User-generated content (UGC) refers to the content created by users on any online platform such as social medias, discussion forums, news site or review sites. The contents are in various forms, such as texts, images, videos and audios. As web publishing and social media became well-known in the mid-2000s, the term started to gain its popularity.
Reddit, TripAdvisor and eBay are some of the nowadays successful brands whose business models based entirely on user-generated content. Many other business types, most commonly news site and e-commerce platforms, have also picked up user-generated content as a part of their business development strategy due to the visible benefits it brings. User-generated content on these platforms are usually in forms of comments, feedback or ratings.
But, to what extent can user-generated content benefit these businesses? Here’s a concise look into the advantages and limitations of user-generated content for news sites and e-commerce platforms.
The good part
For any type of business, user-generated content will increase visitor’s time spent on the website because there is more to read and contemplate. User-generated content will also enhance return rate as users who posted the content will be curious whether it gets any feedback. Their content might also turn into a discussion which draws in participations from other users.
Discussions create a space to share thoughts and suggestions. Businesses can also be a part of the talk to show that it’s making an effort to listen to its users. As a result, user-generated content increases engagement not only among users but also between the brand and its potential customers.
According to a report by Forrester, 70% of consumers trust their social circle for product and brand recommendations; 46% looks for reviews and ratings provided by other customers. In contrast, only 10% would trust ads appear on the website.
For news sites in particular, in addition to the benefits aforementioned, user-generated content may also play the role of crowdsourcing sources for some of the traditional journalism work, such as an instant feedback to journalist as well as a proofread for the authenticity of the news.
Sometimes, perhaps due to time constraint, journalists may miss an aspect of a news. Many times, user-generated content is seen to help correct these mistakes. User-generated content such as these are additional references for other readers, which overall increase the news site’s informative level.
Meanwhile, e-commerce sites benefit from user-generated content in terms of marketing, research & development.
From a marketing perspective, user-generated content allows businesses to listen to the users’ opinion and feedback about the performance of its product or service. Apart from showing the customers that they care, user-generated content also inspires businesses, helping them produce more tailored content, as well as providing more insight to their research and development process.
In addition, user-generated content has a huge SEO (search-engine optimization) potential as relevant new keywords are mentioned constantly in comments, feedback and discussions. At some point, it will open an opportunity for the business to create its own community, something that Canon, Apple and Lego have achieved.
As many green flags as it waves, user-generated content does come with certain risks because generally, allowing user contribution means that businesses will have less control over the content on its website.
Inappropriate content will emerge. This includes spams, defamation, hateful, bullying comments aiming towards the topic, the business and other individuals, or just overall illegal and not in alignment with the site’s community standards.
Improper contents tend to go viral quickly if not found and removed as soon as possible. However, scouting and moderating these contents takes time. Especially, when moderation isn’t done carefully, constructive content might accidentally be deleted, which is highly frown upon by users.
Things could take a toll as the volume of user-generated content rises. At this point, content moderation becomes such a large task that businesses will have to invest in additional budget for human resources.
Nevertheless, it’s pretty clear that even though there are disadvantages to user-generated content, the investment is certainly worthwhile provided the right solution to tackle the problems.
The most cost-saving solution to tackle unwanted user-generated content is to form a team of volunteer moderators. Volunteer moderators often times are active users on the site who love the platform so much they‘re willing to spend time and effort protecting it from improper content.
The downside is that volunteer moderators don’t usually have relevant professional backgrounds, hence their decision-making skills are not as reliable as that of a professional moderator.
When user-generated content’s volume gets bigger and is more constant, businesses will most likely hire a team of content moderators. While human can make precise decision on the appropriation of a message, they are limited by speed. In addition, their decisions may vary because of their own subjective viewpoints. The moderation team grows as the volume grow, which in the long run becomes extremely costly.
The perfect way?
It’s only just been two solutions, but in recent years, AI has emerged to be an automated moderation solution that’s not only cost-effective but also can work in real time regardless of the site’s user-generated content volume.
Utopia AI Moderator has proven to be the first automated moderation tool able moderate content in any language and dialect in the world with a surprisingly high accuracy rate, even higher than that of a human moderator. The tool’s language independency makes it the perfect choice for both monolingual and multilingual platforms.
Unlike bots which only understand word by word and cannot recognize misspellings, Utopia AI Moderator was built from an algorithm that can learn the meaning of a message based on its context, misspellings and especially, social media slangs. The tool has been helping many major media houses in tackling their content moderation problems.