User generated content: video testimonials for successful marketing

User generated video testimonials are one of the most desired types of user generated content. UGC itself is a relatively new concept that describes any content created by unpaid contributors in support of brands. UGC has come into existence because of the exponential growth of social media and typically comes in the form of a post, be it video, image, tweet, or review.

We’re at an exciting time where smartphone video capture, editing, and collaboration is easier than ever, thus empowering brands to leverage the UGC trend and create video testimonials with customers at a global scale. As opposed to more expensive, sometimes overly scripted, and time-consuming professional videos, UGC is straightforward, cost-effective, and authentic.

User generated video testimonials in the brand marketing kit

Many of us are suspicious of glamourous and scripted testimonials. We all have an inner sixth sense that tells us when a story is flimsy. And if someone sounds on a corporate video just like they would in a teleshopping show with an offer that sounds too good to be true… well, that’s doesn’t sound trustworthy. When your audience research solutions online, they want to read and see fresh, personal, honest perspectives, from real people.  

So, you may wonder, how are user generated video testimonials different and can we make them brand aligned at all? Any customer records whatever brand endorsement with their phone and posts wherever on social? Any endorsement is appreciated, but what we mean is that your customers are the source, the generators, the videographers of the video testimonial, not the strategists, nor the editors.

Many brands prefer to have consistency in their voice and publishing control. So, despite calling them user generated video testimonials, we’re quite strict about the qualification criteria. What we (at Advocacy Maven) mean by user generated video testimonials is:

  • Video content planned by your brand marketing team
  • On specific topics or products that are strategic to your business
  • With a defined story arch that represents your brand voice
  • Broken into short segments that advocates can film by themselves
  • Knitting in client filmed, brand produced, and stock video b-roll
  • Professionally adjusted for clear voice and high-quality image
  • Edited to include your brand markers: slates, logos, colors, music
  • Produced by your team and published on your web properties

Thus, when we say you should absolutely produce user generated video testimonials, we’re not suggesting you should delegate all responsibility to your fans. We’re merely suggesting some adjustment to the reality we’re living through, so you can eliminate the cost and carbon footprint of a crew visiting customer HQ and save budget for other initiatives.

User generated video testimonials: production process

If you are already using video testimonials as part of your marketing strategy, you’re halfway there. With minor tweaks in the process you can publish affordable video and keep up with the volume demands of your editorial calendar.

1. Identify the right advocates

You may already have a process in place for tracking down your fans. It can be the regular Net Promoter Score survey, or nominations from sales reps, customer success managers or product team, a recurring ask in the advocate community or forum, or an inbound hand raiser form on the website. If you never produced testimonials before, these are all great sources to consider.

Consider how you spent the video budget in the past. In most programs I interact with, because video was so darn expensive, the presenter would always be a senior professional, preferably an exec. I think the logic behind that was that the final decision maker for the purchase was also an exec so like attracts like!? But with less cost comes more flexibility. Consider including real product users in your videos. Decision making is so complex nowadays; and especially in B2B there are multiple stakeholders with vastly different needs. You need to sound genuine to each of them.

2. What’s in it for them?

Why do we do the things we do? What is it that drives our behaviors? It can be either:

  • An intrinsic motivator: things that are personally rewarding to us.
  • Or an extrinsic motivator: we do things because we expect a reward or want to avoid an unpleasant outcome.

Think about the advocates you selected above and the recruitment channel. Do you know anything about them and their motivations? Maybe their account team knows more and can help you position your ask. If you have intel, use it well.

If you are fishing in unfamiliar seas, however, try positioning a mix of general benefits: establishing authority amongst their peers, boosting their personal brand, educating other users, overcoming camera shyness, or mastering the process of selfie video. Add an external perk if you can and you have a good cocktail of motivators that can convince anyone to grab the reward and feel personal accomplishment in the process.

3. Practice what you preach

Nobody wants to be the hero of an ugly user generated video testimonial that all their friends end up seeing. But many people would love to be in an awesome video that viewers appreciate. If you told the advocates your video will help them be better, boost their brand, expand their network, then they need to look good in it.

  • Be clear about your request and the topics they should cover. Add some key points if you can. Although the power of user generated testimonials is in allowing your customers to be real and authentic, without having to follow a script, you should make it as easy as possible. The more they try to figure it out by themselves, the more stuttering.
  • Guide them to excellent quality. A user generated video testimonials one pager that tells them what clothing looks good on screen and how to ensure high quality sound and light, will do. If it’s too complicated, adherence will decline
  • Reassure them that you do edit the footage, so they don’t have to stress getting it perfect and focus on getting it done.

