User Generated Content
Communities are the foundation upon which society is built and there are excellent opportunities for brands to enable and foster those communities with many benefits, both for them and their target market.
User generated content (UGC) and community content is not especially new and has been proven to affect our sense of belonging and as digital and mobile media penetration continues to skyrocket so to does people’s willingness and capability to generate UGC.
However, it isn’t as simple as setting up a forum or turning on commenting on your blog posts. There are a number of considerations before you even step in the ring.
What are your goals?
Starting with the end in mind will assist in you developing and managing user generated content networks that will serve your goals.
Do you desire to build an authoritative source for your industry? Increase your social footprint and network? Do you wish to reduce the amount of incoming calls and enquiries? Increase customer satisfaction? Drive membership? Are you searching for data on and insight into your customers? Are your goals campaign based?
These are just some of the common objectives of creating communities and user generated content pools and should govern how you establish those communities.
Each goal should be accompanied with metrics. For example, if you wish to reduce the amount of incoming calls, ensure you have the necessary information on your products and services at hand and set a minimum response time for responding to enquiries. Then set expectations for users when they sign up or post and track how you perform.
If you’re looking for data and insight then you need to establish methods for tracking the information your community is discussing.
Each goal requires slightly different user generated content management techniques and success measurement metrics.
Establish your goals, how you will achieve them and how you will measure your success.
Your search engine ranking is built upon hosted content integrity, keyword relevancy and back-linking – among other things. Having users create that content (and integrity), either through forums or by commenting on your articles can do great things for SEO.
Moreover, with technical questions being responded to by users of the site, potentially more quickly and even more accurately than hosts, you are delivering a service with reduced time investment.
However investment is still required. Building an authoritative source requires some comment moderation. Not all user-generated content is accurate or relevant and some can be downright nasty. Weeding out the dead wood will help ensure your forum is taken seriously, and avoid potential legal action (more on that below).
If you are getting plenty of engagement you can use a service such as Web Purify that screens words, images, videos links and more for swearing, nudity and other unwanted content.
Also encourage partnerships with influential thought-leaders in your industry to host and moderate their own threads – you are both likely to benefit commercially.
Community and user engagement is likely to follow the 90 – 9 – 1 rule which says 90 per cent of website users do not comment, 9 per cent edit existing content and only 1 per cent contribute.
Seeding relevant content will help those statistics as will prompting readers to comment by asking questions, requesting information and encouraging existing commenters with positive feedback. Perhaps also offer the opportunity for regular quality posters to earn stripes or a rating.
Depending on your starting point and the partnerships you can establish, you may find engagement is slow at first, however with consistent publishing into your target market’s informational desires, you will establish yourself as an authoritative source and people will want to be involved.
It is much easier to create communities on social media due to the already established framework and the millions (or billion in the case of Facebook) of connected users who are using the platforms specifically to create, consume and share content.
Moreover, you can efficiently target by drilling down to specific metrics and your discoverability is further increased with the use of #hastags, although campaigns need to be closely monitored as they can become hijacked.
When choosing a social media platform, first understand the demographic of your target market and the platforms they are using. Also align the platform with your goals – Facebook is not ideal for creating a resource pool in your industry, however it is an excellent tool for driving membership and fielding enquiries, as well as driving traffic to your resource pool.
Incentive based campaigns – encouraging users to post images or videos for the chance to win a prize – are popular on social media, and a worthy strategy consideration, however ideally you want a community that engages because they desire to be a part of the conversation you are having.
In the eyes of the law, the company hosting the website remains the publisher of content, even when that content is created by users, and may be liable for the content posted. It is recommended you seek legal advice tailored to your circumstances.
Still this may not cover you completely so you will want to take out professional indemnity insurance covering you specifically for publishing user generated content and if you are informed that content on your site is defamatory or infringing and do nothing, you may further expose yourself to potential legal action.
Some choose to moderate all content before it is published however this may actually serve to increase your liability as you have had a greater hand in “publishing” it and it also restricts real-time conversations between your users and may limit community growth.
Whatever goals you have and publishing platforms you choose, with the right planning and management, user generated content is an excellent tool for building and engaging with your target market.