User Generated Content (UGC) is not a new phenomenon by any stretch.Any platform where the users of the platform are also the content creators is essentially a UGC platform.
Why User Generated Content Will Win the Content Battle in Every Industry
Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Tripadvisor, Quora, Foursquare, Reddit, Yelp, Pinterest, Wikipedia, and Zomato are some of the most resonating consumer internet brands in the current internet landscape.
And they have a common thread binding them all:
a. They’re all content platforms.
b. Users can consume the content for free.
c. There are NO “content writers” on these companies’ payrolls.
User Generated Content (UGC) is not a new phenomenon by any stretch. Any platform where the users of the platform are also the content creators is essentially a UGC platform. In fact, the terminology web 2.0 was coined for portals leveraging UGC. Blogging, which was a way for the erstwhile reader to express his or her thoughts, was one of the first forms of UGC.
Even though the term web 2.0 was coined in 2004, one of the pioneers of UGC, Tripadvisor, had already started creating a portal which offered reviews of places, cities, hotels, and restaurants from around the word. And since then, we have seen multiple leaders in the content space who all have leveraged user generated content.
The Current Landscape
According to Upneet Grover, the founder of Getmyuni, a social college search platform - equipping students with reviews, ratings, forums and alumni connect to help them make the right college choice - he said, “Until recently, UGC was typically limited to text and images but with the ever improving internet infrastructure, cheaper cloud hosting solutions, increasing smartphone affordability and cheaper access to internet for the users, new and more engaging forms of media like video, which were previously considered expensive to host and stream, have taken the center stage”.
User generated portals have either been created essentially to make purchase decisions easier in industries where social opinion and suggestions matter such as Yelp for local businesses, Glassdoor for jobs, and Tripadvisor for travel. It also helps to democratize information.
The social networking space, has different networks solving a different pain-point, with a UGC leader emerging for each type of media. For example, Twitter is for short form text, Facebook is for long form text, pictures and videos while Instagram and Snapchat are for pictures and videos.
Though, this is fairly limiting matrix, they do capture the UGC portal landscape in a single framework:
But why will user generated content win every content battle?
1. User generated content play creates content at an unmatched rate and at scale leverages network effects
Since content is being added by users, UGC platforms have advantage of quantity and speed. Imagine thousands of users adding small snippets of content on Zomato everyday in the form of reviews versus a team of 10 or 100 dedicated content writers writing for something like a Burrrp. Same analogy can be drawn for Tripadvisor and individual travel blogger portals.
Also, once UGC platforms achieve scale, readers know that decision making becomes relatively easier on these platforms since their social circle also hangs out here. Readers becomes contributors, which tends to bring their immediate network become readers and so on
Most successful user generated platforms, see a kink in their growth curves, which is typically the point when network effects have started to kick in. A few examples below.
Facebook Traffic Chart:
Wikipedia number of articles:
2. UGC breeds authenticity
In a world of paid media, readers have stopped trusting any recommendations which are made by publications or authors they don’t personally know. With the advent of native advertising and advertorials, even discerning users find it hard to segregate sponsored content from genuine suggestions and this is where review platforms really flex their muscle as they present unbiased, genuine opinions from people you know, thus bridging the trust deficit which has been created by paid media.
The Disadvantages of using a UGC platform.
1. Time to Scale
The issue with a UGC platform is that it takes a relatively longer time to scale. This is because, similar marketplaces suffer from the chicken and egg problem of getting buyers and sellers and both depending upon each other to exist, even a UGC platform faces the issue of a content contributor and a content consumer. To get a contributor interested, he or she should feel incentivized enough to contribute. That’s why it is widely observed that the best UGC platforms have the best gamification of roles - a not so easy problem to crack.
2. Early Curation is Critical
On UGC platforms, curation is of prime importance. If, during the initial period, user content is not curated, the quality of content can potentially go down. This brings into play a “negative network effect”, as the adopters won’t want to read nor contribute content on your platform which will quickly lead to a downward spiral for the portal.
Hence, ideally, the initial seeding should be done by a select team, wherein early external contributors should get to know the benchmark for the quality of content expected from them, and hence will subconsciously be forced to maintain the same quality of content they’ve consumed before. Quora is a great case study in this respect.
3. Paid Reviews
Certain bad actors or influencers can either engage in promoting brands without clearly calling out their promotions as such, thus breaking the trust of the same user who has made them an influencer in the first place.
Source: Vicky Law, ContributorFreelance Writer | Content Marketer | Social Media Junkie - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-user-generated-content-will-win-the-content-battle_us_598e2146e4b0caa1687a6009
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