For years, the world’s biggest B2C brands (e.g. Starbucks, Target, Coca-Cola) have been riding the user-generated content (UGC) wave, while B2B brands have only recently begun to gain traction in creating and distributing UGC. Between 70 and 90 percent of the buyer’s journey is complete before engaging with a vendor, and according to Forrester, a customer engages with 11.4 pieces of content prior to making a purchase.
Because of content’s increasing importance in the customer journey, content velocity is one of the primary challenges that brands face today. UGC is engaging and makes a lot of sense for B2B brands looking for new and authentic ways to connect with their customers.
Why Include UGC in Your B2B Marketing?
Combining UGC with branded content is a highly effective way to engage customers:
- 28% increase in brand engagement when users are exposed to professional and UGC (Comscore)
- 25% increase in conversion when organic images are used vs. product shots (Evercore)
- 20% increase in time on site when social content is integrated on websites (Forrester)
UGC not only attracts views, it encourages interaction and engagement. Increasingly, both B2C and B2B audiences give more credence to the opinions of peers and likeminded others than to elaborate ads and expensive promotions. 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 (e.g. products that are positively reviewed on Amazon.com). Providing a channel through which customers are able to share their thoughts and experiences portrays a truer, more authentic picture of your brand.
Interaction and engagement are indicative of developing customer loyalty. 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.
Valuable Customer Insight
UGC also provides an inside view into the experiences and needs of your current and prospective customers. It is an effective resource for developing a deeper understanding of your target audience, whether you’re asking for direct feedback and ideas or just observing customer comments and contributions.
Getting Started with UGC
Traditional examples of UGC include case studies, message boards, interviews, and testimonials. However, when customers are exposed to both professional content and user-generated product videos, brand engagement increases by 28 percent. Rather than asking your best customers for a simple, one paragraph written testimonial, a few individuals willing to record a video singing your brand’s praises can make a far greater impact. If your company has its own YouTube channel, these memorable, easily shareable posts are a great addition to your content library.
Many brands have started to create forums where professionals can discuss trends and ask for advice from peers. The outcome is twofold—brands can discover customer pain points that need improvement while engaging deeply with the audience.
Salesforce has a proven track record of engaging customers through forums, message boards, and peer help. However, the development of its MVP program shows its true mastery of engaging users to supply both content and product expertise.
MVP program members receive special previews of products and an annual event, with gifts, based on their hours of service engaging with non-MVP members. The program goes a step further than a standard customer advisory board by instituting membership prequalification, creating exclusivity, and engendering a club-like atmosphere that serves to engage and help other users. MVP members receive special product previews and an annual event, with gifts, based on their hours of service engaging with non-MVP members. Salesforce's multipurpose use of UGC both engages and educates. Salesforce also did this when creating a site called Idea Exchange. This site enables people to suggest new features for the company’s products and vote on their favorite ideas. The ideas with the most “likes” and comments appear at the top of the page.
Content created by a brand is informative, but when it’s written by peers, that content is instantly considered trustworthy. User-generated content is the key to creating a sense of community.