Luisana Cartay
Luisana Cartay 12 March 2018

Email Marketing Strategy: How To Improve With User Generated Content

Ever get the sneaking suspicion that you could be squeezing more out of your email marketing strategy? You’re not alone.

Look: we love social media around here, but there’s no denying the sheer power of email. Arguably the last remaining relic of old-school Internet marketing, email has been the go-to solution for brands looking to capture leads, build their lists, and monetize subscribers for decades.

email marketing strategy

And email marketing isn’t losing any steam, either.

According to a recent eMarketer report, email marketing boasts a median ROI of 122%, which is actually four times higher than the likes of social media or paid search. Although modern brands are indeed laser-focused on turning their social followers into customers, there’s certainly a financial incentive to stick with email.

That said, email marketers shouldn’t ignore the best practices of social media when it comes to their marketing messages.

In fact, the average email marketing strategy could be fine-tuned into something truly special by including one not-so-secret ingredient.

User Generated Content.

Why Your Email Marketing Strategy Needs UGC

We’ve seen time and time again how User Generated Content helps brands on Instagram by increasing conversions, building trust, and painting posts with a more personal touch.

Why not apply those same principles to your email marketing strategy?

Sure, email marketing already has so many moving pieces. From subject lines to calls-to-action and design, marketers are timid when it comes to switching up their strategies. Why throw UGC into the mix when there’s already so much to worry about?

email marketing strategy

The answer is simple. UGC has the potential to plug up the holes in your marketing strategies when it comes to conversions and click-throughs. Consider some of the most common challenges of email marketers in 2017 according to Campaign Monitor:

  • Increasing email engagement rates and encouraging readers to take somesort of action
  • Converting subscribers into customers and keeping those subscribers opted-in
  • Creating a more personal connection with subscribers

Well, guess what?

User Generated Content can help with easing all of these pain points.

Bringing UGC And Email Marketing Together

Listen: you don’t have to trash your current email marketing strategy or start from scratch. With some small tweaks and bit of creativity, you can integrate UGC into your existing and future email campaigns.

Below we’ve broken down some awesome examples of how modern brands are integrating UGC into their email marketing strategies.

They’re making it look easy, too.

That’s because for the most part, it is.

So, let’s dive right in.

Run An Email-Based Hashtag Campaign

Perhaps the easiest way to harness the power of UGC by email is through hashtags. Creating a hashtag for your brand not only connects you with your followers, but also allows you to curate UGC in a snap.

Here’s a straightforward example of an email-based hashtag campaign from oVertone. This message encourages email subscribers to show off their products through a branded hashtag on Instagram:

email marketing strategy

And given the tens of thousands of posts on the #OVERTONE tag, there’s no denying that subscribers are taking notice:

email marketing strategy

As a result, oVertone has plenty of content to choose from for their next regram.

Take note that this example uses a company-specific tag (think case, #OVERTONE). If you’re already running a seasonal or time-sensitive campaign, that’s fair game as well.

For example, check out how Chaco uses email marketing to advertise for their Instagram hashtag contest:

email marketing strategy

Here’s some food for thought: just because someone’s bought from you before doesn’t necessarily mean they’re connected to your social feeds.

Don’t assume that your email list already knows about your hashtags. Promoting your hashtag via email can be done in a matter of seconds as displayed by these examples. Besides, you can’t expect your hashtag to spread if nobody knows about it, right?

In short, hashtags are an easy target for integrating UGC into your email marketing strategy.

Show Off Your Products And Customers

Okay, here’s where things get interesting.

Piggybacking on the popularity of hashtag campaigns, savvy brands are showing off their satisfied customers through email. This type of promotion effectively serves as an advertisement for your products and social feeds at the same time.

But in this case, your customers are your ads.

For example, Black Milk Clothing puts their products and customers on display in their marketing emails. They even sweeten the deal offering up a $50 voucher for customers who find themselves in their email lookbook:

email marketing strategy

Crazy, right?

But such a campaign is brilliant because it encourages the creation of UGC and keeps social followers glued to Black Milk’s emails. Again, marketers don’t necessarily need to totally separate their social feeds from their email-based content. This campaign encourages followers to interact with Instagram, email, and Facebook accordingly.

The more channels you’re able to engage your customers with, the better.

MeUndies similarly puts their customer photos on display through a hashtag campaign. This humorous example is definitely a far-cry from a traditional marketing message or sales pitch:

email marketing strategy

Bear in mind that not every single message from such brands is necessarily going to contain UGC. That said, there’s no reason why your emails can’t at least encourage users to submit photos. Check out this footer from the previously noted MeUndies email:

email marketing strategy

These messages and calls-to-action represent a breath of fresh air versus the spam filling your subscribers’ inboxes. That’s the beauty of UGC, though. As long as you’re consistently curating it, you can use it in your advertising campaigns accordingly.

But sometimes if you want a customer photo, you have to ask for it.

For example, ThinkGeek features customer action shots in their weekly email newsletters as part of a contest. Winners are rewarded with $100 in swag and get a spot in the aptly-named Geek Hall of Fame:

email marketing strategy

This provides further incentive for subscribers to check and see if they’ve been featured. As noted in the giveaways rules, customers must post their photos to various social profiles as part of their entry:

email marketing strategy

And as an added bonus, the winners are immortalized on-site:

email marketing strategy

Featuring customer and product photos like these might seem like little more than a novelty.

