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The power of a meme – Does UGC have a place in B2B marketing?

In the long history of Google April Fools’ Day tricks, none have gone quite so disastrously as the Gmail meme button. With the “Mic Drop” feature, Google thought it was cashing in on the never ending popularity of sharing gifs, but boy did it fall so flat. The product forums were inundated with huge numbers of complaints, while their Twitter was flooded with criticism.

Did Google drop the ball?

While Google was quick to apologise, I think this is an important debate that I hope will continue. Many of the critics felt memes are not appropriate for email – particularly as it’s a service that is often used for business purposes – but in its launch blog, Google suggested it should be used in just such work scenarios.

Though this feature was in fact never turned on for Google Apps used by businesses, education organisations or governments, I think that there is a time and a place for gifs, memes and other user generated content (UGC) in the workplace. Salesforce agrees – its most recent State of Marketing report 2016 found that half of high performing marketing professionals are extensively leveraging user generated content.

Looking at a really great example of B2B marketing using UGC, I’d like to make the case that this is an underused tool which can, when used correctly, generate huge engagement.

Dell: Revenge of the (IT) Nerds

In 2015, Mediacom ran a unique campaign for Dell Germany. Launching with a 16 webisode sitcom, Revenge of the (IT) Nerds, it was followed up with a Tumblr page where IT administrators could create memes and contribute stories about the Dumbest Assumable User.

Meme

This campaign really tapped into the influences on IT administrators in a way that spoke to them as business people, but in a language – video and UGC – that they would be more familiar with as consumers. The videos and Tumblr page created a 213,000-strong community of IT professionals, with 20% returning regularly.

To me, they show that, given how comfortable consumers are sharing their own content via social media, there will be benefits from bringing this into business environments.

Can you get away with a GIF in B2B content marketing?

Dell was successful because it knew its audience, spoke to them in a language they understood, and, through their meme creator, gave the audience control over the message they wanted to share.

The mistake that Google made, and the orchestrators admit this themselves, is not getting user consent for their meme button – or explain its use clearly enough. In our industry it is easy to forget that our audience, though businesses, are also consumers.

Consumer advertisers love UGC, because it offers real time proof that an audience is engaging with the content of brand or campaign, for B2B content marketing this is equally true. Businesses looking to integrate more rich media and UGC into their campaigns can learn from these two case studies and perhaps consider using this technique as part of their next marketing campaign.

The yays and nays of B2B UGC

UGC is a key tool for peer to peer marketing, as it positions your content as a trusted authority. In this way, your knowledge and brand are referenced by trusted third parties. One way to think of it is as a testimonial; B2B UGC is growing in popularity because more and more business professionals are relying on fellow experts within the same industry.

Ahead of a campaign, consider investing in your presence on social and collaborative sites. Being responsive to queries and resharing audience content is an important way to build their participation. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that, as a company, your presence is not valued; if you provide knowledge and add value you will generate interactions. The more transparent and open you are about your brand involvement, the more trusted your content will be.

When planning a campaign, the single best thing you can do for your UGC is have a strong call to action – be clear about what you are asking participants to do. If you can demonstrate some value or enjoyment in participation, you’ll be more successful. And don’t be afraid to keep it simple: one of the classic UGC generating campaigns is running a competition with entrants sharing their submission social or via a suitable forum.

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