Tag Archives: UGC

Social media marketing – what works / what doesn’t

Forrester’s social media analyst Jeremiah Owyang provides a nice overview of brands which have attempted social media marketing using fan pages, widgets etc.

In a nutshell, activities – like fan pages – need to encourage communication and community building within the social network, not direct them offsite (because, presumably, it interrupts users’ conversations and communication).

One nice example is an Alicia Keys fan page, which revealed exclusive news, events etc. Fans are driven to join, debate, sign up to events, share and so on. I’m assuming this has a lot to do with why and how fans think – such as playing one-upmanship and showing other fans how much of a bigger fan you are.

Read Jermiah’s blog post on Web Strategist

Why user generated content makes web editors nervous

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I originally posted this in July 2006, but thought I’d reprise it. Enjoy.

A while back, I explained to a web editor how the BBC was planning to introduce more user generated content (UGC) to its site – namely its new Share/Find/Play strategy.

As is increasingly common among web editors now getting to grips with UGC, the following sentiment sprung forth: won’t that mean masses of useless content to wade through?

I’m finding this is an increasingly common concern among content professionals.

I’m not trying to sell in UGC services as a whole here, but I’d like to document some of these concerns and provide some of my own thoughts on why they exist.

User generated content means poor quality

By who’s standards exactly? Granted, UGC can be riddled with appalling writing, unsubstantiated claims and conspiracy theories but unless you’re running a talent website for writers or budding journalists, who are we to judge?

UGC is about letting users express themselves in their own way. Resist the urge of the sub editor in you to correct content. Editing or censoring ‘errors’ in your users content is a big no-no. Let them be.

The same applies if you’re looking for balanced debate or hoping that the quality of your blogs will raise the profile of your site. Have faith in your community and put trust in the adage that users vote with their mouse. The online stars of your platform will gather momentum as they gain a following, while the never do wells wither away and die from the drought of page visits and replies.

All that editing and censorship will mean massively increased workloads

So what? Isn’t your remit to increase user traffic and activity on the site?

UGC isn’t just about blogs and forums of endless editorial debate. Content suffers when UGC is half heartedly applied to traditional publishing models, where the user is constrained in what they can submit.

Why only allow users to submit written editorial content? It’s no surprise that web editors have concerns over UGC because, understandably, they’re looking for quality editorial. But why? The vast majority of people aren’t professional writers. Many don’t like writing full stop.

Instead, give the user access to a completely open platform, where they can submit any type of content – editorial, but also audio, videos and images.

As the likes of YouTube and Flickr are showing, users are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are evolving from ‘readers’ to multimedia content producers.

What if I have empty blogs, forums or no user comments?

I’ve yet to meet an editor or journalist that’s never written an article which is designed to inspire debate or gain a reaction from readers.

Avoid having empty blogs and message boards – roll them out to carefully selected users or offer only one forum topic at a time. Once they grow, open up more and cast the net wider.

Never open up a major network of forum or blog networks on day one. Unless you’ve got millions in marketing spend or you’re MySpace in a position where your URL gets a mention in virtually every news wire on a daily basis, you need to coax users in slowly.

I’ll have to deal with – ugh – the public!

Ever worked in print journalism? If you have, you’ll know that letters to the editor and opinion articles are the lifeblood of any publication. Having a healthy post bag and bursting opinion schedule is a great position to be in. It shows that your readers trust and respect you enough to engage with you and your brand. Thanks to UGC, readers can now take this brand engagement to a whole new level.

UGC is a fad. It’s a waste of time and money

We’re seeing more and more mouse potatoes take root (see what I did there?) at home and, much to the alarm of employers, in the office.

The web is moving away from being solely a lean-to technology focused on information retrieval. This is about taking the traditional publishing model and applying the benefits of the web – interactivity, the ability to publish at minimal cost, automation and search.

Quality websites with opinion and debate have the edge over others which simply break news. A team of quality writers can initiate that debate, but now you can allow users to actively take part and reinforce that role / value. More users spending more time on your site have obvious benefits, not least to your ad sales team.

