In May 2018, Airbnb launched a new feature called Travel Stories. It enables travellers to create video sequences of their Airbnb experiences to post on the site and the app—much like the now universally popular Stories feature on Instagram and Snapchat.
This is the company’s latest innovative stab at harnessing User Generated Content (UGC).
Who says B2B can’t get involved?
Airbnb are not the first to encourage audience input. Think Coca Cola, Apple, Starbucks, Walkers… It’s not rocket science why this approach has been seized upon by the big brands.
Five key benefits of UGC include:
- Helping brands to understand their target audience better.
- Improving site engagement and time spent on your website or owned properties.
- Increasing customer satisfaction through conversations.
- Building a stronger community.
- Improving search engine ranking.
But the use of UGC isn’t the preserve of sexy, fun-loving B2C brands spewing out an endless stream of impossibly aspirational imagery.
The principle translates into the business space too, if only you know how.
As Eric Toda, Head of Social Marketing at Airbnb says…
“Today it’s less about making sure the brand name is everywhere, and more about making sure the value of the brand is known, understood, and carried on through the community. The best brands of the beginning are still incredible brands, but the method in which they communicate is different. You still storytell, but it’s about how, why, and to whom.”
Others can tell your real story
Every brand has a story, whether you’re selling to consumers or businesses. And don’t forget that people buy from people. They might be a procurement manager, IT director or head of logistics by day, but they can still be found trail running at weekends, going to French conversation classes in the evening, and sobbing at a Disney film on the quiet.
These people are living, breathing, thinking, feeling human beings. They will have an inherent emotional response to a brand in the same way that they do as a consumer.
Mais bien sûr.
HubSpot has smashed it
HubSpot is one company that understands this undeniable truth.
The software company creates video stories of its customers to communicate its offering. It is a simple but effective way of showcasing the value of its products in someone else’s words.
This one for ProAthlete racked up over 2,300 views in 18 months - not bad for a B2B brand.
While not your conventional UGC, it still play by the same rules and principles (I feel like HubSpot had a little something to do with the creation).
As HubSpot’s Sophia Bernazzani says, “Marketers are great storytellers, but customers can sometimes be more effective.” Almost always, in fact.
Because people trust people
IDC research from 2017 found that 84% of CEOs and vice presidents use social media to inform purchasing decisions. People want truth and authenticity - and UGC is steeped in the stuff.
Adobe is all over it
Adobe is another brand alive to the immense value that embracing customer experiences offers.
The software company—makers of Photoshop and Illustrator—sets themes on Instagram each month, challenging and inspiring customers to post their most mind blowing photos.
The theme in July was ‘head in the clouds & beyond’, using #adobe_cosmos’. With 743,000 followers on Instagram, Adobe’s approach has clearly captured the imagination.
Isn't this crazy?! If you're tired, learn to rest...not to quit. Hope your day was awesome. Much love fam❤. . . Created by me (@gokuraz ) Created using @photoshop . . . #ps_wanderlust #adobe_cosmos #adobestudents_geometry #creativecloud_escape #hubs_united #omd_5k #thecreativers #milliondollarvisuals #imaginativeuniverse #creative_ace #enter_imagination #theuniversalart #creartmood #mg5k #thegraphicspr0ject #launchdsigns #ournaturedays_5k #edit_grams #discoveredit #visualambassadors #digitallyart #ig_shotz_magic #igcreative_editz #visual_creatorz #surrealism #spacewheel #creativeoptic #simplycooldesign #killerselects #kellansworld @enter.imagination @adobe @adobestudents @adobecreativecloud @visualambassadors @triptaminaworld @artofvisuals @earthpix
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So how can B2B brands harness their customers’ voices to bring their narratives alive?
UGC is endless…
Well, Instagram might be flavour of the month, but it isn’t the only way to capitalise on UGC.
Any content related to a brand that is voluntarily produced by its customers comes under the UGC umbrella. It’s about brands acting as a facilitator, capturing customer stories and sharing them, and encouraging others to do the same. It creates a community, better engaging existing customers and attracting hot new prospects too…
After all, stories about your brand are being told everyday—this is about you amplifying those experiences…
Three ways to wrap up UGC
Here are three key ways for B2B brands to gather and use UGC content in creative and impactful ways…
- Case study
Interview your satisfied clients, or ask if they mind filling in a template questionnaire.
A good case study will broadly cover the headache they grappled with before they began working with you, and how your product or service has overcome this.
How have you eased their pain?
Ideally it will also include some hard facts and figures around how much money or time they have been able to save, or how much new business they have generated as a result.
Bring it to life with some human quotes—not meaningless corporate drivel about “strategic imperatives” and “striving to achieve”—but real thoughts and feelings about “making our job infinitely easier” or being “blown away by what the kit can do.”
Get to the nub of the story.
This could be a short punchy case study, or an in depth exploration of the journey you have been on together. The result can be shared widely by yourself and your customer, whipping up a frenzy as it goes.
Ebooks can be a powerful tool in your armoury when it comes to the consideration stage of the purchasing funnel.
Content can range from ‘how to’ guides to ‘state of the industry’ snapshots or a focus on a specific technology, for example. Ultimately ebooks are used to attract readers seeking more information about a topic.
Again, customers, industry influencers and employees have a wealth of knowledge, views and experiences to share - it is mouthwatering original content.
Carry out focused customer surveys or interviews, or Q&A’s with industry specialists, and the resulting information can be crafted into a hugely valuable ebook which can be disseminated across countless channels.
A few years ago, US technology company, LivePerson wanted to reinforce its position as a thought leader in the digital engagement space.
The company interviewed 10 industry influencers and published the results as an ebook about the future of digital engagement. It prompted an 11% open rate, 17% CTR, 800 downloads and 270 marketing qualified leads. Not too shabby at all.
Figures from 2018 show that 23% of people had listened to a podcast in the preceding month, and 21% of these had started listening in the previous six months. (Acast Audio Intelligence Report).
The podcast star is rising, and it presents an ideal format for businesses to broadcast a discussion with a customer—or with an in-house specialist or sector expert. Again, authenticity and the human factor are key, allowing you to capture a conversation that offers value, insight and expertise, reinforcing the value of your offering, or positioning your business as an authority.
Podcasts can hold an audience’s attention for a whopping half hour (or more), as well as inspiring people to subscribe to your content and regularly devour it while driving or in the gym.
Or even in the bath.
Technology company, Dell is a shining example.
It has successfully used podcasts to cement its position as a thought leader, creating regular 25-40 minute episodes of its Dell Luminaries interviews, with guests ranging from internal experts to influential entrepreneurs and tech industry gurus.
Simple but unashamedly addictive.
There are stories all around you…
Businesses, you have an endless stream of stories at your fingertips.
Every day you will speak to a customer or peer who has a tale to tell or a nugget to share, and each one is an opportunity. Use it.