Warren Buffet famously said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Marketers know that word of mouth is incredibly powerful. But when you take that power and translate it to social media, it’s supercharged. Because customers may like your brand, and they may even trust your brand — but when it comes down to it, they might trust a complete stranger’s review more.
This is the power of user-generated content.
As Neilsen points out in its 2015 Global Trust in Advertising report:
More than eight-in-10 global respondents (83%) say they completely or somewhat trust the recommendations of friends and family. But trust isn’t confined only to those in our inner circle. In fact, two-thirds (66%) say they trust consumer opinions posted online—the third-most-trusted format.
The effect is still more pronounced for local businesses, as this chart from BrightLocal shows: So for brands looking to create more meaningful engagement with customers, user-generated content holds a promising solution.
In fact, comScore found that brand engagement rose by 28 percent when consumers are exposed to both professional content and user-generated product videos. But what exactly does UGC include, and how are brands using it for greater impact?
Creating effective user-generated content
User-generated content seems to be everywhere today – but surprisingly, it has been around for years. We just didn’t have a name for it. For example, “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” created decades ago, leveraged user content to entertain and reach millions of viewers. With social media platforms — such as Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn — you can reach an expanded audience that you might not otherwise.
But here’s the catch: Content is generated by users, so how do we motivate our savvy business customers to participate, create that content, and help us connect at a much higher degree? Here are a few strategies for getting started.
1. Fuel sharing through contests
Some customers willingly share reviews because they are just that excited about your products. But an effective UGC strategy shouldn’t rely on the goodwill of customers alone. Customers need incentives to share their ideas; they need to feel inspired and motivated to take action. Contests are an effective way to reach this goal.
Take, for example, SketchUp, which is 3-D modeling software. The company asked designers to submit ideas for building a radically low-cost house (participants had a budget of only $300) for use in developing countries. The company used social platforms, such as Facebook, to spread the word and share the design ideas.
Think about your target audience — their pain points and their goals. Then create fun and innovative contests that allow them to share their ideas, using your brand as a platform. Publicize the results.
2. Leverage surveys
Customers are interested in trends. They want to understand the answers to important questions such as: What will the future look like in 10 years? What roles will change? And how will this impact my industry? Surveys are effective tools for gathering insights, identifying trends, and sharing the results.
For example, you could distribute a survey via email or social media and ask specific questions about your client’s most pressing concerns. Then you could take the results and compile them in a variety of assets such as eBooks, infographics, or a blog post series. With permission, you can also pull specific quotes from survey results, sharing these valuable nuggets of information through social media or other content marketing efforts. This content is then read and shared by survey participants and their networks.
3. Create B2B communities
Foster UGC by creating a forum that connects users to let them troubleshoot their problems. A side benefit is that you can listen in, uncover new customer pain points, and leverage that information to make improvements.
AmEx’s OPEN forum uses this strategy with great success. The forum allows business owners to share ideas, discuss trends and ask for advice from peers.Dell’s IT Ninja is set up in a similar way, allowing users to connect, engage and share expertise.
4. User-generated publications
Content created by a brand is helpful, but that content is instantly deemed more trustworthy when it’s written by peers. Xerox is using an innovative strategy to drive UGC. The company created Chief Optimist, which is a magazine exclusively for senior decision-makers at large enterprises.
The publication features content that’s contributed by influential customers and business stewards from around the world. The outcome is twofold. First, the company is connecting with the content contributors — who are also their clients — in more depth.
Second, they are distributing user-generated content to prospects, written by their peers, which creates a higher sense of trust.
5. Asking for client input
Create UGC rooted in the goal of asking customers for ideas. For example, CRM platform Salesforce did this when creating a site called Idea Exchange. This site allows people to suggest new features for the company’s products and has a setup similar to Reddit’s, with users voting on their favorite ideas.
The ideas with the most “likes” and comments appear at the top of the page, offering real-time feedback and insight into which ideas are most viable.
Getting started — quick tips
UGC is highly effective, but if you are new to creating this type of content or have created it in the past with little success, where should you start? Here are a few tips for getting started.
- Find out where your customers are spending their time. Are they on Twitter, LinkedIn, and/or Facebook, or other social platforms? Find out, and create a strategy for targeting those platforms with your UGC campaigns. For example, B2B marketers spend significant amounts of their time on LinkedIn. Look at similar trends for your own target market.
- Resonate with customer pain points. Once you locate where your target market is spending time, use social listening (like Twitter Prospector) to uncover pain points. You can then develop solutions to these challenges through your UGC efforts.
- Offer a payoff. What will the user get from participating? Will it be a prize, recognition, or some other reward? Can you make it fun?
- Set expectations. How will you know that you’ve achieved your desired result? What will you measure? Set up expectations for success upfront so you’ll know whether you’ve achieved your desired result.
- Test a small campaign. Define a small UGC campaign upfront to test its success and your effectiveness. Then expand your efforts if it’s successful, or recalibrate if you think you can make it better.
Engaging in the future
UGC empowers brands to connect with customers by using creative and fun strategies. But achieving success requires brands to truly understand what drives users to connect, engage, and contribute. Once you master this, you gain the ability to reach customers on a massive scale, harnessing results similar to word of mouth — yet multiplied.
What do you think? Have you viewed any user-generated campaigns that you think are worth mentioning?