Daily Archives: October 8, 2013

User Generated Content: Enhancing Your Online Experience

People always want to fit in – even if it means standing out. That is the philosophy behind User Generated Content (UGC). This content allows users to be a part of a community, while still being able to voice their opinion. It encourages interaction and the distribution of information – all of which better the users’ experience. And UGC is constantly growing… but does it have any drawbacks? And how can it be improved?

Going Up?

Statistics show that UGC has been skyrocketing in recent years. A study by eMarketer shows that 70% of internet users are consumers of UGC. Most of this UGC is composed of blogs and social media.

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Social media sites have allowed people to voice their opinion to the masses, no matter where they are in the world.
Photo property of Zachary J. Prutzman. All rights reserved.

According to the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development, there are three main returns that the content’s owner is looking for:

  1. connecting with people
  2. expressing oneself
  3. recognition of the owner’s work

Blogs and social media fill these returns perfectly, as you are posting and receiving feedback, which is why they are the most widely-used forms of sourcing UGC.

UGC is powerful in drawing new viewers to a website. This is because the content’s owner is promoting their work outside of the site that is hosting the content. Telefonica Research conducted a study on a variety of video-hosting sites and found that 47% of all videos having incoming links from external sites. This serves as a form of advertising for a site, and it’s free of charge.

Different Forms of UGC

User generated content can take on a variety of different forms. As stated earlier, the most popular are blogs and social media; however, there are other forms that are much more useful. Almost every website can provide a form of UGC that will be beneficial.

One manner in which UGC drives eCommerce is through product reviews. As mentioned in the article “User-Generated Content” by Niroshan Balasubramaniam, product reviews have becoming a staple in the eCommerce field, as they provide the consumer with some trust as to whether or not the product they are buying will meet their expectations.

The consumer is no longer looking at advertising distributed by the producer; rather, the consumer is receiving unbiased reviews from other users. And with the rise of sites like eBay, consumers are no longer dealing with companies shipping products; rather, they are dealing with other consumers. Reviews on sellers nullify any worries as to whether or not the seller’s product will actually reach the consumer.

More people found out about the 2004 Tsunami via blogs and social media than through conventional media such as CNN and BBC. Photo property of paragthink. All rights reserved.

More people found out about the 2004 Tsunami via blogs and social media than through conventional media such as CNN and BBC.
Photo property of paragthink. All rights reserved.

This was a problem that I ran into back when eBay was just getting started. Sellers did not have feedback, as the site was only running for a couple months. Thus, I was hesitant to purchase products until a seller had a vast amount of positive feedback. Luckily, the growth of user-involvement means that this is no longer much of a problem.

Also, UGC has been successful in producing content. Allowing guest posts on a blog provides a wide variety of content, coming from different voices, and keeps the blog fresh. No longer is there a couple of authors trying to produce content; instead, there is a whole community that is uploading information.

The success of these types of communities was evident in 2004 when a tsunami ripped through the Indian Ocean. The National Geographic found that more people were informed via blogs and social media than by CNN or BBC.

There are drawbacks to allowing guest posts, however, which will be addressed in the next section.

Things Are Running Amuck

There are many problems that are associated with UGC – some of which can invoke legal implications.

One problem with UGC is the fact that anyone could be publishing the information…
Photo property of Crezalyn Nerona Uratsuji. All rights reserved.

Users are constantly posting illegal material. Vidmeter found that nearly 10% of videos on YouTube are uploaded without the content owner’s consent. This can result in legal ramifications towards both the website and the person that illegally uploaded the content.

Also, many people have issues trusting UGC – especially when it comes to blogs. Users question whether or not those providing information on a certain topic are experts or an amateur. This is especially true for those seeking information on science and medicine, as mentioned in Balasubramaniam’s article. By only allowing experts to make guest posts, it provides higher-quality content and a sense of trust for the consumer.

These types of blogs, however, can still provide UGC without allowing guests themselves to make the post. Incorporating tweets, comments and pictures from viewers into a post makes them feel as though they are contributing. It is important, however, to make sure that you acknowledge the user for providing the content.

The Future… Don’t Be Scared

As UGC continues to rise, its future seems bright. That being said, there are already many areas that are being identified for improvement.

As companies become more and more concerned with product reviews online, a shift is being made by PR departments to curtail bad reviews. By allowing users to only see reviews from people they trust (such as their Facebook friends or experts in the field), it would drastically improve reliability.

Also, users are becoming concerned with private information posted on social media sites becoming difficult to control. Other users can tag pictures of someone, thus having it become attached to your name.

Many companies have found it difficult to monetize sites that provide UGC, as most of these sites are trends that eventually phase out. Improvements are being sought as to how monetizing these sites is possible.

Have no fear, however. UGC is improving vastly every day, and is making your online experience much more pleasurable. By finding which form of UGC will best complement your website, you can improve your customer’s experience and drive more traffic to your site.

