The occurrence of Social Networking Service(SNS) to some extent has blurred the boundary between media practitioners and non-media professionals, as it offers everyone an opportunity to create and contribute on the Internet. Through the technical support, users are mobilised and connected with each other without territorial limitations. Although each SNS may be different in its ‘characteristics and business models’(Lineberry, 2012), one thing they have in common is UCC.
UCC, abbreviated from User Created Content is one of the important components of digital media era. Any kind of material, including audio, text, image or video that was created and shared by users and later distributed to online platforms can be thought as a user created content. Mostly, these users are ‘regular people who voluntarily contribute data, information, or media in a useful or entertaining way’ (2008), as Krumm, Davies and Narayanaswami noted in IEEE Pervasive Computing. With the popularization of high-speed Internet, such form of content experienced a rapid growth due to various benefits it can bring to both individual users and organisations.
As a core framework in digital media, User Created Content can be seen as an easy and inexpensive way of knowledge exchange. According to Balasubramaniam, on most occasions these ‘outputs are created without expectation of any kind of profit’ (2009). Rather than expecting financial returns, users engage in the topic as a way of connecting with people, expressing themselves and expecting to ‘receive recognition or prestige for their work’(Balasubramaniam, 2009). This kind of engagement brings various ideas together, which is so called co-creation and can be recognized as a unique form of knowledge. It can be concluded that UCC has broken away from the traditional way in building social capital where people used to build social capital through face-to face meetings, phones or traditional mail(Lineberry, 2012).
As for organisations, User Created Content are free resources provided by the publics. What users have contributed are of great value, as it can be turned into databases so that organisations can acquire a better understanding of their audience. These data can later be made use of in the market research, while inspiring practitioners and offering constructive suggestions for the organisations’ campaigns. During a campaign period, UCC plays an important role in reflecting whether the audience are interested in the topic or not. For example, you can make a basic judgement when the number of comments experiences a surge that topics like that may attract more attention from the audience. In another word, when you received extremely good feedbacks from one post, you can make an adjustment in the schedule, adding similar activities into the content calendar to get engagement and generate more contributions.
Motivate Your Audience to Create UCC
Since UCC can provide great benefits for corporations, knowing how to motivate the audience to contribute is extremely important. The TED video presented in Week 2 gives a really good example on how people engage in an activity and influence others. Derek Sivers’ speech illustrated the significant role of the first follower in a campaign, which triggered my interests. The first follower as a key factor not only sets a good example for others, but also shows anyone else how to follow. Rather than simply participate, the person is likely to bring his friends in and through this way more people will be involved. Thus, we can conclude that the success of a movement is inseparable from the person who first participate in it.
What Derek Sivers said really inspired me on how to work on UCC and build movements. Not like a leader to be standout, the only thing a follower needs to do is imitating what the leader is doing. As an initiator, you should always create an environment when you don’t have one. If you don’t have a follower, then calls on your friends to follow first. If you don’t have a comment, then let your friends to do it as an example. Such kind of meaningless actions have huge influence on others and are useful in motivating others to create UCC. This works well especially when you are new to the public and when you have low social capital. However, this kind of strategy should only be used as a way to increase popularity at the initial stage, organisations still need to focus on the content itself.
Return to the course, in my social media project, when I launched an activity on Instagram, there is no UCC at the first time. Although I received more than 20 likes, no one really involved in, so I asked one of my friends to be the first participant. She made a post with the campaign’s hashtag and tag the official account, pretending to be an audience. Then I used the official account making a repost. As a result, the next day I got two more participants in the activity.
An Excellent Example of Using UCC As A Market Strategy
AdidasGirls launched a campaign named ‘I Create Myself’ in China this year. In alliance with a famous fitness blog called FitTime, the campaign intended to invite every fitness enthusiast to post their daily training photos with a hashtag #icreatemyself on their blog. As a return, the photo of the participants would have an opportunity to be made into a poster and presented on the outdoor billboard of Adidas with an Adidas logo on Huaihai Road, one of the most bustling commercial street in Shanghai. By April 3, numerous fitness enthusiasts had been involved in the campaign and Adidas had successfully generated more than 15,000 posts.
The campaign offers an excellent example of combining UCC in the business strategy. In this campaign, fitness lovers seem like becoming advertising endorsers of Adidas. They voluntarily uploaded their photos with a unified hashtag. These photos are full of positive energy, and are the best publicity materials for Adidas, which cater to its corporate image and brand core value. From a long-term perspective, such strategy can usually increase its market sales.
However, User Created Content should be paid attention to from the perspective of legitimacy, authenticity and privacy. Illegal contents will not only contaminate the networking environment but also threaten to the operation of the platform itself. How UCC published and distributed should be kept an eye on. Authenticity is another issue that should be addressed in the framework of UCC, notably when the topic relates to science or human health. Since contents can be created by anyone, the veracity of the information cannot be ensured and it is also hard to assess the trust level. More than that, some UCC may contain very private information and some may involve ‘copyright protection’(Marcus, 2007). Such issues are hard to control, as it takes a lot of time and energy for network administrators to monitor and audit.
To conclude, UCC as a key concept in digital media era has changed the way we communicate and build social capital. The development of UCC not only provide convenience for users to connect with each other and make knowledge exchanges, but also provide free resources for organisations in product sales and campaign operation. This article also illustrates the significant role of the first follower in motivating your audience to create UCC and building movements. Nevertheless, issues such as legitimacy, authenticity and privacy should still be addressed when it comes to User Created Content.
Balasubramaniam, N. (2009). User-generated content. In Proceedings of business aspects of the internet of things, seminar of advanced topics (pp. 28-33). Zurich: ETH.
Krumm, J., Davies, N., & Narayanaswami, C. (2008). User-generated content. IEEE Pervasive Computing, (4), 10-11.
Marcus, T. D. (2007). Fostering Creativity in Virtual Worlds: Easing the Restrictiveness of Copyright for User-Created Content. J. Copyright Soc’y USA, 55, 469.
Michahelles, F., & Cvijikj, I. P. (2012). Business aspects of the Internet of Things. ETH Zurich, 1-42.
Lineberry, Z. X. (2012). Uses and gratifications on social networking sites: Analysis of use and value of social networking sites for three types of social capital on college students (Order No. 1519252). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1100968197). Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.usyd.edu.au/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy1.library.usyd.edu.au/docview/1100968197?accountid=14757