The definition is very simple: user-generated content is basically any sort of content produced by unpaid contributors, or in other words, your audience. It can be text, photos, videos, reviews, testimonials, you name it.
The thing is the amount of user-generated content is so big nowadays that some marketing professionals are talking about the user-generated content revolution, and it's easy to understand why. Every second 22.000 images are uploaded in the five most famous social networks: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and WhatsApp.
But what does this means and how can you take advantage of that content to actually increase your marketing ROI? The answer can be very simple: leverage user-generated content in owned channels to increase engagement and consequently your revenue.To help you understand this process, take a look at our topics:
- The state of content marketing
- What is content crunch?
- User-generated content: a great opportunity
- Combine user-generated content to your transactional emails strategy
- Other examples to encourage UGC
Content marketing is about bringing your target audience to experience your business ideas, concepts and beliefs. Is usually produced with the intention to educate your audience about your products so they can them become customers.
However, the big problem with content is that is too transitory. Although it can always be found by your customers- it's going to be stored online forever - most of the content that is produced by digital marketers is seen and forgotten within hours.
Take Twitter, for example: the average half-life of content is less than three hours. Facebook posts will reach 75% of their target viewers within five hours. On the other hand, your blog posts reach about everyone it’s going to reach in 37 days. So it's imperative that the content that is produced impact most of the people in the deeper way as quick as possible.
When talking about content marketing we know that there are basically two ways of production: owned content, the one that is produced in-house, and paid content, when a third part is hired to produce the content.
After the production, this content is distributed in three majors channels: owned media, paid media and earned media.
- Owned media is the media that you own: emails lists, apps, landing pages, social network pages etc.
- Paid media is the media that you pay for, for example, advertising in Facebook, Google, magazines, etc.
- The earned media can be defined as social sharing and word of mouth, reviews, testimonials, etc. Although you might not have control of this type of media, the earned media is extremely important as is seen as the most trustworthy one.
A staggering data says that 92% of consumers trust online content from friends & family above all other forms of brand messaging. And 50% of them say that they are more likely to remember a content that was user-generated than a one that was produced by a brand.
However it's important to notice that the number of distribution channels has created an imbalance for marketing professionals. We now have more channels than quality content to distribute, and that leaves us on a content crunch.
To best define content crunch, we could say that we now have too much demand and not enough supply.
The brands are struggling to produce fresh and creative content for every audience segment, across every channel. To make things worse, there's also a lot of ineffective content, or in other words, content that does not meet the final purpose of the content marketing strategy: engaging customers. Finding high performance and high-quality content is still a challenge.
There are a number of reasons for this problem, from non-experienced writers that know nothing or only a little bit about the subject that they are writing about, to lack of knowledge of their audience for example.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, producing engaging content is the top challenge for 54% of B2B marketers and 50% of B2C marketers.
There are a number of solutions to improve the quality of content and the engagement of customers, but on this post let´s focus only on earned content powered by user-generated content.
As Wendell Lansford, CEO and co-founder of Offerpop once said "When 85 percent of consumers say they find UGC more influential than brand-created content, it's time for marketers to listen. It's more important than ever for brands to have a proactive strategy for connecting with consumers, inspiring UGC creation and leveraging that content to increase performance across all of their channels." (source).
85% of consumers say they find UGC more influential than brand-created content
When it comes to purchases, for example, customers are 2 to 3 times more likely to buy something when they are actually interacting with user generated content (Olapic).
UGC can be used across most marketing channels, from e-commerce to mobile commerce, social advertising and of course, email marketing. More specifically, it can be used on yourtransactional emails strategy
We already now that a large percentage of revenue is driven by an efficient transactional email strategy, so why not increase your engagement and conversion rates with good user-generated content? There are a few benefits of using UGC on email, such as:
- increase email conversion rate,
- increase engagement,
- increase sales,
- increase website traffic.
In fact, the use of UGC increases in 25% net new emails.
Before starting your strategy remember to invite your customers to contribute. Create a direct communication channel with your customers. Allow comments on your blog, create forums, provide rating system.
