User Generated Content, as the name suggests, is content which is submitted by consumers, customers, clients and visitors to a website. It can come in many forms, from comments to embedded tweets, open-submissions and reviews.
It brings with it a host of benefits. UGC can greatly increase engagement with websites, as well as shareability and authenticity. Of course, along with benefits are a host of pitfalls, from having to take the time to moderate content, to establishing an engaged community to submit the content in the first place. It’s important to know the pitfalls of user generated content and how they can be avoided. With a clear strategy, and contingency plan in place, it can end up being a very successful and profitable way of driving engagement to a website.
Here are the pitfalls of user-generated content and how to fix them.
1. It Needs To Be Moderated
In an ideal world, all user generated content would stick to the rules and adhere to the site’s standards. Sadly, that’s not the case. Users will upload whatever they like, from inappropriate sites, to offensive words, or totally irrelevant content.
How To Avoid It
Ensure you build in features where content can be moderated. For example, review companies such as TripAdvisor rely on pre-moderation. This means that all reviews which are submitted are sent through a screening process before being put live for everyone to see. This can take a couple of days to sift through depending on the levels of content which has been uploaded, but ensures the site holds its reputation and doesn’t post offensive, random or meaningless content.
You can also implement functions for the UX of a site which means users can report content themselves. This is the system many large companies such as Facebook and Instagram have built in. The pros of this is that content is available instantly for other users to see and engage with but means unwanted content can also get through.
2. People Use It For Their Own Personal Gain
Once user generated content begins to roll in, it can soon increase the site’s popularity, raise the share count, and have numerous benefits. And this will be something others will latch onto. Users can submit their own content for personal gain, rather than that of the site. For example, a competitor could be promoting a service or running a competition and pretend to be a random user to publicise and promote their own products or services.
How To Avoid It
This comes under careful moderation again, but instead of just looking out for offensive or inappropriate content, you look at the context of what has been submitted and whether it’s for personal gain of the contributor. It’s worth adding in code so that any links submitted, automatically default to “no-follow.” Otherwise you’ll have people uploading content purely for a backlink to their own site. Also check the links they are submitting, where they are pointing to and if they are promoting, selling or advertising anything. You can build in a script that picks up certain keywords and blocks them from appearing or flags up certain comments. This can be a useful feature to easily filter through the genuine and the spam content.
3. You Need An Engaged Community To Continuously Generate New Content
It can take a while for a community to become engaged and known enough to submit content. Many companies rely on user generated content as part of their marketing strategy, yet don’t account for the initial time taken to gather loyal readers and contributors. With no users, there will be no user-submitted content. Simple, but true.
How To Avoid It
Get people to know the company and build a loyal following before requesting content. If those wanting to submit something stumble across your site and see it is under-developed, you have hardly any social media followers and no presence, they won’t see the worth in submitting anything. Build a solid base and learn what motivates people to want to submit content and get them excited about joining part of your community. Users want to have their work, ideas and submissions featured on an aesthetically pleasing site that has been well-designed and feels premium. Ensure plenty of thought has gone into the design process of the look of the site, as well as making the user journey to actually submit the content an easy one. People that find the process easy and rewarding will be likely to return and recommend it to others.
4. Copyright Infringement
With an in-house content creation team, submissions usually have to go through a process before they reach publication. They will be checked, assets confirmed as royalty-free and they will have a knowledge of what you can and what you can’t do. By allowing users to submit content you can be opening yourself to a myriad of copyright infringements on everything from duplicate content to image usage.
How To Avoid It
To avoid receiving a hefty copyright infringement lawsuit in your inbox, it’s important you put certain steps into place. With user generated content there are many questions about who is liable for third-party content if it turns out to be false, improper or harmful; unless you make it clear initially, the blame could fall on the website owner. Ensure you have a contract and guidelines in place that stipulates any content users submit is their own responsibility and they are liable should any issues arise. Make guidelines that states images should be royalty-free and available for re-use before they submit them.
5. Unverified Sources Can Damage Website Credibility
When users are free to submit whatever content they like, there is bound to be a fair amount of fake news. You can never really know who every person who submits something is, nor where they are getting their facts and statements from. Negative comments or sources can damage a brand, particularly when other users have no way of knowing if the contributor is trustworthy or not. After all, “If it’s on the internet, it must be true…”
How To Avoid It
Many sites have come across issues with this, with popular social media sites having many users create fake profiles of companies or celebrities. This can be very damaging to a brand and is why it is an idea to have verified users. Twitter and Instagram are known by the well-recognised blue tick which ensures other users know exactly who is posting content. Other sites such as Waze and TripAdvisor award badges to those who are loyal and regular contributors. Not only does this give an incentive to continually contribute, but other users (and moderators) know they are more trustworthy and less likely to post spam or malicious content that could damage the reputation of a site.
Featured image via Unsplash.