If you’ve been reading a lot of marketing blogs lately, you’ve probably come across an article or two about user-generated content (UGC). It’s one of the most popular forms of content online these days, and when used correctly, it’s also one of the most valuable selling tools a company has at their disposal.
User-generated content is something that’s been around for quite some time, but it’s really only been referred to as that since content marketing’s rise in popularity. According to Webopedia.com, user-generated content can be defined as any form of media (e.g. video, blogs, discussion forum posts, images, reviews, audio, etc.) that is created by consumers or end-users, and is publically available to other consumers and end-users. And thanks to the explosion in popularity of sites like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Yelp, these users are creating and sharing content more than ever before.
As companies look to cash in on this opportunity for publicity, however, it’s typically been B2C companies who’ve seen the most success. Consumers are often more emotionally attached to commercial products, meaning they’re more likely to create content for those brands. But just because you have brands like Nike with users dying to post pictures of their shoes every time they buy a new pair, doesn’t mean that B2B brands can’t cash in on UGC either. While B2Bs might have fewer users generating content, there’s still a huge demand for UGC from B2B buyers and prospects. 69% of consumers say a source is trustworthy when the expert has used the product or service before, and B2B decision makers put a lot of emphasis on other professional opinions when making decisions (source). For example:
83% of consumers say it would be important to read user-generated content before making a decision about banking or other financial services.
30% of consumers would never choose an insurance provider without reading at least one piece of user-generated content.
32% of consumers would never choose a healthcare provider without reading at least one piece of user-generated content.
64% of IT professionals claim UGC helped them solve problems in the workspace through experience-based advice (source).
While it’s clear that user-generated content can be very effective in helping prospects trust your B2B company, deciding how to incorporate UGC into your marketing strategy is only half of the problem. Not every client and customer can be brand evangelists – especially in the B2B space – so marketers for these companies are forced to think of clever ways to harvest content. Though you might have to rely on users to create user-generated content, it doesn’t mean you can’t influence content creation from them. And, as a matter of fact, you can even collaborate with them to help create a specific campaign!
To help your B2B company overcome the hurdle of finding UGC to use for your brand, here are several different ways to harvest content from your B2B clients and customers:
1. Offer Something in Exchange
You know the old saying, “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours?” Well when it comes to harvesting user-generated content, sometimes all it takes is a little incentive. Whether you’re offering a discount on their next order, or even just offering the chance to be seen on your homepage (or earn a retweet from your Twitter account), you should always be able to find customers who are willing to say good things about you. Of course, this incentive shouldn’t be the reason they have good things to say (your product/service should account for that), but let’s face it: we’re all busy people and sometimes we just need a little nudge to do something. Send an email out to your customers asking for a couple sentences on why they chose your product/service, and offer them a 10% discount on their next order. It’s a simple gesture, but you’ll be surprised at the amount of responses.
2. Hold a Contest
Similar to the idea of offering something in exchange for UGC, you can also use a contest as a way to harvest content. Run a Facebook contest asking fans for a video or picture of them using your product, and offer a prize for the best one. Likewise, if a video or picture doesn’t seem feasible, you can ask your customers to share their best success story about your product/service. There are lots of different ways you can do it, you just have to find one that works for your company. Keep in mind that the better the prize, the more effort will be put into submissions as well.
3. Make it Easier to Harvest
If you’re having a hard time getting your customers to create content, it might just be because they simply don’t know where to share it. Though there are plenty of well-known review sites for B2Cs, your customers might not be aware of some of the popular B2B review sites. For example, TrustRadius.com is one of the go-to spots for marketing automation software reviews, so naturally HubSpot asked us to share our opinions there. I had never heard of that site before HubSpot’s email, but I was happy to share my review once I knew it’d be valuable. Whether you’re showing your customers where they should share their feedback or you’re just making it easier on your own website (a giant “Tell us how we’re doing!” button on your Contact Us page is one idea), there are several ways to make it easier for your customers.
If you’re having a hard time convincing customers to create content themselves, sometimes you have to step in and help them out. Of course, you can’t force them into creating content (because then it will just be commercial advertising) but you can still work with them to help get their point across. Using HubSpot as an example again, they’ve done an excellent job producing real life success videos for companies that have used their marketing automation software. You can go to their homepage, scroll down, and find case studies, videos, and quotes from users that have had success using HubSpot’s software. The videos aren’t overly sales-y and you can tell the users’ opinions are genuine—not lines fed to them by HubSpot.
With consumer reviews being trusted nearly 12x more than descriptions that come from manufacturers, your B2B brand is truly missing out if you aren’t capitalizing on user-generated content. Though it might be harder to find UGC for B2B companies, there are plenty of ways to influence its creation and use it to promote your company. In the end, it will help prospects trust your brand, and ultimately lead to more sales.