a social media platform like LinkedIn.
- Testimonials and reviews. Featuring positive customer feedback as testimonials about or reviews of your product or service on your website is an effective use of UGC to lend third-party credibility to your brand.
As with other tactics like sweepstakes and contests, it’s important for marketers to realize there may be some legal aspects when it comes to using UGC – so just be sure to investigate and/or talk to Legal to make sure you’re in compliance before launching a campaign.
User-generated content can be an effective addition to your content strategy. As with any content, it’s important to take the time to determine what will resonate with users and encourage people to participate. Whatever tactic you choose, the subject or reason for being must be compelling to the right audiences and be promoted on the right channels – the channels your audiences prefer.