Now-a-days user generated content (UGC) is something that advertisers value because it's living proof that an audience is engaging with the content of a site, but shy away from because it always ultimately ends up as an off topic, vulgar argument and can be a risk for clients that value brand safety '?¦ which is all of them.
Whether it's a finance site with a 'high class'? audience with an average Household Income (HHI) of $200 million+, or something like the Huffington Post (a personal favorite), where college kids browse articles and fire off opinions 24/7 (especially during O-Chem 102); UGC always inevitably ends up as a battle between some guy named Vector901 and some guy named Sparticus463 which could not be more off topic and is riddled with name calling and intelligence ' (let's just call it, questioning).
But a recent whitepaper shed some light on the type of brands that should not only attempt to surround UGC, but also actively participate in UGC ' business to business brands (B2B).
In the B2B world, UGC is not riddled with expletives and put downs, because B2B UGC (a little alphabet soup) is primarily used as an information sharing tool, where professionals share business experiences, advice, and best practices. Research shows that on average, B2B professionals in the IT space spend 5.86 hours per week consuming or participating in UGC and Social Media as it relates to work. Almost more than they utilize Editorial Media (think CNN.com, WSJ.com and other publishers) 3.81 and vendor content (think brands) 3.41 combined.
B2B UGC is growing in popularity because more and more B2B professionals are relying on fellow experts within the same industry, perhaps with more experience, for product evaluation, advice, and recommendations. 64.4% of IT professionals surveyed claimed that UGC helped them solve problems in the workspace through experience based advice, whereas only 14.6% claimed that Social Media and UGC do not help them do their job better at all. Think of it as an extension of the office, if you have a question that Jim the cubicle over can't answer, rather than offer up your best guess or take the risk of learning from experience, check out a reliable collaborative site and see what other professionals stuck in a similar situation have done, and find out what the outcome was.
So what does this mean?
It means as a B2B brand, do not be misled to think that the demand for your input in social and collaborative sites is not there. Instead see this as an opportunity to take an industry leading role as an active participant on collaborative sites and social networks where UGC lives. You don't need to be an industry innovator constantly publishing new content and insight to have a presence on a site where relevant professionals (aka future customers) turn to seek advice. 58.1%of professionals surveyed look to Social Media and UGC sites to build skills and expertise in their field.
When you do utilize UGC however, also know that of the members surveyed, on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most important in regards to Social Media & UGC participation from brands, that the two highest ranking categories, both scoring at 4.2, were transparency and openness about the brand involvement, and responsiveness to member questions, tips and troubleshooting.
So take a passive role but engage with your audience, answer questions when asked, provide insight when available, and don't think that social media and UGC is just for brands like Old Spice and high schoolers.
Source: Top 5 Trends in B2B Social Media Usage: What Every Marketer Should Know ' White Paper ' Toolbox.com 2010