One of the most compelling scenarios for B2B marketers to build content and community is through a combination user generated content (UGC) and strategic content collaborations. To do this, many B2B brands will initiate ongoing social media content and engagement programs to stimulate dialog with customers, community and influencers to build essential relationships.
With B2B marketing shifting to digital first, there is more demand for content than ever, but there are also resource challenges with the need to continuously create new content. At the same time traditional social media and content marketing can have trust issues if the brand isn’t engaging with the community or the right influencers on a regular basis. A content marketing focused solution that solves for both of those challenges that also helps build community and influence for B2B brands can be found through participation marketing – aka, user generated content in the form of content collaborations with external influencers, brand community and customers.
As brands participate in social communities, asking and answering questions, engaging customers and sharing content, numerous opportunities exist to involve the community with content creation.
Crowdsourcing content with the different audiences of a brand helps create new, meaningful content as well as providing an opportunity to use the act of content collaboration as a way to build relationships, community and influence. When you make a relevant ask to contribute content and then use the resulting content to create mutual credibility and exposure for the contributors, the experience can drive deeper engagement and organic advocacy amongst the influential voices your customers trust.
Like all B2B marketing tactics, there are pros and cons for a crowdsourced approach to content. Some of the pros include:
- User generated content is trusted
- Contributors have an interest in helping promote the content
- UGC provides more content for search engines
- UGC provides more information sources for prospects & customers
- UGC publishing allows for critical feedback about products and services
- UGC publishing provides tools for brand evangelists
- UGC facilitates brand conversations within the marketplace
Of course there are a few cons too:
- Resources are needed for oversight and moderation
- Who owns the content?
- Where is the content published?
- What is the value exchange for contributors? If paid, it could hurt content credibility
The good news is that most of the cons can be mitigated with good communications, oversight and process.
From a practical application standpoint, here are a few examples how content can be crowdsourced and repurposed
1. Interviews. Asking other people questions is one of the most basic ways to crowdsource content. There are a number of ways to implement such an approach according to the desired outcome. Asking the community for suggestions of who to interview and what questions to ask is a great way to involve people in the process. Interviewing industry thought leaders provides the brand’s audience with unique content and creates a positive association between the “brandividual” and the company.
Be sure to empathize with thought leaders and their busy schedules. It will often be far more effective to ask one question of ten famous people than ten questions of one person. When you do that, you’ve made it easy for each person to answer and have also multiplied the number of potential influencers that will help promote the finished product.
2. Social Q & A – Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks can provide very useful platforms to present B2B focused questions and attract answers from a variety of people for use in your content project. Of course, your intent needs to be clear and permission for reuse should be obtained before republishing. Those familiar with the Q & A communities can word questions to attract replies from specific influentials who might not otherwise respond to a content participation pitch via email.
3. Contests Resulting in Content – Examples of contests where consumers produce their own videos or share images abound on the social web. Community members or influencers could be invited to create videos, blog posts or other media as a way to “enter” the contest run by a B2B brand. Entries hosted on the respective participant publishing channels would link back to the contest home and then the top 10 entries could be compiled into a highlight video or ebook according to the format used.
4. Comment Feedback Loop – One of the most meaningful ways for a community to engage with a brand is through comments made on social networks about a brand, in reaction to brand content or topics of mutual interest. Soliciting the community of readers to participate in a dialog by commenting can result in content that is more engaging and specific to what the audience is interested in.
Brands can then recognize commenters by drawing attention to the “best of” comments in separate blog or social media post, or as we do it at our agency, on our TopRank Marketing Newsletter.
5. Print or eBook Authoring by Community – Reaching out to industry experts to share their insights as part of a larger project can be a very effective method for crowdsourcing content. Author Michael Miller did this with “Online Marketing Heroes” of which I was a part many years ago. He interviewed 25 successful marketers and the result of those interviews became a print book.
Another commonly used format of crowdsourcing ebook content involves creating an outline for an ebook with portions like the premise, key points and conclusion reserved for the brand point of view and allocating specific sections for contributions for subject matter experts – industry influencers, customers, and key opinion leaders.
Through progressive content collaboration experiences that result in content that is simultaneously useful to customers and great visibility for contributors, B2B brands can develop a community of influence that helps
- Relieve some of the pressure of ongoing content creation
- Creates content that is trusted and hyper relevant to audiences
- Builds credibility for the brand by association with the influencers who contributed
- Develops mutually valuable relationships with trusted voices in the industry
- Inspire organic brand advocacy on the topics engaged
While there are many upsides when done well, it’s important to know that it’s possible to over rely on a community for content creation too, so don’t overdo it. Also, genuine recognition inspires better work and can motivate participants to share future crowdsourced content more enthusiastically than something that is more transactional.
As you look at the social networks, communities, prospects, customers and influencers that make up the ecosystem of information sources that are important to your brand, think about the gaps of information that exist in your industry that could be filled with user and influencer generated content. Looking beyond the fundamental benefit of content creation for marketing, even greater opportunities exist when the content collaboration experience helps build genuine relationships with community and industry voices that your customers trust.