Often referred to as modern day word-of-mouth marketing, user-generated content (UGC), also known as user-created content (UCC), is a highly valuable addition to any company strategy — and it goes far beyond selfies, likes and reshares.
When a user cares enough about your brand or product to create a piece of content on its behalf, that’s the ultimate engagement metric and “authentic social proof that your product is worthy of buying,” according to Hootsuite. Throw in the fact that it’s a cost-effective (re: often free) way to get your hands on fresh content — that, with permission, you can use and distribute however you please — and you’ve got yourself a whole new content pillar.
Now imagine getting a photo or review reposted by one of your favorite brands. Even in the B2B space, it’s an exciting occurrence that boosts engagement and affinity for the lucky user as well as trust and credibility among your wider audience. Need proof?
“When asked, 72% of consumers said that real customer photos and videos are the content they most want to see on eCommerce sites. Furthermore, 80% said they would be more likely to purchase a product from an online store if its website had photos and videos from real customers.”
— Social Media Today
The B2C world seemingly has a much easier time generating this invaluable form of content, but there’s a wealth of ways B2B marketers can also tap into this goldmine. Read on to explore how to develop opportunities for people to share their experiences with your B2B brand in a purposeful way that delivers value to customers, and your brand.
Create a Space Where People Can Share
As a B2B brand, you may think a platform like Instagram isn’t for you, but have you considered all its possibilities? People want a chance to get involved and share their visuals, but they need a reason to do it and a place to shine. That’s why businesses across industries are upping their game across channels and creating digital areas where their audience can meet, converse, and exchange ideas.
“People want more opportunities to share their own thoughts and opinions. If they see you engaging with their content and the content of others, you’ll likely inspire more participation in the future.”
— Michael Brenner, CEO at Marketing Insider Group
Amidst various campaigns, content series, and other posts, commercial real estate leader CBRE uses its Instagram presence as a place to share user imagery of beautiful architecture around the world. Carefully curated and mostly user-generated, the company gives its 70,000+ followers a good reason to tune in and a sure path to customer engagement.
Similarly, UPS and FedEx use their Instagram feeds to display visuals that their audience sends and tags them in. But UGC doesn’t have to be limited to social media channels. The Get Ideas and Discussion areas on Houzz, an online company that connects customers with home renovation suppliers and professionals, basically serve as UGC libraries where people trade advice and B2B customers offer their services.
Additional Insight: “Home renovation and design professionals can post guides, tips, and other advice, using the Houzz platform to drive business for themselves and to grow their reputation,” Brenner says. “This is where B2B user-generated content can be several steps ahead of B2C content. It offers a channel for its B2B customers to market to their customers, creating long-term value for users.”
Practical Tip: “Give your customers a platform to share tips, tricks and DIY fixes that improve upon your product or service. Or ask customers to share videos featuring your products/solutions,” advises Joceyn Sexton, Director of Marketing and Communications at Dover Solutions. “Sharing the spotlight with customers grows a stronger base of loyal customers and adds authenticity to your brand marketing.”
Build Community with Branded Hashtags
The beauty of UGC is that it helps build community, and branded hashtags can be just the ticket to sparking new conversations and growing as a thought leader on social and beyond. It’s also a great tool because, depending on what it is, the hashtag can give users cues as to what to submit. And on the backend, it lets marketers search and find content that merits a reshare.
Branded hashtags can be associated with any kind of marketing campaign that touches social media, but organizing a friendly competition is another way to boost engagement and get folks involved. And the giveaway doesn’t always have to be prizes or money; Later says “60% preferred to share UGC because it allowed them to get more likes or to have their content featured by a popular brand.”
“Your UGC should serve a purpose — whether that’s being inspirational, showcasing how to use a product, sharing in-real-life reviews, or helping your followers make a decision on their product choices.”
A competition or even just a prompt associated with a promoted hashtag instills motivation for users to create original content that builds community and bolsters business. Adobe, for instance, uses Instagram to invite its users to share work they’ve made on the company’s suite of design software. It’s also a place for them to find inspiration and get feedback from other creatives with requested tags and hashtags like #WomenCreateWednesday.
“Instead of just posting anything, Adobe creates a theme for users to follow each month. This encourages the same customers to contribute regularly, driving more content,” Brenner says. “It also makes exploring and engaging with the images more compelling because there’s always a fresh concept.”
Expert Insight: “Adobe isn’t just running a one-off campaign on a social media channel; they’ve planted the seeds for ongoing, self-perpetuating user-generated content,” Brenner adds. “That’s the magic of B2B user content creation. Once it’s started, it keeps going because…the customers become co-creators, participating with the parent brand community to foster growth and share knowledge.
Practical Tip: “Only 16% of brands offer clear guidelines on what kind of user-generated content they want fans to create and share, but more than half of consumers want brands to tell them exactly what to do when it comes to UGC,” according to Hootsuite. “UGC creators want you to share their content. That means they want to [know] what kind of content you’re most likely to share…Don’t be afraid to get specific and make it easy for people to share content that fits your needs.”
Leverage Customer Reviews and Success Stories
Findings from Stackla show that “consumers are 2.4 times more likely to say UGC is most authentic compared to branded content.” And when it comes to reviews and success stories, user-generated content is all the more powerful. In fact, one of last year’s biggest UGC trends on Instagram was reposting Tweets onto a brand’s Instagram feed to show off real-life customer opinions.
Creating content around genuine customer stories and their experiences with your product or business builds trust as well as community. Including testimonials on your site or case studies in your publishing mix is a no-brainer, but because of its high impact, this kind of content often merits its own campaign or initiative to increase the likelihood for people to share their stories. It could even work to ask them flat out what they love about your company (and benefit from hearing about what they might improve as well).
“Encouraging a diverse range of voices in your user-generated content will ultimately make your brand and products more relatable to a wider audience, while also making your brand feel more accessible.”
Expert Insight: “41% of consumers will be tempted to purchase a product with as few as 1 to 4 reviews,” according to Later. “So if you can successfully target your audience with social ads, a product review as part of an ad may help a viewer make a purchasing decision faster.” With permission, you can include snippets from user-generated reviews and testimonials in everything from print and billboard to video and audio ads as well.
Practical Tip: Take it a step further and “utilize UGC to show how you take customer content and act on it to improve your offering,” says Newswire CMO Charlie Terenzio. “This is a genius way to show that customer feedback is important to your brand and that it can actually help drive change. Showcase specific feedback and what it helped you change about your product or service. That will then inspire others to provide executable feedback.”
Getting more user-generated content in the B2B space is within reach, and the opportunities are endless. It all comes down to providing your audience with easily accessible, enticing avenues that represent a chance to solve their problems, showcase their own expertise, and interact with a community of like-minded people — all under the umbrella of your brand.