Cooperative content creation sounds a little too much like guest blogging for a lot of marketers, and we know what happened to guest blogging – a lot of brands got punished by Google and by audience members. So why are consultants predicting that participation marketing and cooperative content creation is the next, best thing in content marketing? And aren’t we all a little sick of hearing about the latest trends? Who can keep up? It’s actually not as bad as all that and it might actually be the answer to a huge challenge for marketers – keeping up with the need for new, fresh content on a weekly or daily basis.

Not the Guest Blogging of the Past

imagesLet’s start with what hasn’t worked so well in the past. Guest blogging was a hot trend that turned into a hot mess. It started with the promise of getting fresh ideas and new content without having to create that content yourself. Unfortunately, the quality on a lot of the guest blogs was very low and the number of backlinks to the guest blogger’s site, very high. Enter Google algorighm changes and the rest, well, the rest is a sad history.
“Guest blogging is a really good example of a problem we’ve had with trying to do content in the past because marketers have been tasked with creating more and more content. That’s a really big undertaking and involves generating a unique idea and then providing some unique or authentic view on a topic that isn’t just copying and pasting something else,” notes Erin Robbins O’Brien, COO GinzaMetrics.
Then there’s the concept of repurposing existing content. While good content should be repurposed from blog post to slide share to ebook to video, or whatever, just copying and pasting content from one place to another is going to get you penalized by any search engine these days.

Your Customers Tell Their Own Story

According to Erin, there are three compelling reasons to work with your customers to create content:

  1. Creation of original content – the result of a new partnership and fresh viewpoint
  2. Amplify the amount of content you distribute – now it’s not up to just you and your staff
  3. Relevant and authentic content – your customers are talking about what’s resonating with them

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By its very nature, cooperative content creation avoids many of the pitfalls of guest blogging. It’s a great way to talk about the customer journey from a customer perspective. It takes the case study one step further and provides content that talks about the customer journey from the point of view of the person or company on that journey. Instead of detracting from your content with backlinks to other sites, customer created content belongs only to your brand. The key to a successful cooperative content strategy is not only getting people to buy your product initially, but to continue to engage with you after they check out at the store, download your software, or read your whitepaper. The concept has already taken a foothold in the B2C space.
Ray Grieselhuber, CEO GinzaMetrics has this example to share, “We’re seeing this globally too.  There’s a site in Japan that sells high-end outdoor camping goods. They have created a community where people obsess about these products so much that they will actually spend their entire weekend putting up their tent in their backyard, camp in their backyard, and post videos, pictures, and comments on the brand’s website.”
For B2B marketers, creating that level of enthusiasm is not as easy. (duh). So how do B2B marketers create this post-conversion activation by making someone an evangelist for the brand or allowing them to tell their story to others?
“You actually don’t have to just work with people who are current customers. you can talk to anybody who’s relevant in your audience about what’s going on in the industry. For example, we do FOUND conferences that activate people who are both current customers as well as prospective customers and partners. We’ve seen great success in creating content through that conference here and also in Japan where we’ve had up to a couple hundred people all in one small seminar room,” Erin said.

People are Talking

There are already places on the internet where people are talking about your product. B2C companies have a built-in resource with product reviews and online forums. Without the built-in customer loyalty that often comes with B2C products, B2B brands often have a harder time. Forums and discussion boards, such as Quora, provide a platform for B2B brands to show thought leadership and to build an audience. This practice comes with a warning to avoid the temptation to talk about your product. Instead, build trust and start building relationships with people. This kind of thought leadership takes time and consistency.
The beauty of cooperative content creation is that you don’t have to build trust over time. Instead, since the information is coming from a third party, the trust in the content is inherent. You can actually bypass the time and effort it takes to build up trust if the information about you and your brand is already coming from customers who like your product and who are willing to help you out by writing positive reviews, doing case studies, or participate in your conferences or any other forums you manage from your site.

Not One More Thing On Your Full Plate

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One more thing cooperative content creation is not. It’s not just another thing to fill your already full to overflowing plate of things to do. The idea behind cooperative content creation is that having other people contributing to your content mix will actually take some of the burden off of you and your team. Not only will you potentially have other writers and contributors, you’ll also have a naturally occuring source of ideas for content that your customers and potential customers are already looking for. One interaction or one 15 minute conversation with a customer or someone in your industry can be the genisus of a month’s worth of content.
“For instance, you can do what we do with the FOUND conference or even with our FOUND Friday episodes. Get on a call and chat with a customer about a particular topic. Then you can leverage that for a case study, for advertising, or for e-commerce purposes if that’s your situation. You can use it for a blog post, landing pages, or email fodder,” recommends Erin.
While converations with customers and other people interested in your marketplace may happen naturally in the course of your day to day business, getting people to take the time to help you create content may be a bit more tricky. Start with the people who are already highly involved with your brand. Look at your customer segmentation and decide who would benefit most from joining you for a conversation.
It’s important to remember that in any cooperative environment, both parties must get some benefit from the coordinated efforts. While you may have already had success with people writing a great review on your site, or tweeting about how awsome you are, asking someone to create content is a lot more of a time and effort commitment on their part. One of the things to consider is to offer incentives. If someone signs up for your software, or makes a large purchase, offer a price break in exchange for some marketing collateral. The co-op becomes a kind of exchange and both parties benefit financially.

How Will You Engage Evangelists for Your Brand?

More content with less effort? Sign me up. Here are some things to keep in mind as you begin building a cooperative content strategy:

  • Look to your highly engaged customers
  • Look to customers who need to re-engage with your brand
  • Focus your cooperative efforts to narrow topic areas
  • Offer incentives for people to provide content
  • Use customer conversations as a genisus for ideas
  • Offer help and solutions on public forums
  • Create events and forums for your customers to share their stories
  • Look inside your organization – customer service and sales for content
  • Work with your PR department to identify trends

If you want to talk more about content marketing we’ve got you covered. Take a look at Found Friday, our weekly video series now also available via podcast. You can also contact us and set up a time to take a look at the platform, or tell us about your goals and we’ll see how we can help.