However, bear in mind how these types of emails can help solve the most common problems plaguing email marketers:

  • Based on the previously noted Campaign Monitor report, social media integration is considered the most effective personalization tactic for email by 28% of marketers
  • Satisfied customers are social proof, and social proof is key to retaining customers either through email or social media
  • UGC increases conversions by 29%, plain and simple: featuring photos from flesh-and-blood followers can help build trust and rapport with your email list

Even so, the benefits of UGC as part of your email marketing strategy don’t stop there.

Double-Dip Your Social And Email Content

Content creation of any kind can be a major pain, but visual social content, in particular, requires careful editing and attention to detail. The more opportunities we can wring the most out of any given piece of content the better, right?

If you have an awesome user-submitted photo that you’d love to leverage in your email campaigns, why let it go to waste?

For example, check out this seemingly ordinary marketing email from Coastal:

email marketing strategy

Upon further inspection, I noticed that this particular photo popped up in their Instagram feed, too:

email marketing strategy

Lazy? Nah.

Smart? You bet.

Why go chasing around for an awesome product photo when a user-submitted one is right under your nose? Doing so ensures that you make the most of your UGC curation and don’t let a single customer photo go unnoticed.

Remember how email marketers traditionally struggle with giving their emails a personal touch? A snapshot of your social feed can do the trick. Check out how Ginetta finishes off their marketing emails with their latest photos, giving a glimpse into the human element behind their brand:

email marketing strategy

There’s no rule that says your social content can’t leave the confines of your Instagram or any other feed. Start thinking of your customer photos and UGC as crucial pieces of content that you can use time and time again.

Additonally, doing so can inject some serious personality into your email marketing strategy. Your social content is a great way to remind your subscribers that there’s more to your brand than just offers and deals.

Turn Social Followers Into Loyal Subscribers

Although this tip may seem like a no-brainer, it’s shocking how many marketers squander their email list because they don’t promote it to their social followers.

Sure, your fans are more likely to buy via Instagram or Facebook than ever. Even so, there’s no reason why those same followers shouldn’t be part of your email list.

Let’s use TOMS as an example of how to effectively encourage social followers to transform into email subscribers. This post funnels followers directly to the brand’s bio:

email marketing strategy

…which looks something like this:

email marketing strategy

…and upon clicking through leads us to a product page with following opt-in form:

email marketing strategy

…which results in sleek UGC messages like ones:

email marketing strategy

Just as you should be using UGC as part of your email marketing strategy, the converse is also true. Marketers must be willing to take their social followers off-site and into an email opt-in, especially when hunting for sales.

Learn More About Your Customers

Keep in mind that those willing to provide you with their email address are arguably your hottest leads. Learning from such opt-ins can be incredibly valuable in terms of the type of content they want to see or the products they’d be interested in buying.

Curating feedback from your list is as simple as asking a question.

“What types of products would you like to see in the future?”

“What can we do to create a better buying experience?”

But some brands are taking major steps to use email and UGC to learn more about their customer base.

Take Neutrogena, for example. They’re managing to build up their email list via user-submitted quizzes, a smart social shopping trend that’s becoming more common in the world of ecommerce:

email marketing strategy

Based on the responses as you progress, the quiz determines which products would be best for you:

email marketing strategy

This is a brilliant strategy for segmenting quiz-takers via email to eventually present them with product recommendations. In this particular case, Neutrogena provides the taker a choice. Either enter their email for a discount or see the products by themselves:

email marketing strategy

And as predicted, takers are provided with products as well as an email coupon:

email marketing strategy

Obviously what Neutrogena is doing here is rather advanced. This strategy still speaks to the need for brands to uncover creatives ways to encourage more opt-ins. Although we might not think of quizzes as traditional UGC, feedback and commentary from your potential customers is invaluable in its own right.

Email Marketing And UGC Go Hand In Hand

Many marketers make the mistake of treating social content and email as two totally different entities.

By integrating UGC into your email marketing strategy, you get the best of both worlds in terms of your marketing efforts. Not only do you get to double-dip your social content, but also encourage more eyes on your hashtag campaigns and products.

The key takeaway here? Email and social media shouldn’t be totally separated. This is especially true as experimenting with UGC through email is so simple. Again, consider strategies such as…

  • Showing off your products through customer photos rather than generic product pictures
  • Leveraging unique hashtag that takes your email subscribers and encourages them to become social followers
  • Running user-submitted photo contests and promotions exclusive to your email list

Any of these options are easy pickings for brands looking to drive more engagement with their email marketing strategy. Whether your goal is more sales via email or leading customers to your shoppable social feed, UGC and email combined are a powerful combination.

Will UGC Be Part Of Your Next Email Campaign?

Just like email, the benefits of User Generated Content marketing is well-documented. Expect to see more UGC popping up in your inbox as more and more brands understand the influence of User Generated Content when it comes to their emails.

Hopefully, you’ll find opportunities to do the same as well.

[This blog post was originally published in the Photoslurp Blog]

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