My discussion will particularly focus on “User Created Content” (UCC) as a by-product of produsage and its role in business innovation. As we explore the concept using various scholarly articles, we will also have a look at the social media campaign I designed with “Montessori Academy Group” and the “Wanderlust” contest done by National Geographic.
Defining: Produser & UCC
As the name suggests, the term “produser” is the fusion of both words producer and consumer in which the individual or the audience is not “simply responding to content that has been created by an organisation, here the user becomes the source of the original material” (Hinton, & Hjorth, 2013). Consequently, this encourages a “participatory medium” which generates UCC where “members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another” (Hinton, & Hjorth, 2013) as they intentionally generate content for the purpose of consumption by other users.
In short, produsers are driven by UCC and are involved in a continuous process of production and consumption of content in relatively equal ratios as illustrated below (Horan, 2013).
Source: Horan, 2013
Campaign Examples: What encourages UCC?
In my social media project with “Montessori Academy Group” I have attempted to utilize the concept of UCC on Facebook as it was the target audience preferred platform.
One of the goals was to improve the page’s follower’s engagement in order to promote communication amongst them so they can support each other on parenting topics through knowledge exchange.
In order to better understand the audience I wanted to communicate with, Google Analytics and Facebook’s insights page were employed to learn more about their demographics and interests.
Even though the organization offering one social media platform is a limitation because it restricts exposure, their Facebook page has over 6000 fans; hence, it provides a good opportunity for information dissemination, engagement and awareness of the shared content. The content was then built around their topics of interest so they can get encouraged to provide us with UCC on the page. One content example is the “Challenges of Parenthood” where they were asked to contribute with their own challenges and tips of overcoming it.
While it has reached over 700 people, 2 shares and 17 likes – it did not lead to any UCC. A closer look into the factors which might have withheld them from engaging will be explored below in order to learn on how to lead a successful campaign in the future.
Considering our page followers are produsers attempting to create content, it means that they are investing time and energy in the pursuit of their engagement (Picone, 2011). With that said, it could be that school holidays has affected their engagement motivation as they were occupied with their kids’ activities. In an article by Picone, he further elaborated on this being a “situational factor”:
“25% of the lurkers among their participants, i.e. users being in the community without contributing—or produsing for that matter—have something to say and 13% are actually willing to contribute… Furthermore, we know little about how these motivations interact amongst each other, but also with situational factors. If produsage can be an ad hoc activity, the way in which it is embedded in the daily routines of users or situational factors like mood, stress, time pressure, place, and so on must also be taken into account. All these elements help to clarify what the practice of produsage means for those users undertaking it” (Picone, 2011).
On the other hand, the reason for their disengagement could be lack of knowledge and skills due to being new to parenthood, so they are following the page because they want to listen to us, not talk to us (Savulesco, 2014) in order to gain more skills and knowledge.
Therefore, it is important to understand the multiple reasons/motivations for individuals to engage in user created content in order to better achieve it (Picone, 2011).
Let’s now look into the “Wanderlust” contest campaign by National Geographic which has successfully utilized the user created content concept.
Source: Fontein, 2016
As National Geographic is renowned for their remarkable images, opening this content to the public was risky as the UCC may not meet their quality standards. However, it has proved the contrary and generated an extensive database of travel photography and video. The contest simply requested its audience to “capture glimpses of the unforgettable people, places, and experiences that have impacted their lives from their travels around the world” (Fontein, 2016) and then share these images on Instagram with the hashtag #WanderlustContest. In exchange for sharing their images, they will get an opportunity to win a photo expedition trip to Yosemite National Park. The success of this campaign rests mainly in their good understanding of their audience before undertaking the contest. National Geographic’s Instagram users follow it because of their interest in beautiful destinations and by recognizing this passion they were able to engage their “consumers” who became “produsers” by providing the organization with shareable UCC that would have required extensive work from their end (Frontein, 2016). See the below key points highlighted in the article:
Produsage and Business
While I found many concepts of this course such as locative media and cultural intermediaries very useful in our continuously evolving dynamic environment, the concept of UCC is of special interest to me as I work in the ‘Consumer Engagement Services’ department at a food and beverage organization. In one of the articles around this topic it was stated that most user created campaigns are produced for the fast moving consumer goods market (Savulesco, 2014) where produsers would not only want to listen to brands but also talk to them; hence, creating UCC that can further benefit the organization in their innovation process through opinions and comments (as illustrated in the image below).
Source: Bruns, 2009
Conclusion: Elements to Develop
In conclusion, UCC could be useful in business innovation. However, many key factors need to be considered. As discussed earlier, a lot of elements (e.g. Knowledge, skills) and situational factors (time, mood place, etc.) can affect the users’ motivation to engage in UCC which turns them into produsers.
Some of the concerns to consider further in the development of this concept in the future would be liability, quality control and sustainability.
While the content could be useful and insightful for the business it still might be prone to abuse by crowd sourcing making it uncredible. It could also be of poor quality because it does bring new ideas but simply builds on existing content (Savulesco, 2014).
Moreover, while the exchange of information in UCC may empower the individuals with “cultural capital, knowledge and appreciation by others” (Picone, 2011), it may be challenging to sustain the produsage environment. As “produsers become aware of attempts to exploit their work without reward, their attitudes towards the produsage environment will rapidly deteriorate, slowing the rate of content produsage and undermining further development (Bruns, 2006).” Therefore, it might be essential to consider various ways of rewarding produsers within an organisation’s budget and to look deeper into their motivations in order to generate successful UCC campaigns for the business.
Hinton, S., & Hjorth, L. (2013). Social Network Sites Understanding Social Media (pp. 32-54). London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
Horan, T. (2013). “Soft” Versus “Hard” News on Microblogging Networks. Information, Communication & Society, 16(1), 43-60.
Picone, I. (2011). Produsage as a form of self-publication. A qualitative study of casual news produsage. New Review Of Hypermedia And Multimedia, 17(1), 99-120.
Savulescu, R. (2014). Control Freaks: How User-Generated Content is Managed in Advertising Campaigns. The Romanian Perspective. Management Dynamic in the Knowledge Economy, 2.2, 311-334.
Fontein, D. (2016). 4 Best User Generated Content Contests Using Social Media. Hootsuite Social Media Management. Retrieved 20 April 2016, from https://blog.hootsuite.com/4-excellent-user-generated-content-contests-using-social-media/
Bruns, A. (2009). Produsage and Business: Sharing Your Brand with Users. Presentation, Next09 Hamburg.
Bruns, A. (2006) Towards Produsage: Futures for User-Led Content Production. Proceedings Cultural Attitudes towards Communication and Technology 2006 Conference. Tartu, Estonia.