Customers are at the heart of your business. Of course, they provide your business with the revenue it needs to keep going. But did you also think about the fact that they can help you grow your audience? It’s then natural to think about how to include customers in your content marketing.
When your customers get involved in your content marketing programs and you include customers in your content marketing, the power of your efforts increases by leaps and bounds. With customer-centric content marketing programs, you can:
- Receive outside validation of your products, services, or brand
- Create emotional connections with your customers
- Increase customer loyalty
- Gain audience trust
- Capture interest from new prospects
- Drive engagement with your brand
In fact, both millennials and baby boomers have ranked word of mouth as a critical influencer when purchasing consumer goods, big-ticket items, and financial products. And the importance of word of mouth recommendations isn’t limited to B2C: 91% of B2B buyers are influenced by word of mouth recommendations when making their decision to purchase.
Ready to start amplifying the reach of your content marketing programs and include customers in your content marketing? Take a look at the three methods below for capturing and spreading customer love and decide for yourself which would work best for your business.
Laying the groundwork for how to include customers in your content marketing aka customer-centric content marketing
Before you begin any of the campaigns below, take a moment to think about your audience. Answer the following questions before you decide which of the three methods discussed would work best for your company:
- What medium? – Where is my audience most active? Facebook? LinkedIn? Twitter? Yelp? Pinterest? Instagram? YouTube? Vine? The place you should contact your audience to gain their participation is where your audience is strongest.
- Will I use a hashtag? – Do I want to avoid including my company’s name in the tag in case the hashtag gets hijacked or the campaign goes wrong? Have I checked to make sure my hashtag doesn’t spell something awkward?
- Tone and content? – Am I a serious brand? A light-hearted brand? Do I focus on technical information? Am I a world-traveler? Stay true to your branded tone and content even while you are working with your customers.
- Motivation? – What will motivate my audience to participate? Are they working towards a prize? Are they already rabid fans who just need an outlet? Am I offering promotion or accolades to an influencer? Without any motivation factors, you won’t be able to gain any content.
- Big picture? – How does this fit in with my other marketing efforts? Remember that no marketing program should work in a void. Make the theme of the program mesh with the rest of your marketing plan.
- Should I do this? – Is there any reason not to run the campaign? Is there a national tragedy occurring at the same time I am vying for audience attention? Have I had any bad press recently that I don’t want to emphasize? If the answer to any of these is yes, then it’s not a good time to start a customer-centric campaign.
- Am I covered legally? – Have I consulted with a lawyer? Have I written out any rules for my contest? Have I ensured that content can be used as I want it to be used and published in whatever medium I want? Make sure you are covered before you begin.
Once you’ve answered these questions, you are ready to jump into the customer-centric content marketing game.
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1. User Generated Content Marketing Campaigns
User-generated content marketing campaigns have gained popularity over the years. With the growth of social media, businesses have closer access to their customers and better channels to tap into their customers’ enthusiasm. Therefore, it has become easier to run successful contests and programs to capture the user point of view.
For example, taking a cue from customers who have been doodling designs on their reusable white cups for years, Starbucks ran a White Cup Contest. The contest encouraged customers in the U.S. and Canada to decorate a Starbucks cup with customized art, take a photo of it, and submit the design through social media using the hashtag #WhiteCupContest. The prize itself was fairly small – twenty-five reusable cups with the winning design featured on the cup and a $300 Starbucks gift card – but the winner’s positive publicity would be undeniable.
With nearly 4,000 lovingly designed entries received in a three-week period, the contest was a success. Customers showed their adoration for the company via a public forum (social media) and the media ate it up. Moreover, Starbucks showed how much it appreciates customers and values their feedback. It was a win on all sides.
Yet not all campaigns need to involve a prize or discount. For instance, the #ShareACoke hashtag started in 2011 and it’s still going strong. By going to the Shareacoke.com website, you can design your own personalize Coke container. Then you can take a picture of yourself with your awesome can or bottle and post it to the Shareacoke gallery, as well as on your social media channels.
There’s no prize other than the possibility of your pictures being featured online and on Coca-Cola billboards across the country – and having other fans appreciate your humor and appreciation for a container of Coke. Yet with the launch of this popular campaign, Coke was able to boost its sales in the U.S. by more than 2%.
Coke brings customers into its “creativity” process, customers get to show how clever they are, and finding the right phrase on a can or bottle can even induce customers to purchase the product. Not a bad set of results.
