User-generated content is definitely one of the darlings of the web world right now.
Enmeshed in those three words is the hint of an idealistic utopia, where you never have to create content because your users are doing it all for you! What could be better than that!?
Of course, that ideal doesn’t account for the fact that (in my experience—this is not a researched figure) the majority of users generate sub-standard content. If you’re a brand, using user-generated content to promote yourself presents many, many challenges.
But for small scale, selective reuse, user-generated content can be a goldmine.
There. I said it: a goldmine.
Even for products in beta testing.
That’s right: you can use these approaches even if all you have is a handful of beta testers. So if you’re starting from scratch, writing marketing content as you beta-test the site, why not feed those testing results back into your brand communications themselves?
Let’s see just how creative we can get with our beta-user-generated content.
All brands want a testimonial on the homepage. Or a whole separate Testimonials page. There are plenty of ways to get testimonials, but if you don’t even have a single paying customer yet, you may think testimonials are a distant dream.
Think again. A good beta-testing process will involve your gaining feedback on your product or system from the beta testers. Whether it’s through a survey, a forum, an email, or an in-person conversation, you’ll be engaging somehow with beta users about what you’ve built.
Take a look at what they say. You’ll likely find these people will make a comment on your product overall before they start nitpicking its details. Take those broad statements, and see if you can’t work them back into your marketing pages with some big, fat quote marks—and due attribution!—around them.
Your new product serves a particular need. Perhaps it’s a brand-spankin’-new product category that no-one in your target audience has ever heard of before.
Any marketer will tell you that a good way to explain the product is through a case example or two. While you may want to do that in a video, it’s just as likely (or more, if you’re on a tight budget) that you’ll want some text-base examples too.
Well, what have your beat testers been doing all this time if not trying out your product or system to solve real-world problems that they’re facing? Not only that, but since they’re (hopefully) in your target audience, those case scenarios are (hopefully) likely to be typical of those your broader, post-launch customer base will face.
So go forth and look into your database. What are people doing with your product? If they’re engaging with others through it, you may actually be able to pull the exact words they used out of your system and reformulate them as quotes within the examples or case studies on your marketing pages.
They’ll be conceptually relevant, because they’re actual cases. But they’ll also likely be emotionally relatable, because you’ll be able to use the actual language of your target users.
Yes! “Resonant”, real-world case examples: check.
By this time, you’ll know who’s using your system for what. That beta test research will have pulled up bugs and areas for improvement—and that’s great.
But I’ll bet it also gave you an insight into functionality that needs explaining, user expectations that need setting, and information gaps that need filling.
Trawl through that research and use it to formulate (or refine and build) your first-cut FAQs. Again, you’ll be able to apply users’ actual language in formulating help article titles and responses, which will give you a massive head-start on building loyalty when you launch.
Oh, and you’ll also be able to anticipate the questions they will ask frequently. Not bad, eh?
Your beta testers really are your best friends, professionally speaking.
Sure, they’re helping you find bugs and broken code, and making sure your devs have done their jobs. But beyond that, they can help you communicate your offering more clearly than you could have imagined. And if you’re about to launch, that input can reveal invaluable in-roads to target audience engagement.
Just make sure that—of course—you ask them for permission to use their words in each case.
Do you use beta test research to help hone your marketing and product support messages? Tell us how in the comments.
Georgina has more than fifteen years' experience writing and editing for web, print and voice. With a background in marketing and a passion for words, the time Georgina spent with companies like Sausage Software and sitepoint.com cemented her lasting interest in the media, persuasion, and communications culture.