Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Let’s not fall b-to-behind on UGC

Remember when web video used to be a real drag—like a year and a half ago?

We’ve come a long way, baby, thanks to rapidly expanding bandwidth, vastly improved video compression, easy-to-use editing software (see Apple’s iMovie, for example), video search capability on Google and Yahoo, the proliferation of video sharing sites like YouTube … and whatever else you want to blame for the changing times. Today, just about anybody has the wherewithal to record, edit, upload and explore the wonderful world of web video content

The emergence of all these technological developments at once has quickly ushered in a new era of user-generated content, or UGC. It’s what the folks at Time were talking about when they named “You” their Person of the Year for 2006.

And if Time knows about it, well, it’s surely entered the mainstream. I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that the Super Bowl broadcast featured some high-profile UGC endeavors, but I will anyway: Doritos, Alka-Seltzer and Chevrolet.

OK, those are all high-profile consumer brands. So what about UGC in B2B? Based on some recent—and, I believe, unique and effective—video work we did for a client’s website, I’ve been thinking a lot more about that. A fellow b-to-b blogger, Rick Short, recently posted a video ad for the company he works for, and it’s quite funny. On another recent post, Rick also comments on whether UGC makes any sense in the b-to-b realm.

There’s still the typical “our clients aren’t ready for this” attitude in many b-to-b circles. It seems we’re always lagging on these fronts, and I understand the reluctance to spend a lot of resources on *unproven* tactics. (Caveat emptor: Always evaluate your video tactics against the overall company brand, goals and objectives.)

But as fast as the UGC phenomenon is moving, we had better do the “Is this right for us?” soul-searching concurrently with some experimentation. All marketing professionals, consumer and b-to-b alike, should be exploring the possibilities. Easily and affordably created and integrated into existing communications, UGC (as well as related web video content such as vlogs and video press releases, etc.) represents an unprecedented, nearly boundless opportunity for company brands to interact with customers, prospects, employees and recruits.

This isn’t a “now UGC it, now you don’t” situation (ouch!). UGC is here to stay, and it’s time to join the fray.

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