Here are a few things to think about if you decide your business could benefit from a user-generated content campaign:
- Be authentic or you will come out looking bad.
- Decide who will be monitoring the contest. Who is watching and responding to your hashtag? Who is keeping customers updated about the latest and greatest entries?
- Make sure your audience understands your rules and/or guidelines – and run them by your legal team. Don’t get yourself in trouble!
2. Online reviews
Online reviews are a great way to get your users involved in the content marketing process. After all, 84% of customers either completely or somewhat trust recommendations from family and friends about products.
Wondering whether or not your customers will share their positive opinions? Research has shown that on social media, 58% of customers share positive experiences they’ve had with a business, as well as ask family and friends for advice..
Where you want to request your customers to write reviews depends on where you’re selling your products and/or services, who you partner with, what kind of products/services you sell, and more. For example, here are some places you might target for reviews:
- Consumer goods, restaurants, local shops – Yelp
- Business software – TrustRadius
- Apple applications –iTunes App Store
- Software integrated with Salesforce – AppExchange
There are a number of different ways to encourage customers to provide online reviews. For instance, after a customer has used your product for a bit, you could send out a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey. If the customer filling out the NPS questionnaire gives you a high score, you could then ask if that person would be willing to review you on the site of your choice.
If your sales people have close connections with customers, you can also run an internal campaign to encourage your team to request customer reviews from their accounts. Hold a contest where the salesperson with the most reviews can win a prize. The prize doesn’t have to be huge – just enough to show appreciation for the winner.
The only thing you absolutely need keep in mind is that must avoid fake reviews at all costs. It’s illegal and it will always come back to bite you in the end.
3. Curated customer-centric content
The idea behind curated customer-centric content is to ask your customers or prospects a question or two and see how they answer. Then take the best of those answers, edit them, and make them into a piece – or several pieces – of content.
For instance, OneReach recently polled 63 customer support industry influencers, asking them a single question: What is the #1 way for any company to improve their customer service? The company then compiled those answers into a fantastic customer service ebook. That book is behind a form and used to collect leads. However, they also created a summary blog post with a shareable infographic on the subject and advertised it via social media channels.
Even beyond that, the influencers highlighted in the piece publicized it through their own channels. For instance, I was one of the influencers quoted in the piece, so I allowed OneReach to post a guest piece with an accompanying infographic on my company (Glance Network) blog. The blog post is linked back to the original piece on the OneReach site and has been publicized through the Glance social channels – and my own social media accounts. Way to amplify the OneReach voice!
Here are some tips on how to make your curated customer-centric content efforts effective:
- Ask an easy question or set of questions – You are depending on people to give you an answer out of their own goodwill. Make the process as straightforward as possible.
- Make it simple to collect input – Try using a service like SurveyMonkey or even a simple direct message on Twitter (particularly useful now that you can write messages that are longer than 140 characters).
- Lay it out – Be sure to brand your content with appropriate colors and your logo. Also, make it graphically interesting by turning the information you gained into an infographic or highlighting particularly interesting responses.
- Use keywords – Remember, you can make the most interesting content but if no one finds it, it was hardly worth the effort.
- Socialize it – Advertise it on your social channels.
- Ask your contributors to socialize it – Let your customers and influencers go wild. Provide them with blog posts on the subject, offer them neat graphics, give them a shout out that they can repost. Make it as easy as possible for them to publicize your piece.
- Repurpose the content – Pull out your infographic and tease readers with the highlights. Make graphically interesting slides that you can post on SlideShare as a group or singularly on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. You can even turn the slides into a short video and post it on YouTube.
Bonus customer content pointers
All of these ideas are great ways to get your audience involved in your content marketing efforts. However, there are a few additional rules you have to follow in order to make the process work.
- Promote – You will have to do some work to get your audience involved and to publicize your program via social media. This isn’t a “set it and forget it” process. You must continue to promote your program before and during the process to keep the momentum going. Reply to every entry to show you appreciate your audience’s participation. And after you have the final result, you invite your audience to share the outcome.
- Respect – Treat your customers and influencers with respect. Make the collection and sharing process as easy as possible for them and praise their efforts. No one is required to participate in your program. The fact that they are doing so is something you should thank them for.
- Optimize – Be sure you are optimizing your content. Use hashtags and keywords to capture the audience you are targeting. I can’t say it enough – if no one can find your content, what’s the point in creating it?
How do you encourage your audience to participate and include customers in your content marketing efforts? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me up at @HollyChessman.