I have chosen to focus on the concept of User Created Content which, according to Hinton and Hjorth (2013), is the idea of the audience as the media producer. “Instead of simply responding to content that has been created by an organisation, here the user becomes the source of the original material.”
THEORY – HINTON AND HJORTH’s APPROACH TO THE UCC FRAMEWORK
Whilst exploring user created content, the authors grapple with a very important theme: social media as tool for empowerment, but one with little control. They remind the readers that social media is “democratising, empowering and emancipatory” for users. However, citing Stuart Halls’ Encoding and Decoding in the Television Discourse (1973), they point out that the user cannot control how their media is construed: “consumers of media…are active in that they construct their own meanings from media ‘texts’ that may not be entirely in line with the intended meaning of the producers.”
This potential exploitation of the user, Hinton and Hjorth argue, is the price users pay for empowerment. That is, social media is a vehicle for users to project themselves to a wider audience, but it cannot control how those ideas are ingested. The authors argue that the producer is using social media to project their ideas, but also being used by those who consume them.
Using this model has given me a better understanding of the term produser: someone who uses the ideas of another to produce their own content.
Therefore, we are all produsers!
FIGURE 1: Just how much social media content do we produce?
The next step is putting that theory into practice. There are a myriad of reasons that user created content is successful for companies, namely:
- Users are more likely to engage with content that comes from an individual, rather than a company (Vickery, 2007).
- SEO benefits. Having content in more mediums means more search visibility (Corrigan, 2014)
- Increased user satisfaction. Making users feel as if they are part of the whole content process (Cha et. al, 2007)
- Companies do not always have the resource to produce their own content.
FIGURE 2: Estimated revenue from user created content for major sites in 2010 ($USD)
Based on these positives, my social media campaign involved plenty of user created content. To generate buzz about a wider marketing campaign named ‘Pick 6’ whereby punters could win $100 Million by guessing the first 6 runners of the Melbourne Cup in order, I ran a competition on Twitter, which was also promoted on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Periscope.
Users were asked to Tweet, in 100 characters or less, how they would spend $100 Million whilst including a link to the ‘Pick 6’ landing page and the competition hash tag. Every legitimate entry to the Twitter competition increased the prize pool by $1, therefore encouraging users to share repeatedly with their network.
One thing that resonated with me from the Hinton and Hjorth readings on user created content was the inability to control how social media content is received by the audience. Heeding that knowledge, I attempted to shape what users posted with seeding content that clearly defined the campaign message: you can win a lot of money by Tweeting, and the more Tweets there were, the bigger the prize pool was. Additionally, I played community manager to reward good competition entries with positive comments or free bets, and correct those who had not entered correctly.
There were plenty of elements to spice up the competition, such as an ‘hour of power’ whereby every competition entry added $5 to the prize pool, rather than $1. This led to viral sharing, as users implored their network to enter the competition, as it would boost their potential prize.
HOW DID HINTON AND HJORTH CONTRIBUTE TO AND DEVELOP ACADEMIC THEORY?
Namely, the authors defined a Social Networking Site (SNS), such as Twitter, as a site that is most often used to maintain existing relationships as opposed to constructing new ones (Sheffield, 2015).
Hinton and Hjorth also state that SNS relationships are geographically local, and should be understood as “intimate publics”; a technology that mediates intimacy among already existing connections. These assertions are useful for scholars researching social media, as they will zero in on more personal (intimate), local relationships in further study.
They have also stated that user created content may not make sense to someone who is outside of the original poster’s local context. This has highlighted the need for strictly defined seeding content to shape the campaign message, another element that future studies can focus on.
Cha, M. et al. 2007. I Tube, You Tube, Everybody Tubes: Analyzing the World’s Largest User Generated Content Video System. Telefonica Research. Barcelona, Spain.
Corrigan, J. 2014. The Benefits of User-Generated Content. The Raven Blog.
Hall, S. 1973. Encoding and Decoding in the Television Discourse. Routledge Publishers. London, England.
Hinton, S & Hjorth, L. 2013. Understanding Social Media, 1st ed. Sage Publications. London, England.
Sheffield, J. 2015. Review of Understanding Social Media. Review of Understanding Social Media. (Blog)
Vickery, G. 2007. Participative Web and User-Created Content: Web 2.0 Wikis and Social Networking. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Paris, France.