Originally written & published on Forbes.com Content is a vital part of marketing, but “feeding the content beast” is expensive and time consuming. According to Curata’s “B2B Marketing Trends Survey 2012 Report,” the top three challenges of content marketing are: creating original content; having time to create it; and finding high-quality content. With 28% to 33% of marketing budgets dedicated to content marketing, this is obvious priority can become a herculean challenge.
Enter the consumer. Highly-satisfied customers are a secret marketing weapon for companies, whether they are retailers, manufacturers or in the service industry. Play it right and these brand advocates will create high-quality content for you in a variety of ways, without being paid.
Intrigued? Here’s how to turn your brand advocates into a powerful content creation force.
Find your advocates. A simple and effective way to identify your advocates is to ask them the ultimate question for customer loyalty: (On a scale of 0-10), “How likely are you to recommend us to your friends or colleagues?” Customers who answer 9 or 10 are considered advocates. You should be asking this question across customer touch points; via social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, online communities; digital channels like your website, corporate blogs, email, customer management portals, support channels; and even via mobile devices.
Turn advocates into content creating machines. Forget incentives or perks. Brand advocates recommend their favorite products because they’ve had a fantastic experience and want to help others. The key is to make it easy for advocates to generate content by giving them online tools to create the following:
- Highly positive reviews that will increase ratings, combat negative word of mouth, and improve SEO
- Glowing stories and testimonials that will boost awareness and brand reputation
- Answers to prospects’ questions that will increase sales conversion rates
- Tweets, Facebook posts, and comments that will drive positive word of mouth for your brand
- Videos, photos, and other multimedia content to boost engagement
Amplify advocates. Once advocates have created a piece of authentic and compelling content for your brand, give them the tools to share the love via social sharing widgets for channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and email. To help boost ratings, enable them to publish their reviews on relevant third party review sites such as Yelp, Amazon, or TripAdvisor.
Leverage content. Advocate-generated content is digital gold. Don’t keep this treasure buried in your backyard. Display how you’ve created raving advocates by posting their recommendations on media channels like your website, Facebook and Twitter. Another powerful way to leverage this content is to put positive reviews or testimonials at each step in the consumer purchase path to increase conversion rates and reduce shopping cart abandonment.
Track results. Tracking allows you to measure and improve results. Here are a few things you should track:
- Profiles of advocates who are creating content. Who are these content creators? What are their names and email addresses? What companies do they work for? What are their job titles? The more you know about these valuable customers, the better.
- Activities of advocate content creators. You should be able to track how much content advocates are creating; the type of content (for example, reviews, stories, and answers); and when and where they’re sharing it.
- Results of advocate content sharing. It’s important to track how many people in advocates’ social networks are viewing advocate-created content and how many are taking the next step, whether that’s signing up for a webinar, clicking through to learn more about the recommended product, or buying.
Keep advocacy authentic. This is critical to success. “Recommendations” that are spurred by perks or rewards compromise your credibility and brand reputation. In fact, studies show prospects are actually less likely to buy the recommended product if they learn that the recommender was given an incentive. If you need to pay someone to write a review, you should fix your product or service, rather than pimping out your customers.