User-generated content definition and the development history
The concept I chose is a user-generated content (UGC). According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), there are three central requirements on UGC (OECD, 2007). Firstly, the content must be “published on a publicly accessible website or on a page on a social networking site that is accessible to a select group of people”. Secondly, creative effort is put into creating new content, which is done by one person or a group. Finally, the content is “generally created outside of professional routines and practices”. These three characteristics are usually used to define whether one message is UGC or not. Initially, participative web was developed and the rapid growth of UGC was recognised in the conference of The Future Digital Economy: Digital Content Creation, Distribution and Access organised by the OECD and the government of Italy in 2006 (OECD, 2006). Content creation is very popular among young people, and the original form of the content are messages posted in chat rooms, newsgroups or forums (see Figure 1). In 2006,
35% of all US broadband users had generated content to the Internet. More than half (55%) of all online American users are youth aged 12-17 years (Lenhart and Madden, 2007). In Asian countries, the trend is also increasing; around 8.7 million Japanese registered blogs in 2006 compared to 3.35 million in 2005, while the number of social networking sites users jumped from 1.1 to 7.2 during 2005 and 2006 (see Figure 2).
All the data illustrates that participative web has become the main trend of Internet development and UGC sites have been the most important channel for people to interact with others.
The main reasons of the popularity of UGC include technological, economic and social drivers (OECD, 2007). Generally speaking, the wide application of broadband dramatically changed the Internet environment and the development of software enabled users to edit and create content, like audio and video, without professional knowledge. With the increased use of Internet, people’s desire to communicate and share can be expressed via new channels, which changes the media using habits of netizens. Due to the popularity of UGC, some enterprises, especially media companies, have identified the economic potential behind UGC and are planning to invest the area.
Formats, platforms and content
UGC has various formats, including text, photo and images, music and audio, video and film, etc., while platforms cover blogs, wikis and other text-based collaboration formats, group-based aggregation and social bookmarking, podcasting, social networking sites, virtual world content, etc. (OECD, 2007). Regarding with the content users created, it can be divided into two types. The first type is the collective gathering of information (John Lanchester, 2006). A typical example is wikipedia that is the biggest and fastest-growing encyclopedia on the Internet. The other category is things about personal sites. Due to people’s willingness to share their stories and life status, these type of communities become extremely popular. From the most popular platform, Facebook, to image sharing tools, Instagram, even to some social platforms used by specific groups of people, like Wechat and Sina weibo in China, they are all evidence that people have changed their way to communicate with friends. It is worth mentioning that these two categories are not distinct, and they overlap in some way. For example, weibo is a popular social media platform where people post their personal information. Meanwhile, the searching engine in weibo can rate the most popular posts by users’ searching record every second. Because of the rating, these posts will be viewed by more people and some people may post their similar personal experience, which is the collective function.
In real life, UGC can be used to make huge economic profits. Many brands have used social media, like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc., to construct their brand image and interact with target audience. By applying UGC, organisations can gain authentic content from their audience, which are more persuasive and engaging than branded posts. Also, organisations can learn more about their fan demographic, interests and associates of the brand by fans’ posts. In a word, UGC is to let people tell your story instead of telling stories by organisations themselves. As UGC has so many benefits, organisations certainly want users to generate content on their social media about the brand. In order to inspire this action, organisations usually take implicit incentives and explicit incentives (UCG/UCC Dossier, 2012). To be specific, implicit incentives are non-tangible and they include social incentives, badges, followers, likes, etc., while explicit incentives are tangible, covering sales transactions, discounts, redeemable points, etc.
Social media economic values in China
China shows significant potential in purchasing power, and hence many global brands tend to enter Chinese market and connect with Chinese consumers via social media. Exploring Sina Weibo users development, the total income of Weibo users is 1.6 trillion RMB, which equals the GDP of Italy in 2011, and Weibo users purchase 54% of the goods and services in China (Sina Weibo Users Development, 2012). Since Weibo was launched in 2009, 503 million people has registered in Dec 2012, and almost every global brand and celebrity have an official Weibo account. Weibo has become the most significant platform for organisations to get information about clients’ demographic, interests, opinions, etc. Even though Twitter and Facebook are blocked in China, local social media can also help enterprises expand their impact to a large extent. The interesting thing is Weibo users use the Internet and mobile devices as the main information source, while Facebook and Twitter users watch more TV than Weibo users to seek information (Conan Guo, 2013). If your company wants to enter Chinese market, the choice of a suitable and powerful social media platform is an essential step.
In the campaign, VegMonday, I launched, UGC is a main theory to be applied. In order to inspire followers to tell their own stories about vegetarian life experience, one vegetarian dish competition is planned to host. People can post pictures and videos of vegetarian dishes made by themselves on their social media and ask their friends to make comments. The more likes they get, the more rewards they will receive. For the champion, he/she will be invited to take an interview by the organiser as well as film teaching videos and post them on the official social media account. It is a good chance to show their cooking skills to their friends and can also encourage their friends to join the competition. By mouth of users, this campaign will get more attention. By launching this campaign, I have a new respective on social media, and gain more information on how to effectively use social media to develop a brand or an activity. However, social media is a practice course, and need more experiences to address any possible problem when launching a campaign. In a word, all successful brands have made much effort behind.
Conan Guo. (2013). Chinese Social Media: 10 Marketing Tips How to Win on Sina Weibo. Retrieved April 21, 2016, from http://www.searchdecoder.com/social-networks-in-china-sina-weibo/
John Lanchester. (2006). A bigger bang. Retrieved April 20, 2016, from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2006/nov/04/news.weekendmagazine1
Lenhart, A. and M. Madden. (2007). Social Networking Websites and Teens: An Overview.
Pew Internet and American Life Project. Retrieved April 21, 2016, from
OECD. (2007). Participative Web: User-Created Content. Retrieved April 18, 2016, from http://www.oecd.org/internet/ieconomy/38393115.pdf
OECD. (2006). OECD and Italian Minister for Innovation and Technologies International Conference on The Future Digital Economy: Digital Content Creation. Retrieved April 20, 2016, from http://www.oecd.org/sti/digitalcontent/conference.
UCG/UCC Dossier. Incentives for Participating in a UCG/UCC Site. (2012). Retrieved April 20, 2016, from https://sites.google.com/site/ugcuccdossier/home/incentives-for-participating-in-a-ucg-ucc-site
Sina Weibo Users Development. (2012). Retrieved April 21, 2016, from