Daily Archives: October 1, 2013

User Generated Content & Amazon

User generated content is a currently a hot topic. Taylor Hawes’ blog Is User Generated Content Right for Your Website? goes on to explain the basics. In simple terms, user generated content (UGC) comes about when businesses opt to have users generate content for them, either in place of or as a supplement to the content they already have. Such content can be: product reviews, guest posts, and customer images, along with others.

My Amazon Experience

Amazon is a prime example of using user generated content, most popularly in the form of product reviews. Every college textbook I have ever gotten along with 99% of items I order online comes from Amazon. While this blog isn’t to brag about them, I can commend them for the way they handle user generated content and it is easy to see that they benefit from it.

Let’s face it, most of us read reviews when we are looking to order something. Some even base their decision whether to order something or not solely off the reviews. In my experience, I have found that Amazon benefits from this. Not only does  Amazon offer quality products, but they also cater to the users. They always want users input on their products.

Screen Shot 2013-09-21 at 10.34.12 PM

So here, these product reviews are a good example of user generated content. Amazon breaks down these reviews with “most favorable” and “critical” so that you can get two different helpful reviews. Here is another example of user generated content. Many different vendors offer products on Amazon, and Amazon fulfills those orders. When users provide negative feedback, Amazon jumps right on to address it.

Screen Shot 2013-09-22 at 12.07.58 AM

In this case, there was a bad experience and Amazon was there to take responsibility. Without this user generated content, Amazon would not have any clue that this vendor sold a defective item. Amazon in my experience is one of the quickest to resolve these negative posts. They have one of the best customer service departments I have ever dealt with.

Why is UGC benefiting Amazon?

It is easy to see that Amazon, the company that sold 306 items per second, or 27 million items on Cyber Monday has a lot of content. These product reviews act as a supplement to the content that they already have. These reviews give them valuable information about their products and promote more business. You can’t tell me you won’t buy a product when you are contemplating buying it and you see a review for it saying that it shipped in one day and was better than advertised. Ultimately, UGC is beneficial for Amazon. They have a loyal fan base (when I look at a product it generally has over 200 reviews) and the content is generally spot on. If for some reason there is a negative review, you can be sure Amazon will resolve it within a few hours.

A few questions to consider:

  • In terms of quality of content, how would you deal with user generated content (in this case product reviews) that was not true? How do we know if users are just lying to give the product 5 stars?
  • Are there any downsides of UGC for Amazon?

Community Panel Highlights

On Tuesday, September 24th, our class had the opportunity to participate in a Google Hangout with Ally Greer, Community Manager at Scoopit, and Sean Keeley, the creator of the Syracuse Orange sports blog, Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician. The panel allowed us to put all of the content we’ve learned thus far into real-life perspective. It was interesting hearing two different sides of Community Management from people representing two very different communities.

“I Write For Myself”

Sean Keeley doesn’t spend too much time worrying about what his audience wants to read. Instead, he created a blog that he would want to read. It’s a good strategy, and it clearly yields results. However, there’s no way to know for sure if this method will work for everyone. This is successful for Sean because he knows his audience, and he considers himself to be a reflection of his members.

Instead of assuming what people want to read, community managers have to do some research. See which of your posts are the most successful and craft future posts to match. Look into your community–who are they? What are they interested in? How can you cater to them?

"Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician" taken from www.nunesmagician.com

“Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician” taken from www.nunesmagician.com

All Shapes and Sizes

Community Managers are, in a way, a direct reflection of the site. Scoopit and TNIAAM are very different sites which, because of this, warrant two very different Community Managers. Scoopit is a site all about people sharing content. TNIAAM is first and foremost a news outlet for Syracuse sports fans. While one may gather more user generated content than the other, both are heavily focused around a community. For TNIAAM, the community is specific: Syracuse sports fans with the occasional lovers of all-things-college-sports. Scoopit is for anyone, and the site can be used differently for each member.

