What is user-generated content & how can you use it in email marketing?

Have you ever bought a product that you loved so much you just had to post about it online? It could be a new shirt, a new phone, or even a new menu at your favorite fast food place. You snap a picture or take a video to share with your loved ones so that they too could give your favorite product a try.
No one is paying you to promote the product, but you do it anyway. This is what’s come to be known as user-generated content (UGC) and today, it has become a powerful marketing tool for brands looking to nurture a stronger sense of community among users.  

Are you still wondering what is user-generated content? Or do you also want to learn how you can use it for your email marketing campaigns? Look no further: we’ve got you covered!

by Manar Sadkou
Three young women showing selfie on smartphone
User-generated content can be as simple as taking a selfie with your friends

What is user-generated content?

User-generated content, also referred to as UGC or customer-generated content, designates any content (pictures, videos, text, discussions, etc) created and published by customers online, usually at their own initiative. This content is unique and is often shared across all social media platforms. Rather than content created by employees or brand representatives, UGC reflects the authentic opinions and experiences of the everyday users of the product.

Why is user-generated content important?

UGC can be a true testament to a brand’s credibility and that’s what makes it such a significant component to any marketing campaign. As a matter of fact, a study conducted by Turn To Networks found that 90% of consumers are more likely to be influenced by customer-generated content than other marketing tools when making a purchase. Because online users are not thought to have any vested interest in promoting a product, their opinion on it comes off as more transparent than that of an advertiser. This goes to show the amount of sway that UGC can have on consumers’ choices and in building a relationship of trust between brands and users.

Moreover, UGC can be a great way to build brand loyalty. Encouraging users to share their experiences with the product for a chance to be featured on a brand’s page or website has become a general practice nowadays. That is because by involving them in the process of promoting a product, customers tend to feel a sense of ownership toward the company, leading to higher engagement. And in addition to fostering a sense of community, active engagement also improves the overall user experience.

Last but not least, UGC is incredibly cost-effective. Because content created by users is organic, it doesn't require any additional spending. All that brands really have to do is scour the internet for the best content that can be incorporated into their marketing campaigns. Even when brands use contests to collect UGC, the costs of these campaigns are considerably cheaper than traditional marketing campaigns.

Types of user-generated content

To help you find the perfect fit for your brand, user-generated content is available in a variety of styles and forms. Generally, a good strategy requires utilizing a combination of different types of UGC. Here are some of the most common ones:
  • Text: Text-based UGC can be long or short and includes all sorts of user-written content like posts, comments, reviews, blog posts, etc. This type of content can be found on all social media platforms, in addition to websites such as Yelp, Tripadvisor, or Amazon in the case of reviews.
  • Images: this is a very popular form of UGC and can be found most often on social media platforms like Instagram or Pinterest where visuals are a key aspect of communication. Images can range from photographs to memes, illustrations, etc.
  • Videos: Another popular visual form of UGC that encompasses a wide variety of content, including tutorials, live streams, unboxing videos, vlogs, etc. User-generated videos are more often found on platforms such as YouTube or TikTok.
  • Podcasts: Digital audio programs known as podcasts can be downloaded or streamed via the internet. User-generated podcasts can be about an array of topics and are often available on platforms like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or SoundCloud.
  • Artwork and Designs: User-generated artwork is also a common form of UGC shared by artists and designers across creative platforms such as DeviantArt, Behance, or Dribble.
  • Fan Fiction and Fan Art: Believe it or not, stories and artwork created by fans drawing inspiration from their favorite franchises also count as a form of UGC. Fans of certain video games, films, books, TV shows, etc often share the content they create on platforms like Wattpad, Tumblr, Pinterest, or even Reddit.

How to find user-generated content

Now that you’ve been properly introduced to the concept of UGC, let’s delve into how you can find user-generated content for your own use. There are a few ways to collect customer-generated content:
  • Search for it: This one is obvious but chances are users of the product you are looking to promote may have already posted about it online. If that’s the case, a simple search for your company name or a related hashtag on any social media platform could unlock a gateway to loads of readily available, original content about your brand.
  • Create experiences for your users to share: More often than not UGC comes from live events that invite customers to share their experiences with the world. Anything pleasing to the eye grabs people’s attention and compels them to pull out their phones and snap a picture for social media. So, investing in beautiful designs for your product and storefront or in brand-related immersive experiences can surely yield results.
  • Encourage users to show off your product: Sometimes all you have to do is ask. You can run a campaign asking users to share their experiences with your product on social media and even request them to upload a particular type of UGC format. The great thing about UGC is that there is a lot of room for creativity, so feel free to create your own template or your own hashtag for your customers to use.
  • Make it a competition: People love to be rewarded and the potential of winning something can act as a great incentive for users to share content about your brand. Sometimes the reward can be something as simple as a feature on your page if you already have a great social media presence. If your social media presence isn’t large enough yet, don’t worry. You can also offer a free product or a discount as a prize.

How to incorporate user-generated content in your email marketing campaigns

Using UGC in your email marketing campaigns can be an effective tactic to boost their performance.

Here are two ideas for using user-generated content in campaigns:
  • Use customer reviews and first-hand testimonials in your product descriptions: Good reviews bring great added value and can have more of an impact on consumers than standard product descriptions. So, the next time you are sending out an email newsletter, why not lead with genuine, authentic feedback from your customers? To avoid lengthy passages of text that generally don’t perform well, be concise. If a user’s review is too long, pick parts of it that you believe can have the most impact and utilize them to promote your product.
  • Don’t shy away from displaying photos taken by your customers: Visuals are the most engaging format of UGC. Contrary to branded images, pictures generated by users come off as more natural and act as a great portrayal of how your product is being used by real people. If your customers look happy while using your product, then your audience will associate their joy with the product itself. So, showcasing user-generated images can truly make the difference between a good email campaign and a great one. FYI: Images are best suited to share via email because videos can be too bulky and make your emails harder to deliver.
If you still want to polish your business emails before sending them to customers, feel free to check out our blog post: Professional emails: How to write an effective business email

A few essential things to keep in mind though when using UGC are to always ask for permission and credit the owner of the content you are sharing. These practices will build further trust with your customers and will help you avoid any misunderstandings that might ensue.

User-generated content is the digital era’s form of word-of-mouth marketing. When consumers see their friends, family members, and loved ones rave about a product online, they are more likely to trust their testimonial than a branded post. Therein lies the true power of UGC and if you’ve made it to the end of this article, then you have all the knowledge you need to make use of user-generated content and reap the benefits.

Before you go, we would also love to collect some user-generated content, so please leave us some feedback below!

And speaking of emails, if you are still looking for a secure email account, why not sign up for a free mail.com account today?

Images: 1&1/Shutterstock

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