It’s Harder to Build a Community from 0-10 than 10-100

For our CMGRclass, we were fortunate enough to be able to chat with Ally Greer, a community manager a Scoop.it and Sean Keely, a blogger for Syracuse University sports. With two different backgrounds, we were able to gain different perspectives on how to manage communities.

Photo courtesy of Enrique Martinez Bermejo via Flikr Creative Commons

A variety of different topics were discussed that ranged from search engine optimization, how they measure success, and even their strategy for starting a community. There were a few points that each of them discussed that stood out to me:

Ally – It is harder to get from 0-10, than 10-100.

  • Her initial plan was to get thousands of ambassadors for scoop.it and, but much to her surprise, it was very difficult to get ambassadors. She tapped into the top percentage of users and turned them into ambassadors. It is very difficult to get people to buy in, and because of that, it’s much more difficult than you think to get a huge community. She quickly realized that what her initial plan was not going to be the final plan, and as a community manager, you have to adjust to that.

Ally – “Just because you have 100,000 users doesn’t necessarily mean you have 100,000 users”

  • It is important to think that just because you have a community of only 100, it could still be stronger than a community of 10,000. The reason for this is because if these 100 community members/ambassadors participate, it will be more beneficial than the other community of 10,000 where only 20 participate. “I have learned that it is better to have fewer members that spark interest rather than many members that don’t spark any. Just because you may be a user of the product does not mean you are part of the community.”

Ally- “You have to constantly revamp a plan”

  • She emphasizes that one of the hardest parts is that you never know what people are going to react to and you might have to try something else. What I really took away from this is that community managers have to be able flexible and open to change because there are many different people with many different personalities that you have to tend to.

Sean – “Nothing speaks more to me than going to the site and seeing that a post has 150 comments and another post has 2”

  • While there are many different analytical tools and metrics to figure out trends, nothing speaks more to him than being able to see firsthand where the interest is. When and where posts are shared as well as people commenting on stories is where he can really tell that particular content is booming. This was particularly interesting because we have learned thus far that there are many ways to look at trends and metrics, and his way is simple, yet effective. He knows what stories are being talked about and he can create further content pertaining to those popular posts.

Sean – “The demographics I have seen are all over the place”

  • Many people assume a college sports blog like this would have a demographic of 20 year old males. But, there are a lot of female and older readers. The median age is closer to 40 than to 20. So, it is incorrect to say that his site is a 20 year old male centric site. This is an important concept in community management as well as content because you can never assume what your demographic is going to be, and you have to revamp your plan and adjust your strategy to the community. Community members might very well be all unique, but it is crucial to not assume what the demographics will be because you could be mistaken.

There were so many topics discussed in this hour long chat with both Ally and Sean. While those were only a few comments that stuck out to me, there were many more. It is very interesting to see how they differ when it comes to managing content, and it’s also interesting to see other differences, such as how they measure success (Ally keeping track of activations/ambassadors and Sean by site comments/social media input). On a final note, “everything depends on your ultimate goals,” Ally Greer.

Tips from the Pros: Community Management

In class last week, our community management class was fortunate enough to speak to Sean Keeley and Ally Greer, the founder of NunesMagician.com and Community Manager of Scoop.it (respectively). Each professional brought up interesting points as they shared experiences from their lives in social media and blogging. Throughout the hour long discussion, each person brought up important lessons for students to internalize.

50% Proactive, 50% Reactive

Ally Greer commented that community management was 50% proactive and 50% reactive. Although I understood prior to her comment that community management was more than just managing, it didn’t strike me that community management really had to be a balance between managing conversation and allowing them to happen organically. I thought it was important that she reminded the class of the balance a community manager needs to maintain in order to have a thriving, yet natural community. This also reminded me of what was talked about in class, which is to moderate a conversation, not dominate it. It was interesting to hear people apply the lessons learned in class to their own experiences, and phrase these lessons in words that applied specifically to their communities.

Sean Keeley talks to #cmgrclass via Google Plus.

Sean Keeley talks to #cmgrclass via Google Plus.

Write For Yourself 

When asked if Sean Keeley writes towards a particular demographic (perhaps a 25 year old Syracuse male), he replied by saying that he writes for himself. Although this comment at first seemed self-serving, it soon seemed like that was the only acceptable answer. While every blog may have a typical member, it is important that one’s own interests and passions are satisfied when writing. As discussed later in the Google Plus group, how can one run a successful blog if their own interests aren’t taken into consideration? Sean’s unique answer certainly gave all bloggers and class members an opportunity to think about why someone may want to initially start a blog.

People Need To Know What They Want

Although both bloggers/community managers have had different experiences, they can both agree that people need to know what they want. Based on Ally Greer’s experiences, she specifically mentions how users may not know what they want from a service until the option is offered to them. For Sean Keeley, offering news about different sports may not be something that users knew they wanted until the news was on the website. Regardless of the type of field one is blogging about, it’s important to give users options and allow them to figure out what they want for themselves.

What do you think about these points? Is there anything you’d like to add or disagree with? Let us know in the comments below!