Fresh Voices or Bad Choices? User-Generated Content in Email Marketing

When it comes to generating effective content for your email marketing efforts, trusting the skills of your content creation pros is a no-brainer. They are capable wordsmiths, and they make crafting content expressly aligned with your evolving outreach objectives the priority.

There’s something refreshing, however, about entrusting some of that content to a decidedly non-professional source. User-generated contributions—authored by your customers, vendor-partners, or user community as opposed to your organization’s pros—can be a compelling addition to your email marketing arsenal. But before you solicit and share feedback from the masses, it’s worth taking a moment to consider both the pros and cons that can come with user-generated content.

Let’s start with the good stuff:

User-generated content adds a good dose of real-life experience to your email campaigns. It gives customers a chance to showcase their genuine satisfaction with your products or services, a surefire way to build trust and credibility among your key audiences.

Social Proof
This contemporary concept reinforces the fact that others have had positive experiences with your brand. When potential customers see real people endorsing your products or services, it can favorably sway purchasing decisions, improve conversion rates, and expand your influence.

Increased Engagement
Soliciting user-generated content is an invitation to your clients or customers to actively participate in your brand community. It sparks engagement and drives interaction because you are creating a sense of involvement, strengthening the connection between your brand and your audience.

Content Diversity
User-generated content gives your email marketing some refreshing syncopation. Churning out branded content again and again gets predictable and stale. A few shots of user-generated content are like hot sauce, calling attention to fresh perspectives and experiences. Plus, it stimulates creativity from your customers. Your emails become more engaging and thus more relatable.

Cost Effective
Like reality TV, user-generated content costs less than producing original content. You free bandwidth for your dedicated content-creation team, perhaps letting them focus on creating more detailed assets while your email still delivers valuable, compelling messaging.

Now here’s what to watch out for:

Inconsistent Quality
User-generated content can vary wildly in terms of quality, style, and relevance. Soliciting contributions might get you great testimonials or open the floodgates for irrelevant submissions that don’t line up with your brand image or content standards. Make sure you have someone savvy curating that content to ensure a consistent, appropriate email experience.

Limited Control
Some organizations rely exclusively on user-generated content, which might sound both cost-effective and disruptive. But that approach leaves you with very limited control over what’s created and how it is presented. It might invite authenticity, but the content might not align with your brand’s values. Even worse, it might be rife with inappropriate or objectionable material—which you’ll obviously delete—but that can disrupt your scheduled outreach. Proceed with caution.

Legal and Copyright Issues
The lawyers stay busy no matter what. If you’re working user-generated content into your emails, make sure you have the necessary rights and permissions to use it. It’s been known to happen that a user submits content without being the original author. Suddenly, you’re looking at a copyright issue or intellectual property dispute.

Depending too heavily on user-generated content can overwhelm your subscribers with excessive or borderline irrelevant material. It also can create the impression your outreach is too reliant on customer contributions, and your brand is bereft of original insight.

Deadline Disregard
User-generated content may not always align with your specific campaigns or be relevant to your messaging schedule. You need dedicated time to collect, review, and incorporate that material into your emails and to make sure you have a deep pipeline of material specific to time-sensitive promotions, seasonal specials, or specific marketing initiatives.

How do you make sure the pros of user-generated content outweigh the cons? Take the time to establish clear submission guidelines and dedicate resources to moderating those contributions. Also, find balance between the branded content you create and any user-generated content you solicit. An effective ratio will vary based on your brand and your goals. Find that sweet spot, and you stand the best chance of sharing substance, building social proof, establishing authenticity, and ensuring engagement.