b2b-user-generated-content

UGC, or User Generated Content if you’re unfamiliar with the acronym, is typically a B2C marketer’s game. Over the last 5 years particularly, we’ve witnessed some inventive, compelling and, most of all, effective user generated content campaigns. It can leave us B2B marketers feeling a little bit left out, and when you consider the huge impact these campaigns deliver, it’s a pie we all want a slice of.

Who could forget last year’s viral ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ – a campaign that notched up around 5 million mentions on Twitter alone since it was catapulted onto the social media horizon during the summer, not to mention the hundreds of millions the appeal raised for the ALS Association in the U.S and Motor Neurone Disease Association here in the U.K.

Then there’s the insta-famous ‘Share a Coke…’ campaign from refreshment giants Coca Cola. A concept so simple, yet responsible for an 870% increase in page likes on the brand’s Facebook page and a 7% increase in consumption by young adults thanks to its overwhelming popularity. Who doesn’t want a can of coke with their name on?

But yes, both of the campaigns above were aimed at global consumers in the B2C arena, and it’s highly unlikely that a B2B campaign could ever be as successful. That doesn’t mean however, that elements of UGC can’t be implemented into a successful B2B content marketing strategy.

As humans, we’re naturally wired to seek interactions with other humans. We like personalisation. In the B2B world, which is swiftly becoming more P2P (that’s person-to-person, FYI) as customers continue to demand a personalised service approach, there’s a real opportunity to involve your prospects in your marketing.

People buy from people, we want to create and enrich positive, mutually-beneficial working partnerships with others. Really, it’s high time B2B marketers started to incorporate user generated content into their marketing efforts.

But where to begin?

Getting started with B2B User Generated Content…

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One simple way to incorporate prospects and existing clients into your content is to survey them. What are their pressing marketing concerns for the year ahead? What impact is digital having on their role/company? How do they see their responsibilities changing over time?

Publishers like Econsultancy do this type of content really well, frequently working with third-parties to query marketers and digital strategists on the challenges, highs, lows and aims of their roles. Once collated, they publish the results in easy-to-follow eBooks, free to download in exchange for a little bit of cheeky data.

Another great way to encourage participation from influencers or prospects, is to ask for quotes which can be used throughout your content. The benefit for them is a spot of ego-massaging in the form of marketing and an “influencer quote”, the benefit for you is a strengthened relationship with your client/prospect, plus real-life examples to use throughout your content.

It doesn’t just have to be one piece, either. Based on the findings of your survey and the type of questions asked, you could introduce a series of content and release them weekly, monthly, or whatever slots in best with your content marketing schedule. Cover specific sectors, seniority of staff surveyed and different locations, in order to get a wide and diverse view on your topic.

And lastly, of course, there’s your own versions of existing surveys. We really enjoyed a piece on SearchEngineLand recently that focused on whether digital marketers feel they make the world a better or worse place, so much so, we wrote our own take on it and included the views of the Silverbean team.

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Before I start on this one, here’s a fairly obvious disclaimer: don’t even think about using your existing clients’ data without prior permission.

Providing you follow the rules (see below!) and respect your clients enough to actively collaborate with them on the piece, not only will you be creating further insight and promotion for their brand, you’ll also be assuring them that actually, you think they’re damn well worth writing about, which is great for brand loyalty. An ego boost for them and for you? Content on the doorstep.

So, what type of content are we suggesting, I hear you ask… Start small with a case study article, written like a press release, which will give great insight into the client’s business and provide the ability for you to show what you’re good at and why they chose you as their service provider.

Interviews, ‘A day in the life of…’ pieces and audit reports are also great, the latter again giving you the opportunity to flex your expertise and highlight to prospects that you could potentially do the same for them.

The key is, with all B2B user generated content pieces, that you aren’t coming across in the slightest bit sales-focused. This is your user/client’s content, which is testimonial enough in itself, so allow it to do its thing without the desperate hard-sell.

