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Marketing Masters know how to sell, but it’s often your friend, neighbor or favorite Instagrammer who’s calling the shots when it comes to what you’re reading, buying and clicking on. Their reviews, posts and recommendations are called user-generated content or social proof, and whether you notice it or not, you’re listening!

Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising report surveyed 28,000 internet respondents in 56 countries and found 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family above other forms of advertising – an 18% rise since 2007. Online consumer reviews are the second most trusted at 70%, an increase of 15% over four years. Social proof is a helpful and achievable way to increase a level of trust in your product, and it can be done through email marketing too!

What is social proof and user-generated content?

It’s when users see images, videos and reviews created by real customers of a business, proving that they could be a happy customer too. Social proof is something you can present on your website, as well as something you collect from customers through email marketing.

User-generated content is now so ‘normal’ and common, users often don’t even know they’re creating it. Whether it’s a photo or tagged story shared on Instagram, a comment on Facebook or an unboxing on YouTube, it’s content generated often, and by many. It’s up to you as a business or marketer to effectively gather, request and collect this content from your customers.

Why is user-generated content effective?

1. Users trust it.

There’s no denying that people trust people, more than they trust a big company or brand name. They’ll listen to what the neighbor over the fence says about that shop or service a whole lot more than what that company says about itself – simple! 

While the old fashioned conversation over the fence is less common these days, the digital version is booming. Seeing a review, photo or comment online is the new word-of-mouth, and it’s a simple method for email marketers to harness.

 2. It’s memorable, unique and authentic.

Jukin Media asked consumers to view various video advertisements, some traditional and some with user-generated content, and the results capture how powerful social proof can be.

User-generated ads were perceived to be 31% more memorable, 28% more unique, 11% more authentic, 5% more engaging, and 8% more relatable than traditional ads. They also had 73% more positive comments on social networks.

3. It has the power to influence.

More than a friendly addition to your email marketing, user-generated content can help your user towards taking their first step on the customer journey.

Stackla found 79% of people say user-generated content impacts their purchasing decisions, a far higher percentage than brand or influencer-created content. Adding social proof to your emails not only engages your users, but encourages them to take action.

How to incorporate user-generated content in email marketing:

1. Make the most of every post

Instagram stories and photos posted by customers makes the platform rich with user-generated content. The posts may tag your company name, use a suggested hashtag and present a beautiful image of your product or service. 

Whether you run competitions encouraging a certain hashtag or allow the tags to happen organically, you can easily search relevant posts on Instagram that create compelling content for your email marketing. By highlighting the experiences of real users, it creates interest for other potential customers and shows an authentic glance at what they too could easily have.

Of course, ensure you’re up with the latest legal guidelines on publishing user content, covering important factors like the privacy of a user’s account, and giving credit where it’s due.

2. Acknowledge popular and trending services and products

Utilizing user-generated content doesn’t always require searching social media platforms or creating reviews, effective content is available with your very own data!

Look at what products are being clicked on, sold out, reviewed, searched and purchased. Create a list and use it in your email marketing to show what other customers are loving most. Often users don’t even need to know why it’s popular, they just want to know it is.

You could combine a trending product, a review of the product and a social post shared of the product to create the ultimate user-generated content triple threat! Seeing a social post published in this way can even encourage your users to do the same, increasing your visibility on social platforms.

3. Take advantage of customer reviews

Send your message clearly with words written by your very own customers. Create an area on your website allowing customers to review their purchase. This allows you to easily access and publish quotes using impactful language based on positive opinions.

You can link quotes directly to the product they’re referring to, making for a quick and easy customer journey. You can pull together reviews that match your email tone, whether simplistic, clever or even humorous. Use customer excitement to get your email subscribers just as excited about the products you have available.

Your subscribers will be keenly aware it’s a “real” person endorsing your brand, with words they’ve actually written – helping you to create a genuine and authentic image. 

Along with space for reviews on your website, look at sending customers follow-up emails after a purchase inviting them to send you their thoughts, not only to improve your service, but to celebrate your products.

Harness people-power in your email marketing and incorporate genuine user-generated content. Easily accessible, authentic and trustworthy, social proof is an effective addition to your marketing strategy.

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