As your organization has crafted its customer training program, you’ve probably considered — or perhaps even implemented — a user-generated learning (UGL) initiative. You are not alone: A 2012 study by GP Strategies and TrainingIndustry.com revealed that 91 percent of corporate training pros utilized or planned to utilize UGL in their professional development and training endeavors.
Essentially, UGL encompasses any customer or partner training that occurs outside traditional instructor-led training or standard online courses. To put a modern spin on it, UGL “crowdsources” your customer training by gathering content from the actual learners. It also reflects our aptitude for social learning, or knowledge passed informally between individuals instead of the traditional (but still valuable) teacher-student relationship.
In UGL, the learners — your customers — contribute to the overall learning experience through blogs, wikis, Facebook discussion pages or Twitter posts. UGL can also take the form of customer-led podcasts, webinars or Skype meet-ups. Thanks to today’s social media outlets and mobile technology, learners can interact beyond the confines of a classroom or corporate training center.
Increasingly, cutting-edge corporate training organizations now realize the benefits of UGL are not confined to mere inclusion in the customer training program. UGL, when incorporated and curated properly, presents an opportunity for your organization to build a community among customers (and the company), foster brand loyalty, and increase revenues.
Create a UGL community
As your customers progress through the online customer training program, encourage them to reach out to other learners via social media channels. Specifically request they provide training tips to other learners via Facebook pages, wikis and discussion boards. If a particular user shows an interest (or is well-versed in the subject matter), ask them to contribute a guest blog, training video or thought leadership article.
Be sure to have your instructors chime in with learners to not only create a bond between your organization and your customers, but also to monitor whether the comments and advice truly promote skills acquisition.
In addition to generating new UGL content for your customer education program, a community sprouting from your customer education initiation gives learners a feeling they have a real stake in their training and the outcome. They are not just doing the training to merely finish it; they are actively participating in the learning process.
Loyalty grows from UGL
Consumer companies and savvy marketers long ago tapped into the power of user-generated content to build loyalty between a brand and its customers. Using — what else? — social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, brands regularly dialogue with consumers by reaching out to its target customers, responding to comments and reviews or otherwise connecting with consumers. Oftentimes, brands use consumer testimonials in their marketing efforts. Those connections build loyalty and trust in the brand.
It works the same with your organization’s UGL program, which serves as another extension of your brand. View UGL as a vehicle to connect with your customers. The more you use your customers’ content in your customer training program, the more they will see your organization as a true partner that values their input. That converts them into loyal customers and even brands ambassadors.
Turn UGL into a rainmaker
For years, SaaS and other service organizations have parlayed a customer training program into a revenue source by offering a series of professional development courses that award certificates. A prominent example is HubSpot Academy for inbound marketers.
Similarly, once your organization has amassed enough user-generated training content, package it as a course or string of courses for your customers. Since its content from the actual users of your product or service — the ones on the front lines, so to speak — customers may view it as more valuable, trustworthy, and applicable to them. Therefore, they’ll consider it a worthwhile purchase.
Related Reading: Drive Your Company Growth With An Online Customer Education Program
Even if you don’t sell your UGL, it can nevertheless bring in revenue. UGL extends and strengthens the link between your organization and customers. Loyal, engaged customers are likely to recommend your services to potential customers. Think of UGL as a referral source, and reap the benefits in added dollars.