An easy way to encourage your customers to deliver user-generated content is to create a live social feed in your email list. The feed would be updated automatically, so every time one of your subscribers uploads a photo or use one hashtag that is connected to your brand others would see who is using your product or services and might be interesting in taking part of the action.
The social feed can also be used to foster engagement with user-generated content among your subscribers. Take a look at the campaign above, for example, the basketball team used a live social feed to encourage fans to vote for a player who was up for an award. The idea was to push fans to vote using hashtags on Twitter. The votes would then be updated automatically in the social feed. This allowed fans to check out tweets made by other fans in real-time.
To be more successful in your email strategy using UGC, add a call to action to your transactional emails. Make it simple and clear. Invite your customer to do something, either is going back to the website, entering a contest, answering a survey, etc.
Most of the time, people don't agree on participating in UGC campaigns because it’s usually too difficult or time-consuming. The customer also needs clear guidance on what to do, what kind of content they should create and how should they share it with companies. At least that is what most of them are saying. 50% of customers need more info on what UGC produce and only 16% of the companies actually provide that.
So let's see some examples where you can use UGC on transactional emails:
Post-purchase emails: a great example has been used by a bridal e-commerce. Some time after the customer purchases a bridal dress, an email is sent with some photos of real brides using the brand's dresses.
This makes the experience more accessible and increases the credibility of the brand. After all, the customer can see how the dresses look like in real customers. The customer is then invited share their story with the brand. This is a great strategy not only because women like to share their wedding photos but is also helps to build the brand trustworthiness.
Cart abandonment: your user generated content should be an ongoing campaign. Take a look at what the babies products e-commerce Giggle does. They constantly ask their customer to share pictures of their babies using the products that they have purchased and they use these photos in different ways.
One of them is on their cart abandonment emails. When a prospect customer actually leaves the e-commerce with items on the shopping cart but does not complete the purchase, they receive an email with real photos of babies using the product that they intended to buy. An emotional and creative strategy.
The company registered an increase of 4.6% in click through rate and 19.8% increase in revenue per email.
The same strategy could be used for personalized recommendations: for example, they could send photos of similar products of the ones that the customer bought.
Personalized Recommendations: you can ask your customers to rate your products and tell you what they like best and why. You can them use this information to send personalized recommendations to other customers, stating that the products on the list are the customers favorites, the highly ranked, etc.
Another example is the one used by this furniture e-commerce. They send personalized recommendations of an item with customers photos of the same item on the bottom. This way the prospect can see how the piece of furniture can be used in different places, with different decorative styles, etc. Clever and sassy.
E-commerce with UGC tends to be seen more as social experiences that just an online shopping.
Feedback emails: send emails after the customers purchases and invite them to write reviews, but do not forget to incentive them do to so. Let your customers know that you appreciate them for creating and sharing content: offer some sort of discount, rewards, etc.
So don't be afraid to encourage your customer to produce and share any sort of visual content with you. Be a source of entertainment. Focus on the customer and not on the brand. Give them something to be part of.
Content contests are always a good idea as you can use all your channels to promote them. For example, you can create a contest where the customer has to send a certain type of picture and the most voted would win a prize.
To promote the contest you can create a landing page on your website or blog and ask their entry with a simple sign in form. You can create a blog post about the contest, post on your social networks, send the info to your customer's email list and many other actions. This way you guarantee personal endorsement of your brand, more traffic, engagement and of course interesting content.
Millennials spend more than five hours per day consuming user-generated content
If your customers are more likely to write reviews think of a way to take advantage of that. Consider asking your customers to write a guest post about your product or use it as a case study. They are probably going to be so excited with the idea that the chances that they will share the content on their social networks is pretty high.
If you create strategies to engage your customers with user-generated content it's mostly certain that your chances of getting your emails open will increase substantially. Try to think of a holistic program to engage a variety of audiences. Don't focus on a single channel or method to collect the user-generated content.
Customers like to feel that their opinions are being listed, that the brand cares about their thoughts,that they are actually part of something.