When hearing the word ‘user-generated content’, most of us think of case studies. They are one of the best forms of user-generated content (UGC) in the B2B space. But there is much more you can do with UGC than just case studies – some of which are direct, and a few others are indirect.
We will explore both in this article. We will also discuss a few unconventional ways to incorporate user-generated content into your marketing efforts (which you might not otherwise see as UGC).
What is User-generated Content?
A definition might not be required for a concept as simple as this. But I wanted to change the meaning of UGC from just reviews and case studies to ‘any content others create related to your business’.
User-generated content examples
Examples of user-generated content in the B2B space include:
- Reviews and testimonials
- Case studies
- Guest posts (written by an outsider on a company’s website)
- Communities and online forums
- Collaborative webinars
- Hosted events (sessions by speakers from outside)
- Social media posts (by people other than the company employees)
- Partner, distributor, and vendor promotions
- PR campaigns
Note: User-generated content includes both positive and negative content. For the purpose of this discussion, we will be talking about how to leverage positive UGC.
Making the best use of user-generated content
In this article, we are expanding the boundaries of user-generated content. Conventional thinking focuses on content created by or with the help of customers. In this section, let us go deeper into each of the 10 ways of leveraging UGC.
1. Reviews and Testimonials
We all know that reviews and testimonials are important. The most common way to get a testimonial or positive review is to ask. We do that via email, virtual meetings, or in-person customer interactions. We often send them gift cards or tickets to events to incentivize them.
Beyond this, here are some of the other ways in which you can make the whole process of getting and promoting reviews and testimonials more effective:
- Send a direct mail asking for reviews and testimonials. Platforms like Sendoso and The Mailworks help you automate the entire process using technology. You can send customized emails with the click of a few buttons on software without worrying about the logistics involved.
- Request a customer spokesperson to share their experience working with you on a webinar or live stream. This works particularly well if some of your audience (on YouTube, email, social media, and other channels) could be a prospect for the customer sharing the review.
- Can you buy your customer’s product or service? If yes, give them a testimonial to get one in return. This is a popular tactic used especially by startups and early-stage companies.
- Help customers solve a specific challenge other than what your product or service does. Examples include introducing to a potential investor, referring a prospect, helping find a new partner, etc. You can ask to return the favor in the form of a testimonial (or it can be anything else that benefits your business).
If you noticed, most of the above tips have a human and practical touch. They are not path-breaking suggestions but help foster stronger relationships with your customers.
2. Case studies
This is something the whole universe knows about. Depending on who is working on case studies in your organization, it calls for extensive collaboration between teams such as sales, customer success, delivery, product marketing, content marketing, creative design, etc.
One of the biggest challenges companies face when it comes to creating case studies is collecting the necessary information for it. Marketing has to bug the sales or customer success teams. Sales and customer success, in turn, need to chase customers to get the relevant info.
There are no shortcuts to doing this. But here are a few best practices you can follow to ease the process for all the stakeholders:
- Distribute the data collection to different stages of customer interactions instead of trying to collect all the info at once at the time of case study creation. This can include the customer success teams asking questions about the benefits customers yielded by using your solution, ways in which your solution is being used, the types of people using the solution, etc.
- Let sales and/or customer success teams take the initial steps in creating case studies. This might sound counterintuitive. But this solves more than half of the challenges faced in the case study creation process. Sales and customer teams know the product/service the best. They know the challenges it solves more than anyone else. They have the highest visibility into how customers are using it. They are well aware of the benefits customers are getting. The only thing marketing needs to do here is to templatize the process and educate salespeople and customer success teams on what info is needed. Once the data is collected in the template, the marketing team is responsible for working with sales and customer success to create the case study content.
- Templatize the whole process – from creating the case study outline to building a data collection template and developing design elements, and create a system for case studies end-to-end.
3. Guest posts
This is one of the most overlooked forms of user-generated content. Many of your customers are looking for ways to expand their reach. If you have an audience that might be interested in your customers’ products and you are willing to ‘lend’ them, you can get a high-quality content piece created at zero cost as a guest blog post from your customers. The key criterion to remember here is that the content has to be related to what you offer, or else it will affect your brand reputation.
And UGC is not about leveraging your customers alone. Partners, distributors, vendors, or even bloggers could be interested in contributing articles on topics related to your niche. It’s even worthwhile launching a dedicated program to attract guest bloggers.
In addition, it is not only your website where you can use guest posting. You can use this tactic to get content done for your LinkedIn newsletter or an email newsletter you send out.
4. Communities and forums
We are living in an era where communities don’t need an explanation. Community-led marketing is no more a buzzword.
When I say community, I am referring to closed online communities built on platforms like Discord, Slack, Whatsapp, or any other platform you choose. You can also custom-build a community if you are looking for features that might not come with off-the-shelf community-building platforms.
I found the below video by Google Search Central very resourceful (and hilarious) when it comes to building a highly engaging and safe community where you leverage user-generated content.
In addition to joining chats and responding to queries, given below are some of the ways to involve more participation from your community users (to get them to create more content for you):
- Your community users are looking for exposure. If they have expertise in any of the areas you talk about as a business, get them onto a webinar or show to share their thoughts.