And those rules we mentioned? Here you go:

1. Be clear about what you’re asking them to do: Demonstrate how you’re providing value for them and why their cooperation is worthwhile for their brand exposure.
2. Set a deadline and give your client enough notice to pull their information together. What’s enough notice? We’d suggest 1 month ahead of publishing date, with frequent touch points to keep things in progress, without badgering your client!
3. Ask your design team to create some unique, co-branded visuals. Sorry folks, but stock imagery would be an insult to your clients when they’re prepared to share their unique information with your audience.
4. Once complete, send to your client for the final nod. Do not, under any circumstance, publish your piece without their approval.
5. Once published, reach out with the link via email, share on your channels (and remember to tag them in your post) and provide an update 1 month later on how the post has performed. You should also be reaching out to publishers within your sector with the aim of gaining a featured post opportunity. Again, it’s a win-win for both you and the client you’ve involved.

3. competitions

I’m not talking about your average ‘RT to win a £30 gift voucher’ type of competition. For a B2B user generated content style competition, you need to think a little outside the box.

B2C marketers again have the upper hand in the competition game and the offers can usually be a little more simplistic, but still extremely effective. The likes of Walkers Crisps’ “Do us a Flavour” competition show how it’s done, where customers are asked to come up with new and exciting flavours and given the potential to win a very tasty £1m prize for their trouble.

But how to make this kind of idea work for a B2B audience?

Well, I’m glad you asked. Say you’re launching a new product, or perhaps you’re thinking of undergoing a re-brand, why not launch a competition and get outsiders involved in promoting your brand? Post entries across social media, develop a hashtag that entrants can apply to their posts to keep all social promotion together and frequently post about it on your own site/blog.

Or what about a competition to get potential customers interested in what you have to offer? Draw up a list of brands/companies you’d love to work with, identify their potential problems, their opportunities, their aspirations (this is what we call ‘creating a Buyer Persona’ in the marketing field) and figure out what service you offer may appeal to them if offered by the way of a contest.

Again, it’s all about content amplification and effective promotion. So make sure you’re utilising your social media platforms, your client base and your prospect database to promote the competition, and follow-up with not only your winner, but the other entrants too, to illustrate how a similar report could be of benefit to them. You could even be kind and offer it at a special rate for those prospects, to encourage more of them to enter your sales funnel.

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You can’t put a price on having an industry influencer as an advocate for your brand by participating in your content. There are a few similarities with asking clients for participation as there are with asking influencers. These people are busy, so make it as easy as possible for them to engage with you. Start with asking them for a quote or a small snippet that will add value to your piece, then show them how you can add value to their profile.

Needless to say, the more you prove your worth, the more they’ll be keen to work with you in the future, and the more you can ask them to get involved with.

Then, you need to identify the right people. Build some sector-specific Twitter lists, check out LinkedIn Pulse for influencers writing and engaging with others (they’re more likely be receptive!) and look to tools like Klout, Followerwonk, Buzzsumo and Kred to highlight who you should be picking up conversations with. Your colleagues may also be able to provide some tips on influencers, so don’t be too shy to ask.

Lastly, you need to be inventive and sell your content idea to your influencer. These people have built a reputation thanks to being experts in their field, so they won’t put their name alongside any old drivel. Also, they’ll have no doubt been asked a thousand times before by companies just like you, so do a little bit of research, identify any trends in what they’ll get involved with and curate your content proposal to appeal to them.

Again, look to your design team to create some customised visuals to promote the piece and make it as aesthetically pleasing as possible, to encourage your influencer to share far and wide.

And that’s just getting you started!

Of course, B2B user generated content will greatly differ depending on your sector, but the key thing to note is that, like all content output, it should add value for whoever you’re targeting and be attractive enough to inspire participation. It’s not enough to throw a competition out and hope for the best, or ask industry influencers idle questions in the hope they’ll get on board. Do research, plan your content amplification and be creative!

For anything else, you can ask our very own Marketing, PR and Content Creator for further information – just drop us/her a tweet to @silverbean or @miss_archer. We’d also love to hear from you with any additional methods of creating B2B user generated content. Just add your comment below!