6 facts about user-generated content

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 by Richard Howe

6 facts about user-generated content Whether you’re including user-generated content in your current website, or just curious as to how it might increase your visitors’ engagement and your brand recognition, there’s no doubt that innovative use of user-generated content (UGC) is an intriguing idea.

In this blog post, we focus on six facts to get you thinking about the possibilities.

1) User-generated content isn’t a new phenomenon

Although it might sound like a fairly new way to market your business, user-generated content has actually been around for a while, even though the term didn’t appear until around 2005.

Internet forums and bulletin boards, for example, have been around since the 1970s, and virtual online words have been played since the early 1980s (with Second Life, one of the most popular and complex, appearing in 2003). Even Facebook has been around for a decade.

2) Generation Y cares about user-generated content

As far as product and service recommendations go, you might think that a positive review from a trusted friend or family member would be what your customers are after. 

But for people born between 1977 and 1994 (‘Generation Y’ or the ‘Millennials’), that might not be the case. According to a 2012 study by Bazaarvoice (‘Talking to Strangers: Millennials Trust People over Brands’), 84% of Millennials said that UGC from people they don’t know influences their purchasing, and 15% said that when making a buying decision, the opinions of strangers are more important than those of their friends and family.

3) There are more user-generated sites than you think

Unless you’ve really thought about it, you might not have noticed quite how much user-generated content has been creeping up on you. Here are a few of the main categories, together with well-known examples:

  • Customer review sites (e.g. Amazon, Trip Advisor)
  • Photo, video and sound sharing sites (e.g. Instagram, YouTube, SoundCloud)
  • Blog services (e.g. WordPress, Blogger)
  • Wikis (e.g. Wikipedia)
  • Social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter)
  • Fan fiction sites (e.g. FanFiction.Net)
  • Art sites (e.g. deviantArt, Behance)
  • Crowdfunding sites (e.g. Kickstarter)
  • Shopping or free classified sites (e.g. ebay, craigslist)

The popularity of these sites shows that user-generated content is a key player across industries and shows every sign of becoming more prevalent.

4) UGC has advantages for the contributor too

The benefits of user-generated content is clear from the company’s point of view – increased savings in both cost and time, motivated and engaged website visitors, brand advocates out there marketing your business for free…the list goes on. But UGC has benefits for the contributor too, in terms of incentives.

Incentives typical fall under two categories – tangible and intangible. Tangible benefits might include:

  • Financial rewards
  • Coupons and vouchers
  • Exclusive offers
  • Entry into a contest
  • Access to VIP areas on website

Those rewards that are more intangible include:

  • Being part of an active and collaborative community
  • Online ‘social’ interaction and relationship building
  • The ability to have control and ownership, to some extent
  • Gamification rewards, e.g. badges, stars, levels, points

5) User-generated content isn’t all about reviews

Okay, so there are some companies (Amazon, Goodreads and Trip Advisor spring to mind) that rely heavily or completely upon user-generated content in the form of reviews and recommendations. 

But that’s not all UGC is about. User-generated content can provide not only a way to collect creative material from a large group of people for bigger, collaborative campaigns, but also bring people’s offline lives onto your websites in an engaging and dynamic way.

6) User-generated content can be truly innovative

With UGC, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Here are some ideas that have been used successfully to whet your appetite:

  • Doritos’ ‘Crash the Superbowl’ campaign invited customers to create their own Doritos adverts for the chance of a $1million prize and having their advertisement shown during the Superbowl. More than 2000 videos were sent in, and more than 2 million votes were cast to determine the eventual winner.
  • In 2013, Belkin teamed up with Lego to create an iPhone case with Lego studs on the back. It then asked its customers to customise their case with Lego bricks and send a photo to Instagram.
  • In 2009, Tourism Queensland decided to tempt people to consider Southern Australia as a holiday destination by advertising the ‘best job in the world’ – a genuine job as a Barrier Reef caretaker based of Hamilton Island, which paid $75,000 for six months and included snorkeling on the Barrier Reef, cleaning the pool and blogging about the experience, of course. Achieving more than 8 million website visits and 55 million page views, this user-generated campaign certainly got it right.

Hopefully this blog post has got you thinking a little bit about how you might choose to take advantage of the opportunities user-generated content provides. 

There’s no doubt that a successful UGC campaign takes a lot of planning, a little bit of luck and a generous helping of bravery, but with a creative spark and a sense for what your audience is really looking for, incorporating it into your website could mean that you’re onto a marketing winner.

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