- Make your most trusted members moderators, and you will see them more actively contributing to the community (the above video discusses this tip).
- Create a space within the community to address a common problem in your industry. Examples include job boards, free training, 1 to 1 mentorship (by community users to other community members). The Exit Five Job Board by Dave Gerhardt is a great example of this. This will attract more participation and is an excellent way to get more content created.
5. Collaborative webinars
Collaborations are key to any form of user-generated content. It works on leveraging others’ audiences to increase your reach while you offer your audience in return. It’s similar to influencer marketing – only that this is a two-way engagement.
To conduct a collaborative webinar, you can invite the following types of people to share their thoughts on a particular topic:
- Thought leaders in your space
- Professional speakers
- Leaders from vendor organizations
- Partners & distributors
Some of these will be free, while you will have to spend some dollars for a few others. Depending on your budget, you can pick a speaker type that works for you. For instance, professional speakers can cost between $500 to $100K depending on the region and their expertise & experience.
In terms of platforms, you can go with GoToWebinar or Zoom webinar (or a webinar platform of your choice) or pick tools like Restream or Streamyard if you are planning to do a live stream.
The idea behind podcasts with respect to user-generated content is similar to that of collaborative webinars. The best scenario is when you have your own podcast – in which case you can invite guests onto your show and request them to share their wisdom on a topic of interest to your audience.
Even if it is the other way (you appearing on other podcasts), it is still an example of user-generated content. Why?
Firstly, if it’s a conversation in the interview format, you are collaborating with another person or business (the host) to create content, where the other party also contributes. Secondly, the party you are collaborating with will promote the podcast episode on their own, which acts like a free promotion for you.
Further, if you are given permission, you can repurpose the podcast content into blog posts, videos, or social media posts and distribute them on your own channels.
7. Hosted events
By hosted events, I am referring to offline events hosted by your company – either on your premises or at an offsite location. The reason why I have called it out separately is that this is an activity that requires a ton of dedicated effort (unlike producing a video or podcast episode).
You can invite expert speakers to these events to deliver sessions on topics of your interest. You can broadcast the session live or upload it to YouTube and other platforms later. You can also repurpose the content into other formats.
You can find industry speakers through your network or a website like Speakerhub. As we mentioned in the case of webinars and podcasts, you can also check with experts in your customer, partner, or distributor organizations.
8. Social media posts
This too relies on collaboration. Working with partners, distributors, and suppliers for co-promoting on social media platforms is an effective tactic to amplify your reach.
Here are a few ways in which you can do this with your customers, partners, and distributors:
- Posts where you tag each other (company pages or employees): when the partner publishes a post tagging you, that becomes a great example of user-generated content.
- Write a collaborative article (or guest article): you can use LinkedIn articles, LinkedIn newsletter, or your website.
- Go live together (we discussed this in a previous section): this helps you increase your reach by tapping into each others’ audiences.
- Create and moderate social media groups together.
Customers and partners are not the only people you can collaborate with on social media. You could find active content creators (say micro-influencers) who might be willing to talk about your products or services without charging any fee (I sometimes do this, provided the product is good).
9. Partner, distributor, and vendor promotions
This includes all promotions done for you by partners, distributors, customers, suppliers, and vendors (in addition to what we discussed in the last section). Examples include email marketing campaigns, combined product launch activities, and other collaborative GTM (Go To Market) activities.
10. PR campaigns
PR campaigns can or cannot be UGC, depending on how you do it. Some journalists take the content you create, edit it, and publish it. That technically cannot be termed user-generated content.
But if you work with a journalist or a PR agency to build a story, and they help you create a narrative that will be attractive to your audience as well as theirs, that is UGC.
Note: I intentionally omitted influencer marketing from the list of techniques you can use for user-generated content because it is a paid-only activity. At the same time, there might be micro-influencers who are willing to do it for free. In any case, if you wish, you could add influencer marketing to the list.
User-generated content is an age-old concept. You just need to adapt it to the digital and dark social era. One thing that I always say is not to restrict your thoughts to conventional approaches. Force yourself to think outside the box and break the monotony. That’s what we did in this article by giving a new meaning to user-generated content. The success in implementing UGC lies in finding new avenues of getting others to create content for you that will complement and compound your reach over time.
Are there other ways to leverage user-generated content than what we discussed in this article? Put some thought into it and run experiments if you come up with anything new.
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About the author
Naseef KPO is the Founder and CEO of Skalegrow. He comes with rich experience across multiple areas of B2B marketing including content marketing, demand generation, SEO, account based marketing, marketing analytics, revenue attribution, marketing technology, etc. He writes thought-provoking and relevant articles on The Skalegrow Blog and his weekly LinkedIn newsletter Elevate Your Marketing.
Prior to starting Skalegrow, Naseef led large marketing teams in multi-million dollar B2B organizations where he made significant contributions to the topline growth of the business. He has also appeared on numerous podcasts where he shared his thoughts on trending marketing topics such as the application of AI in marketing, startup marketing, ABM, and B2B content marketing, just to name a few. Being the founder of Skalegrow, he is currently focusing on helping its clients stay ahead of their competition by using innovative yet practical marketing tactics.
You can connect with Naseef KPO on LinkedIn.