4. Make it simple

Tell them exactly what you need and how you need it. Make a story mapping based on what you know about their product adoption. Be clear about the footage you need and how it comes together with footage you have. This is not a script, it’s more of an inventory of all the things you need in the production. Here’s an example:

  • B-roll: customer to film the environment in which she uses product
  • Intro: customer to say his name and a few words about the company
  • Background: customer to describe situation before buying product
  • Solution: customer to list the components of her purchase and a few words about where it fits in the tech stack, brand will come with some b-roll showing a video of the product
  • Results: customer to list business results obtained as a consequence of using the solution, such as performance, scalability, market share, ability to achieve a goal, etc
  • Personal impact: customer to say how her day is different now or how the company’s customers and collaborators were impacted
  • Branding: editor will add lower thirds, transitions, copyright slate, music
  • Customer will upload filmed footage and b-roll to this shared folder by that date
  • Each component will be filmed three times and last max 1 minute each, editor will pick the best option and edit

Make it clear to your customer what the user generated video testimonial steps are, how you also participate. Inspire confidence and poise. Let them know you’re fully committed to making them shine and you have the right resources standing by.

5. Contribute with the tools they need

Consider investing a little budget in some inexpensive smartphone video rigs and sending them to advocates ahead of the shoot. If your advocates contribute quality footage, good sound, and steady shots, that will shave hours of work for the editing team. This shows commitment on your end. If you make the effort of purchasing and shipping something to empower your fans, they will do the best to empower you. Plus it can serve as a nice perk for your fans, a gadget they can show to colleagues and incite more interest in your UGC video testimonials program.

6. Communicate clearly and appreciatively

Don’t let the enthusiasm of your advocates fade away. Thank them for their contribution, let them know how long it will take to edit, what the next steps are, and even what content you will promote with their help. We all love to make a positive contribution to something we believe in. It’s feedback on how we’ve done that keeps momentum going.

7. Edit the user generated video testimonials

Now that you’ve finally got the raw footage, it’s time to polish it based on your brand’s guidelines and purpose. Considering that your customers are not professional speakers, nor actors, you might have to trim the footage and adjust certain parts of it to ensure the best quality and relevancy for your business.

8. Get formal approval and support

Share the final video with your advocate and ask them for permission to publish. If you communicated frequently, this will be just a formality. But it closes the loop on the effort and shows consideration for your advocate. Once the video is published share the link with them and ask for their support with making it a social media hit.

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User generated video testimonials: production costs

Planning, filming, and editing are the three must-have phases of any video production. Working with a professional marketing agency through all three stages and covering travel and accommodation for a large production crew can require a sizable marketing budget.

But for user generated video testimonials, customers can record a video using anything from smartphone’s camera to tablet, laptop or desktop webcam. Thus, renting a venue, hiring a filming crew, planning logistics, and arranging accommodation are no longer required. User generated videos not only save a substantial portion of your marketing budget, they are also lower-effort and offer businesses the chance to promote their brand and products through real fan videos that carry more weight than any other type of testimonial.

Whether you choose to handle video testimonial creation in-house or outsource it, there are still two production phases that remain on your table.

1. Pre-production (planning)

In this stage you need to get a reality check on your product and service priorities, build an editorial calendar, select advocates that successfully use your priority products, recruit them into your advocacy program, brief them on what needs to be accomplished, and train them on how to produce quality footage, There may also be some logistics involved, for example if you decide to send them a video kit. The above process gives more insight.

This can all be coordinated by your advocacy marketers if there is bandwidth, or passed on to an external agency, or a mix. The cost will thus be composed of a fraction of your marketer’s wage and benefits and the number of hours you outsource. Approximately $1000 to $3000.

2. Production (filming)

You can do this in house with minimal tools. Teach your customer how to set their phone, be centered in the filming, and ensure good light and sound. You can guide them in a conf call and address the interview questions or hire a professional journalist from your content agency. You should also do an interview transcript and select the most appropriate sound bites before editing. This step can cost you $500 to $1500 depending on the complexity of the project.

3. Post-production (editing)

Another important aspect that drives the overall price of creating quality user generated video testimonials is the sourcing and editing process. Of course, your advocates can just send the footage in a zip via a service that allows large files. But if you want to make it easier for them and support better collaboration, you will need some sort of common storage. A shared Drive, Box, or SharePoint folder or a tailored solution like Sauce mentioned above can make it easier for your advocates to understand what is expected of them and tag each piece correctly. That can save hours of editing.

And since we talk about editing, that will add some cost to the production as well. You can use an online tool for basic editing, cuts, transitions, lower thirds, or purchase a professional piece of software if you have the editing resources in house, or outsource it all to an agency for an hourly rate. This step can cost you from $500 to $2000 depending on the quality of the footage, length of video, branding elements and b-roll to be included, and any quick turnaround fees.

All is all, UGC video testimonial production can cost from $2000 to $6000 depending on the complexity of the project.

Rewards and incentives

Incentives offered to your customers for creating user generated video testimonials are of course optional, but they have been shown to stimulate a positive answer. It can be the video production kit and a handwritten note. Or gift cards anywhere between $25 to hundreds of dollars, product discounts of up to 50%, or training coupons worth hundreds of dollars. The sky, your budget, and your policy are the limit.

Key takeaways:

  • User generated video testimonials are not about ad-hoc recording but orchestrated marketing productions. Your customers are the source, the generators, the videographers of the video testimonial, not the strategists, nor the editors.
  • The content strategy, planning, recruiting, engaging, and editing remain on your table and will generate production costs, but it will be lower than a cam and crew production
  • Producing one professionally edited UGC video testimonial will cost from $1500 to $5000 depending on your preferred mix of internal and agency resources in the production process.