Activate Your Fanbase With User-Generated Content

In the digital era, everyone is a content creator, and that’s great news for marketers. Brands are boosting awareness by encouraging the public to share their customer experiences on platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Just to name a few notable examples, Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke” hashtag marketing campaign asked fans to snap Coke-themed photos of themselves, and Charmin solicits toilet humor from its Twitter followers. But this kind of user-generated content (“UGC”) isn’t limited to social media interactions between a brand its customers. Savvy marketers are starting to mix UGC into their email marketing campaigns — and it’s working. Recent studies have shown that UGC delivers a 73 percent increase in email click-through rates.

UGC is simply content about your brand that is created by your business’s customers or fans, whether that content is photos, videos, product reviews, or testimonials. One obvious benefit of incorporating consumer content into your email marketing is that it saves you time. Instead of having to constantly come up with new content ideas on your own, your customers are the driving creative force.

But the real key to the power and popularity of UGC is that it humanizes your sales pitch. You aren’t the one telling your subscribers how wonderful your products or services are; real customers do it for you. UGC is authentic, and when used as a part of an email marketing campaign, it builds trust in your brand.

One of the best forms of advertisement is a satisfied customer. As amazing as your email content-crafting skills may be, consumers are more interested in what their peers say about your business. In fact, 70 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations and reviews over professionally written content. Zulily takes advantage of this statistic with a “Customer Picks” emails that feature some of their best-selling products, along with a few brief but enthusiastic customer endorsements:

So how can you start integrating UGC into your email marketing? You can put out a call in your newsletter for subscribers to email photos or stories of their experiences with your products or services. Or you can come up with a brand-specific hashtag, ask customers to submit to you via social media, and feature your favorite responses in your next email. You might consider a theme for the submissions that is tied to an upcoming promotion or event.

To celebrate Star Wars Day and promote a Star Wars merchandise sale, Hot Topic asked its customers to submit photos of themselves in Star Wars gear. The best submissions were included in an email photo collage:

Of course a theme isn’t necessary. TeeFury’s emails showcase photos of happy customers wearing the company’s apparel:

To give your subscribers an extra push to submit, you can hold a contest, with a gift certificate or other prize going to the most creative submission. However you go about incorporating customer content into your emails, make sure that you’ve obtained permission from the original creator to use their content and that you’ve articulated exactly how that content will be used.

Once you get the go-ahead, don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of UGC. Photos might work well for one brand, while testimonials work better for another. But if content development is one of your email marketing pain points, then UGC could be the solution.

Read more about email content development here

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© 2016, Amber Humphrey. All rights reserved.

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