Don’t under estimate how valuable UGC really is. The traditional web publishing model, by its very nature, pumps out content which appeals to a mass or large niche audiences. Even the best attempts to be super niche will assume some common ground among users.

Blogs, on the other hand, allow this homogenous content to be tailored by really niche users with heterogeneious preferences and opinions. UGC effectively widens the appeal of your content, making it relevant to more audiences, no matter how small or individual – all this is possible with very little effort on your part.

MediaGuardian hacks now write for paidContent

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Cross promotion is inevitable when one content site buys another, but it gets a little complicated when the publisher of a big content buys another smaller content site which covers the same sector – and decides to keep the smaller one going as a standalone entity.

Such is the case with the paidContent site and its recent acquisition by the Guardian. The mainstream media owner has wasted no time at all in pulling paidContent, er, content, into the MediaGuardian’s own digital news pages. Not sure how this impacted the existing digital news team there, namely Jemima Kiss, but hey, who are we to second guess one of the most successful publishers in the UK?

But integration and cross promotional thingies have increased even more with today’s inclusion of a post from the MediaGuardian’s own PDA digital news blog on paidContent’s site. Not sure if the byline format works for me, but it’s interesting how this is slowly developing into something interesting. Assuming this is step two in a defined long term game plan.

Separately, the paidContent blog talks about a new website by the creators of Dazed & Confused called Dazed Digital. Not a magazine extension site it appears, but a destination in its own right. Quite nice, but no obvious sign of comments or UGC services for us fickle read/write/rip consumers of content. Also, most of the videos seem to suffer from poor lighting, making each interviewee look like they’re in silhouette. Artistic fancy or handycam hitch?

SXSW 09 Panel on how to manage User Generated Content (UGC)

Social media blogger John Eckman has proposed a panel for 2009’s SXSW.

His reasoning behind the panel goes as follows:

The age of content being managed only by authorized professionals is over. Users expect to contribute to, rate, review, recommend, filter, tag, and moderate their experiences on the web. What does this mean for designers and content management professionals? How do you encourage appropriate behavior and discourage spam and vandalism, without completely reverting to non-participation?

Granted, this should be (really) old news to any decent content producer going to SXSW, but the panel discussion promises to provide some practical tips on how to get the best from those crazy ‘read/write’ contributors all us editors shake our heads and tut at now and then.

Vote / add your comments to John’s proposal page right now.

MPs urge for tighter controls on content

This debate has rumbled on for years, but the Guardian’s Mark Sweney reported only last week that MPs are asking web companies to do more in vetting content on their sites. It’s not new – remember when the time when ISPs got sued failing to take down libellous websites quick enough?

The problem? Well, when you’re YouTube and you get millions of submissions and updates each day, who checks what, when and how? But things might get tricky if sites don’t get proactive and self-regulate or sign up to an informal code of practice.

Can technology help filter out user generated content? It depends from CMS to CMS and I bet that some post moderated sites search for abusive language via the front end search box. But even if it’s true that some of the big UGC sites have search technology that uses an algorithm to hunt down copyrighted music or TV content, how difficult would it be to get these sites to share this technology. Video search technology is big business and anything that can dynamically identify video patterns / human actions / faces is going to be worth zillions, not least to the authorities and security agencies. Imagine the potential of a video search tool that could recognise and flag up drunken fights or car thieves on a city’s 2,000+ CCTV cameras, effectively doing away with the labourious effort of a human trying to watch them all at once. An extreme example but you get my point.

[Read more about the MPs comments at BrandRepublic]

Would you ever visit a retailer’s web zine? Like, a second time?

Jeanswear brand Levi’s had moderate success with Antidote, its customer publishing website and print magazine.

Such successes explain why fashion labels and retailers continue to use customer publishing – an example being Topman’s TOPMANZINE (for the love of god).

The question of what value customer publishing provides to who is way too old (and dull) a debate to have here. But the fact remains, the web now offers new opportunities for brands to develop a destination – and one which isn’t limited to broadcast / top down magazine content.