This just goes to show how much effort needs to be put in as a CM. You have to really understand who your members are so you can decide what kind of site you’re going to be. Community is a huge part of a site’s success and, in a way, the community builds your site. They decide what goes on it and what happens next. Understanding your community will be your best tool.

Scoop.it! logo taken from www.scoopit.com

Scoop.it! logo taken from www.scoopit.com

Size vs. Strength

This was a common theme throughout Tuesday’s panel. When Ally said, “just because you have 100,000 users doesn’t necessarily mean you have 100,000 users”, it really stuck with me. Sean also mentioned that he liked the name of his blog because it acted almost as a code-word that only few understood. The blog and community itself had a sense of exclusivity to it, and Sean thought that added to the site’s appeal. So what’s more important? Do you focus on increasing the number of members in your community, or should you put your energy into creating a stronger community within the few members you currently have?

Taken from www.socialmediatoday.com

Taken from www.socialmediatoday.com

In my opinion, the strength of the community should be the priority. If you ensure that members are engaged and participating in conversations, your community has a greater opportunity to grow. People will be more excited about joining a community if they know that it has already been established and has a strong following.

My a cappella group, Groovestand, tries to stay very active on social media. We currently have over 700 likes on Facebook and are reaching for 1,000 by the end of the semester. While this is an ambitious goal, the panel and the readings we’ve covered thus far have made me think about bettering our content strategies and creating a more engaged audience before we worry about making the number of uninvolved people larger. We want our community to grow, but in this case, strength may be more important.



Lessons in User-Generated Content from … College?

In the past, I was lucky to work in two marketing departments at two excellent colleges. In one, I was a student worker, which helped me gain experience to become a salaried employee at the other. Both schools used the same tactic to gain user-generated content (UGC): an annual photo contest.

Photo contests are a common to collect UGC, and they seem like an easy way to get people to contribute. The logic:

  • People take pictures all the time, so there’s no shortage of material out there
  • Submitting a photo is easy; just attach it to an email
  • Who wouldn’t want their awesome photos promoted by their Alma Mater?!

After reading about UGC, I realized I have already learned a couple lessons in UGC from watching these contests.


Plan for procrastination

For both of these contests, lots of the submissions would come in the last week or even on the last day. Knowing this, would you make the deadline for a photo contest the day before you announce the winners? Probably not. So why would you set up the same schedule for any UGC?

People, not just students, procrastinate, so it’s necessary to plan ahead. If you you want to post your UGC on one day, make the deadline well before that. That gives you wiggle room to edit the content if needed, and even if the submitter is “late,” they’re not really leaving you high and dry.

Bigger audience does not always equal better UGC

quality over quantity

One photo contest was run by a bigger school and open to everyone, while another photo contest was run by a smaller school and only open to students who studied abroad in the pervious year. While the former contest got more total submissions, the latter contest got, in my opinion, higher quality submissions.

I believe that by targeting only students who studied abroad, it implies that the contest is searching for photos from exotic locations, and by requiring a narrative, it emphasizes the importance of storytelling from a unique perspective. Yes, it narrowed the entries, but those few entries were of very high quality.

For example: Would you rather receive ten guest blog posts but only one or two are good, or only get three guest blogs, all of high quality?

Make the incentives work for you, too


One contest offered a cash prize along with press release and a gallery showing on Alumni weekend. The other offered no monetary prize, but along with a press release, incorporated the photos and photographer’s names into the study abroad website. Both incentives worked, but I think one worked better. Can you guess which one?

Giving students the chance to have their photo immortalized for several years on the website not only provides incentive to submit, but it also provides the school with gorgeous photos to showcase on the website. It’s the win-win scenario that I believe makes the second contest smarter.

These are just some lessons I’ve learned from my professional experience. Do you agree? Do you disagree? Have you experienced moderating UGC before? What worked for you? What would you have done better?