From Facebook to retail sites, user generated content (UGC) is dominating the Internet. UGC is text published by individuals, often in the form of comments, videos, and pictures. One of the best examples of UGC is YouTube, the video site made almost entirely of content that users submit.
UGC is on the rise because it facilitates transparency and gives the individual more control. More people are able to participate in what is being seen, whether they’re participating by producing their content for others, by holding the original content accountable, or simply by browsing the content and responses by other users. For companies, this level of transparency and the lack of control can be intimidating, but if managed appropriately, they can be tools to improve the customer’s perceptions and facilitate the success of a website.
Let It Happen
In some instances UGC is unavoidable, examples being company pages and posts shared on social media. Some websites, like video hosts and blogs, are almost completely comprised of UGC. To realize your full success you must embrace UGC, because at the end of the day there is a useful platform out there that will force you to embrace it. You can always block user-generated content, but you risk alienating visitors to your site. Let’s face it; blocking your visitors is just plain anti-social and counterproductive. Engaging your target on your social channels is crucial to the success of your social media campaign.
People are going to talk, so be a part of the conversation! People review companies and organizations just like they would review a product, constantly seeking affirmation that said organization is reliable and that others have shared a positive experience. When someone has an extreme experience, good or bad, they may be more likely to share this information.
UGC has the potential to facilitate a dialogue. I say potential because, in order for it to be a dialogue and not just a one-sided relationship, there must be interaction. A company allowing and responding to UGC suggests that they’re confident. Rather than merely providing information to a consumer, the UGC allows the consumer to feel like they have an impact and slight control, even if it just means posting a comment for another person to see.
Websites that allow UCG establish not only the site and the visitor, but a third party: the other visitors. These three sources of content are competing outlets for information. Regardless of your role in a website, you have the opportunity for the last word. Make sure that you take the opportunity before others do.
This open forum can be intimidating, but being present is key. The interactions that a website has with its users helps facilitate the tone of the company or organization, and might aid in times when being present isn’t an option.
At the end of the day, however, the last word is up in the air when it comes to UGC—it can be a mixed blessing to allow users to control so much of your content. But users are demanding that sort of democracy. It’s like that friend who doesn’t have LinkedIn or Facebook. You automatically you wonder, what’s there to hide?
Taylor Crouch – Marketing Assistant