During the last few years, people have spent more time and shared more information, thoughts, and opinions on the Internet. These ‘sharing’ are regarded as user generated content (UGC) and user created content (UCC). Different forms of UGC and UCC include photos, videos, podcasts, ratings, reviews, articles, and blogs (Filho and Tan 2009). In particular, many users like to share their reviews after consuming a product or service. This can create a huge flow of electronic word-of-mouth (WOM). Consumer-generated product reviews, images, and tags, which serve as a valuable source of information for customers making product choices online (Ghose, Ipeirotis, and Li 2009), have increased rapidly on the Internet and have had a great impact on electronic commerce (Forman, Ghose, and Wiesenfeld, 2008) following the emergence of Web 2.0 technologies. This article wants to explore how companies can use a participatory social media campaign to generate more UCC and UGC content, which is also considered as WOM to contribute the business.
Having said that, the whole idea of UGC and UCC comes from the Web 2.0 and social media, therefore, the first part of this article reviews the emergence of Web 2.0 and social media, coupled with a brief analysis of its characteristics. The second part discusses the phenomenon of users as producers, as well as UGC and UCC. The last past reviews my campaign and several case studies, as well as my personal reflection from this course.
Web 2.0 and Social Media
In today’s world of Web 2.0, hundreds of platforms are highly interactive and engaging, and provide users with the means for producing and distributing content, communicating and connecting with each other, empowering practices from activism to creative production (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013). The term Web 2.0 came up in 2005 by O’Reilly, who indicates that business in this new internet age is tightly related to active, engaged internet users.
“Network effects from user contributions are the key to market dominance in the Web 2.0 era” (O’Reilly, 2005).
As Munster and Murphie mention, the characteristics of Web 2.0 include ‘participatory’, ‘dynamic’ and ‘user-centred’. According to Zuckerman’s ‘Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism’ (2008), the main difference between Web 2.0 and Web 1.0 can be summarised as ‘Web 1.0 was invented to allow physicists to share research papers and Web 2.0 was created to allow people to share pictures of cute cats’. Moreover, this Web 2.0 not only allows users to become participants instead of purely media consumers, more importantly, it empowers and yields user generated content and user created content (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013).
Social media is one of the buzzwords that came along with web 2.0 rhetoric. Postman (2008) states that social media is the latest form of Web-based applications wherein content is created by participatory communication. Likewise, Jenkins (2006) notes that social media is part of the rise of participatory culture which empowers users to produce their own content, to become, as Bruns proposes, ‘produsers’.
From Audiences to Produsers
In networked communication environments, the audience are no longer simply consumers of media: they have become participants because the communication here is two-way. One aspect of participation is public response, such as commenting on a news story in an online newspaper. A more provocative aspect is the idea of the audience as 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 — they make videos, songs, sounds, images and writings and share them online (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013). Jenkins describes this as a ‘participatory culture’, which he defines as:
A culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices. A participatory culture is also one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created). (2006: 3)
Australian academic Bruns describes people who produces materials and shares them online as ‘produser’, which refers to a user who produces (rather than just consuming) internet content. This term emphasises the highly interactive nature of much social media use, wherein the user often contributes their own creative productions to websites. Produsage includes activities such as uploading videos and photos to web services like Flickr and building and maintaining blogs (Bruns, 2008; Hinton & Hjorth, 2013).
Two common participation forms are regarded as user generated content, in which user forward content made by others, and user created content, in which the content is made by the user (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013). As mentioned at the beginning, some of UGC and UCC content can be considered as word-of-mouth, which refers to interpersonal communication about products and services between consumers. Word-of-mouth messages have been proven to be one of the most influential sources of marketplace information for consumers (Arndt, 1967; Alreck & Settle, 1995) because online users believe those comments are less likely to be influenced by the business and the discussant has no commercial self-interest (William el at, 2012). If companies can engage their audiences and generate many UGC&UCC content via a participatory social media campaign, the result will definitely benefit the business in many levels.
Case Study and Personal Reflection
In my own social media campaign (Shopfashion), the majority of information that I sent across social networking sites at the beginning are promotion and product information posts. Fortunately, I soon realized that I did not utilize the strength of social media, which is to engage audience as participants of my campaign instead of simply pushing information to them. To put it simply — I did not involve two-way communication. This is also my crucial takeaway from this course — instead of talking to the audience on social media, making your audience talk to/about you can generate more values. Therefore I changed my audience engagement strategy, which aims to make my audience talk to me. For example, one of my campaign strategies is to involve audience by asking them to upload photos wearing products bought from Shopfashion with #myshopfashionstyle, and then regram/repost their posts and credit them. There is also a “my shopfashion style competition” that sets a big incentive (coupon) to increase engagement at the beginning of the campaign, which aims to nurture audience’s habit of uploading photos and engaging with the brand. This strategy not only helps to interact with followers and shows other followers how our customers love our products, but also spread a wide word-of-mouth of the brand.
Examples of #myshopfashionstyle campaign
Victoria’s Secret is also very good at implementing creative social media campaigns that engage their customers with them. For their spring break social media campaign #pinktruck, a pink truck from Victoria’s Secret visited college campuses around the US. VSPink tweeted where they were going each day with the hashtag #pinktruck, and local students could respond to the tweet with which campus they would like the truck to visit – and the campus with the most tweets would be next on the itinerary. When they arrived to each campus, VSPink stuffed dogs were hidden around the campus and those who found them won a prize, while those who checked- in to the truck via foursquare received some spring break swag. Victoria’s Secret effectively generated huge social buzz and engagement around their brand via this creative social media campaign.
Another effective strategy to motivate engagement is to use ‘seeding content’. A good example is the Mutual Rescue™ campaign by Humane Society Silicon Valley (HSSV). Mutual Rescue™ is an initiative that aims to change the way people see animal welfare. By sharing stories about connecting a person with an animal, Mutual Rescue™ hopes to demonstrate that when you support your local animal shelter, you’re not just enhancing an animal’s life—you’re also transforming a person’s life as well. The stories shared by everyday people through Mutual Rescue™ are testaments to the incredible impact that an animal and a person have on each other, and that “rescuing” isn’t in just one direction. The HSSV uploaded a sample story coupled with a short film to set the tone for the campaign. The video generated buzz online immediately and successfully engage target audience to participate in the campaign by telling their own stories with their adopted pets.
I think the key learnings around UGC&UCC creation and the use of social media management tools help me to equip myself with better knowledge for greater audience engagement strategies and I really look forward to working as a professional social media management practitioner in the future.
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Bruns, A. (2008). Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and beyond: From production to produsage (Vol. 45). Peter Lang.
Forman, C., Ghose, A., & Wiesenfeld, B. (2008). Examining the relationship between reviews and sales: The role of reviewer identity disclosure in electronic markets. Information Systems Research, 19(3), 291-313.
Ghose, A., Ipeirotis, P., & Li, B. (2009, September). The economic impact of user-generated content on the Internet: Combining text mining with demand estimation in the hotel industry. In Proceedings of the 20th workshop on information systems and economics (WISE).
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Postman, J. (2009). SocialCorp: Social media goes corporate. Peachpit Press.
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Zuckerman, E. (2008). The Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism, talk given at O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology Conference, San Diego, California, reference to talk found on Zuckerman’s blog. My Heart’s in Accra.