Ben Sherman’s content aggregation model is a good example of how fashion brands are providing customers with genuinely valuable offers beyond the usual ‘read this edgy article and please buy the t-shirt we mention’ approach. It’s about going beyond TOPMANZINE’s useful ‘Trends’ features. Fashion tips provide genuine value to the customer, but the site as a whole doesn’t go far enough.

VideoJug works with MySpace

We love VideoJug. It’s a perfect example of how the web can provide genuine value for users.

This morning’s City A.M. reports that VideoJug’s now teamed up with MySpaceTV for a ‘content deal’. That said we can’t find anything about a formal deal, financial terms or revenue share – nor whether any subsequent revenue is passed on to the makers of the videos.

Fair play to VideoJug for continuing to provide balanced advice after the partnership with MySpaceTV – watch VideoJug tips on how to improve your Facebook profile.

If you’re not familiar with VideoJug, they’re a bit like AOL UK’s ‘Show Me’ advice videos.

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New Yahoo Buzz social bookmarking – a bit like del.icio.us


In my opinion del.icio.us – and Digg for that matter – have a long way to go if they’re to be adopted by mainstream audiences.

Brand Republic says Yahoo Buzz consists of user voted best-of-the-web links, all of which will feature on its homepage.

We’re guessing this uses technology from Yahoo’s existing social bookmarking MyWeb and del.icio.us services, the latter of which it bought yages ago.

Giving partnering publishers the chance to get featured front of house, the service will provide Yahoo with syndication / revenue opportunities.

We assume Yahoo UK & Ireland’s Buzz page is going to look more like the US Yahoo Buzz and not like this old thing on Yahoo UK & Ireland.

Read more at Brand Republic

The Telegraph goes a bit MediaGuardian with top viral videos

This is the oddest thing. Is this the kind of stuff we can expect to see from the Telegraph’s newly set up R&D editorial and UGC lab?

Placed on the home page, just below the paper’s popular Matt and Alex cartoon links is the Telegraph’s new Screen Break section.

The blurb on the site says: ‘The funniest viral videos, games and stories on the Internet, plus the best Telegraph games and puzzles. Because computers aren’t just for work.’

‘Because computers aren’t just for work?’ Is that right? What does the average reader of the Telegraph – most likely a senior executive or MD – think about that? Okay, the Telegraph is trying hard to attract younger readers and granted, the average age of the Telegraph’s website is likely to be younger than the paper’s, but is this going to help attract older members to the web? Won’t they just see this as worthless pap? The Telegraph’s other slow-time sections like the Matt cartoons are fun and a brief respite from the news. They’re intelligent and in some cases, they even make us feel slightly superior. Viral web clips might make us feel superior, but for all the wrong reasons. And just how do older users perceive user generated content?

And isn’t this all a bit MediaGuardian? Okay, we’re all in our thirties, we read the Telegraph, we’re web savvy and we like to browse through the web’s curiosities on a Friday afternoon. But web clips as selected by the Telegraph? Come off it.

Well done for trying, but the whole thing just feels a bit…groovy parent.

Of course, we could be completely wrong if all content has been submitted by real users. But if it is, and it’s by readers for readers as per monkeymag.co.uk, then this could be given more prominence in the strapline: ‘The funniest viral videos, games and stories on the Internet, as voted for by you…’

That said, we’d love to be proved wrong by some web stats.

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Online activism and cinema sweets

A customer was allegedly asked to leave a cinema recently because he’d taken refereshments bought off-site into a screening (of Cloverfield if you’re interested).

He was then – again allegedly – approached by a security guard who asked him to empty his carrier bag.

After eventually deciding to leave the cinema (a good decision all round if you’re thinking of going to see Cloverfield), he then decided to take direct action and protest outside the cinema by handing out leaflets which compared the prices snacks bought outside the cinema with prices inside. This guy was – as you may have guessed – seriously annoyed.

We really, really hope this guy has a blog. Or a Facebook group. Imagine the following that this guy would get. HAAANG ON! Why doesn’t someone set one up for him?!

Read the full story as it appeared on Yahoo News.