Change-up The Content Conveyor Belt: Crowdsource Your Content Instead

What’s the best way to become a better content marketer?

To stop writing.

No, don’t stop writing content altogether; just stop writing it yourself.

Marketers spend as much as 87 percent of their time grinding away at content strategy and creation. They take a keyword they think is important, write a blog post about it, then share it on social. Lather, rinse, repeat.

However, this conveyor belt method of content creation often churns out pieces that lack one thing buyers crave: authenticity.

According to Demand Gen Report, 97% of B2B buyers find user-generated content (UGC), like peer reviews, more credible than anything your team can create in its own four walls.

That means marketers pushing content production into overdrive in attempt to be widely seen and read are working harder, not smarter.

Why waste the energy? Instead, I recommend tapping into trusted voices who want to talk about you: your advocates.

They’re your impartial, unpaid, and rabid fans who have engaging stories to tell. Their writing is more genuine and builds trust faster than your clever marketing pitches. And, unlike influencers, they don’t cost money and their loyalties aren’t suspect.

Crowdsourcing ideas and content from your advocates will dramatically change how effective it is. And, when you make them feel invested in the creation process, they’re more likely to share your content on their social networks.

This is a conveyor belt I can get behind!

Here are four ways you can inspire your advocates to help you create more a effective content creation process.

1. Involve advocates in the ideation phase

It’s never too early to get your advocates involved in your content marketing strategy.

No one is closer to the challenges prospects face than they are. By basing content on their ideas, you’ll create things that will actually be read.

Taylor Moore, Head of Content Marketing at TouchBistro, has done this beautifully. Her content team wanted to be thought leaders in the restaurant space.

Her only problem? No one on her marketing team had ever owned or managed a restaurant.

Taylor and her team immersed themselves in the restaurant world by interacting with customers through their advocate community. They quickly discovered that they should write about staffing and recruiting because that’s what their customers wanted to read about—even though that wasn’t the main function of their platform.

They decided to create content around this topic—and it quickly became one of their top performing assets and lead-generating tools.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “My customers are too busy for that,” remember that TouchBistro sells to restaurateurs—nobody could be busier. Yet, even those restaurant owners advocated because they want to be recognized as thought leaders and give back to a company that makes their lives easier. Given the chance, your customers do, too.

Here’s how you can involve your advocates:

  • Start discussions in an online community to gauge what topics interest them
  • Share stories about their biggest pain points with your content team
  • Have them rank your value propositions
  • Ask them to participate in surveys to create original research
  • Solicit their feedback on your published content

2. Allow advocates to create your marketing content

Asking advocates to write your content for you sounds like a bold move, but you’d be surprised how willing your happiest customers are to contribute.

At HP Software IT Operations, advocates wrote tons of blog posts and even entire eBooks. The key, however, was starting small and nurturing their advocates toward bigger and bigger asks.

According to Chris Peltz, former Success Operations Manager for HP Software IT Operations, it begins with the question, “Do you want your name in lights?” If being featured piques a customer’s interest, he’ll prompt them to submit testimonials or quotes. Those who give long, thoughtful responses are then approached to do more, like write a guest blog or contribute to an eBook. (This is how advocates are born!)

At each stage, Chris encourages advocates with praise and recognition. His team offers incentives to top contributors and recognition in front of the whole advocate community for their efforts. Building social capital is of the most powerful motivators for your advocates.

Here’s how you can entice your customers to create content with you:

  • Start with small asks, like having them write a testimonial or short quote
  • Next, ask top contributors if they’d like to write a blog or be featured in a case study
  • Offering them a variety of ways to participate, such as through video
  • Ask them to share their knowledge and tips, not just product plugs
  • Always follow up and thank advocates so they want to contribute again

3. Ask advocates to edit and reality-proof your content

There’s nothing worse than releasing a blog full of marketing jargon, or, (even worse) the wrong terminology.

For example, calling an app’s users “customers” or a hospital’s patients “consumers” are surefire ways to look like an impostor. You can avoid this embarrassment by running things by your advocates for editing and “reality-proofing.”

Your customers are the experts after all. And, unlike your marketing team, they’re the ones in the field day in, day out. They know the trade—and the lingo—better than your team likely will.

That’s why Jillian Wood, Influitive’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, lets advocates vote on our eBook titles and designs to see what really resonates with them before publishing.

We also combed through our online reviews and testimonial submissions when re-writing our product descriptions pages so our language rang true with customers and prospects.

Letting advocates into your content creation process makes them feel like a VIP insider. And when they feel special, they want to be even bigger advocates for your company.

To get your advocates help clearing the “BS” from your content, you can:

  • Give them early sneak peeks into the content you create, and as for feedback or help editing
  • Have them vote on campaign or content messaging before it goes live or during the brainstorming phase
  • Ask for online reviews and testimonials to understand how advocates talk about you and your space
  • Transcribe phone calls and webinars with them so you can recall the words they use
  • Ask them to describe or define your product, space or their role and create an internal style sheet based on their responses

4. Ask advocates to promote your content

Content promotion is everything. In fact, some suggest that it’s as much as 80 percent of the content marketing equation.

Now that your advocates have helped you create your content, it’s time to hand them the bullhorn.

Luckily, if you’ve involved advocates in the ideation, writing, and editing processes, they’ll feel invested enough to share with their network of peers.

You can capitalize on this by making the sharing experience a great one, just like Francesca Krihely, Senior Manager of Developer Advocacy at MongoDB, does.

She gathers her content requests in one place within MongoDB’s advocate community. She also provides advocates with sample messaging to make sharing fast and easy. She also features top sharers in the community and awards them recognition through a “Tweet of the Week” contest.

Within four months, advocate social shares netted MongoDB 50,000 new visits to their website.

Ask your advocates to:

  • Make social sharing fun by having a contest for top sharers or content creators
  • Ask them to share your content, but balance that with other industry-related content that will improve their social presence
  • Help them connect with each other so they can grow their social networks
  • Give them shout-outs and praise via social media when they share
  • Point them to interesting, job-related discussions they may want to contribute to
  • Ask them to send you content to share

True advocates love being part of your story. They want to promote their business, advance their career, and feel like a valued part of your community. The content they produce is, by its nature, more persuasive than yours could ever be.

And you’ll win at content marketing by writing nearly none of it.

Mark Organ Organ is the founder and CEO of Influitive, helping companies mobilize their advocates to produce massive increases in referral leads, reference calls, social media participation and more. Mark first revolutionized B2B marketing as the founding CEO of Eloqua (ELOQ), the world leader in marketing automation software, which was acquired by Oracle for $871M. In between, he was a go-to-market consultant for SaaS companies in North America and Asia. Mark has also helped over a dozen software companies successfully go to market in asymmetrical or disruptive ways as a consultant and entrepreneur.

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