User Generated Content – Short Conceptual Explanation

User generated content, or UGC, refers to content that is created by everyday users. This is in contrast to content that is created by marketers and businesses. It can include articles, pictures, videos and reviews. Interacting with UGC can be used as a marketing strategy but it also has the potential to backfire, as is the case when a product or service is rated very low on the internet. Businesses can also exploit those creating UGC for profit.

What is User Generated Content?

User generated content refers to the content uploaded to the Internet by everyday users. However, it has a history much longer than the web. User generated content has been published for hundreds of years in newspapers and magazines but space for this kind of content was limited. Today, users can upload a variety of UGC to the Internet that includes:

  • Posting on forums
  • Writing comments on web pages and social media
  • Writing and publishing a blog
  • Uploading pictures and videos
  • Leaving product and service reviews

User generated content can appear nearly anywhere on the internet. Users can update their own website, respond to other web pages via the comments section or create profiles that are updated on popular social media websites that include Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

How UGC can be used to market a business

UGC is a way for people to express themselves. Content can be published freely, providing users with a personal creative outlet outside of a profession or career. It provides internet users with a way to communicate, resolve problems, share their talents, and more. With over 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, over 470,000 tweets per minute and 136,000 photos uploaded to Facebook every minute, UGC has provided countless ways for businesses to use it in their marketing strategies.

Businesses and organizations can interact with users by sharing their content, responding to reviews and being active in the comments section of a blog. They can also encourage user generated content by hosting contests that encourage users to share a post, or they can pay influencers to share their product or service on social media.

Reasons for businesses to include UGC in their marketing strategy include:

  • Increase in customer loyalty from a brand that interacts with its customers.
  • Virality, with the potential for their content to reach thousands, or even millions, of people.
  • Support to customers by answering questions, increasing the quality of customer reviews.
  • Credibility through the ability to demonstrate expertise in a certain area.
  • Market analysis through the collection of information about the wants and needs of customers.
User generated content

Dangers of user generated content for businesses

Although user generated content provides companies with the ability to market and promote their business, it can also have the opposite effect. If the company’s reputation is not monitored and managed online, UGC can be negative, which can have disastrous consequences for a company’s bottom line.

Users can leave negative reviews on a variety of websites, including Yelp, Amazon and directly on the company’s website. Although a business can’t completely eliminate bad reviews, it is important to address the customers leaving those reviews publicly. Offer a refund or a replacement to ensure overall customer perceptions of the business aren’t negative.

Not being communicative, not updating a website, and ignoring users when they reach out via a direct message or social media can damage a company’s reputation. The nature of the internet makes it easy for bad press to spread like wildfire as users share their experience and the actions (or lack thereof) from a company. Without managing a company’s online reputation, a business will face considerable barriers to success.

Dangers of UGC for the people creating it

Not only can UGC be a danger to companies, it can also pose some dangers to the users creating it. Content that is created and posted online for free can be exploited by businesses, most notably, social media companies.

For example, although Facebook does not sell the personal information of its users, it does sell ads based on the demographics and information of its users, effectively monetizing users and their information.

Uploading user generated content on the internet means it’s accessible to almost everyone, which can be damaging to a person’s career. Content can be stolen and redistributed, which can be devastating if the information was private or if the person stealing the content is making money off of it. Just as companies should be mindful of the content they generate and share online, so too should the average user.