While content is key for an effective marketing strategy, it is unrealistic to expect a brand to pump out unique and original high-quality content on a regular basis. Sooner or later, that tap is going to run dry, and that's where user-generated content can save the day. User-generated content (UGC) is defined as content in any form such as reviews, videos, discussion forum posts, blogs, audio files, and digital images created by consumers or any users, other than the brand, made publicly available to information seekers. Research has found UGC to be more relatable among consumers; 92 percent of consumers around the world trust UGC over traditional advertising, and according to one study, millennials find it 35 percent more memorable than traditional media. Incorporating UGC into your email marketing strategy, then, is a great way to improve its effectiveness. Here are the ways in which it does so:
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It builds credibility and increases sales
It’s no secret that people trust a customer’s review about a product over one by the company that makes it. Sharing content like photos and videos of customers using your brand’s product, and testimonials that explain how it benefitted users, is a great way to build credibility. It also humanises your brand and makes it more relatable to potential customers — something which can make them choose your business over your competitors. And since UGC is more trusted and memorable than traditional media and advertising, it’s more effective in increasing sales through marketing emails as compared to conventional ‘discount’ and ‘offer’ emails.
It drives engagement
If you’re aiming to drive engagement on social media, email is one channel you should focus on. Email marketing coupled with UGC is great for building engagement on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Hosting contests and giveaways that require users to submit photos or videos on these sites, preferably accompanied with a unique hashtag, instantly bolsters your brand visibility without you having to spend too much time or money in marketing. In the Starbucks White Cup contest, the coffee company asked users to design their cups and post pictures of them online. The winning entry was then used as a template for a limited-edition Starbucks cup. This campaign saw the company gain a lot of publicity online. Coca-Cola’s ‘share a coke’ campaign is another brilliant example of UGC done right. While these campaigns ultimately end up on social media sites, you can inform customers about them through email where they are more likely to view them.
It helps foster a community
The internet has made customers far more powerful than they ever were before. A bad review can cause irreparable damage to a brand’s reputation, but a good one can benefit your business far more than any ad or self-promotional piece of content. Turning your customers into advocates for the brand is an excellent way to gain visibility and attract customers. Email allows marketers to establish personal connections with their customers in a way that social media just cannot match. You can use this to connect with existing customers and build a rapport by showing them how other customers benefit from using your product. Allowing them to share their experiences in turn results in the creation of stories — something that is sorely missed in brand-generated content. Including social sharing buttons and forwarding options at the end of each mail then allows these customers to share their experiences with their peers; hence increasing your visibility, credibility, and potential customer base at the same time.
The importance of UGC in marketing is in no doubt and it’s time digital marketers started incorporating it into their email marketing strategies.