This post studies what user created content (UCC) is and how it influences social media communication. Firstly, the formation and development of UCC will be studied to specify how it became popular in the past decade. Secondly, the benefits of UCC will be clarified to explain why it is used in social media communication. Lastly, my own social media project will be illustrated to analyse how UCC is related to the campaign.
Formation and Development of UCC
Web 2.0, social network sites (SNSs) and online community all together provided an appropriate growth environment for user created content (UCC).
The Web and Web Trend
World Wide Web (www), an information system where web resources were identified by URLs and interlinked with hypertext, was invented in 1989 and ran over the Internet (Moens, Li & Chua 2014). With web browsers and hyperlinks, users could access the web pages that presented text, images and other multimedia. In 1999, Darcy DiNucci first used the term “Web 2.0” to describe a new type of fragmentation with the rise of mobile web devices (Hinton & Hjorth 2013).
As the emergence of web 2.0 later, user-focused strategies were conducted to align with how users were actually using the Internet (Hinton & Hjorth 2013). The Web 2.0 highlighted a term “social” that traced how Internet culture had shaped, and had been shaped by, the social (Hinton & Hjorth 2013). In other words, the Web 2.0 provided a platform where web users and organisations could have conversations and engage with each other. According to O’Reilly (in Hinton & Hjorth 2013), Web 2.0 is an attitude but not a technology. It referred to the software employed and changed level of user practices rather than changes in the architecture of the Internet.
Social Network Sites
There are changes in how people define social network sites (SNSs). Along with the increasing popularity of SNSs and emergence of smartphones, users could easily get access to social media everyday and freely switch between platforms, for example from Facebook to Twitter. According to Hinton and Hjorth (2013), SNSs connect people and the social media, and they represent most famous social terms as well as highly valued brands in market. SNSs allowed users to build connections with others, to keep in contact, to ask and answer questions, to share ideas and values as well as to obtain news and other information. Those sites focused on users as networked public and were regarded as exemplars of the Web 2.0 ethos. Some of the sites were developed based on themes such as LinkedIn where people build business and working relationships. However, others like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ do not have specific themes. Moreover, different sites target different demographic groups and social groups. For instance, LinkedIn has an older demographic than MySpace, BlackPlanet is for African-American users and OUTeverywhere is for lesbian and gay people (Hinton & Hjorth 2013).
Networks and Communities
SNSs build not only social networks for users but also online communities (Park & Cho 2012). The largest difference between social networks and online community is that communities are formed with people from different backgrounds and histories and sharing similar preferences, whereas networks are basically comprised of people who are family, relatives and friends. A large number of online communities were formed through SNSs which brought people from different social networks together.
Although the popularity and significance of online communities were demonstrated, it is unclear that how they attract and influence users. According to Park & Cho (2012), many users gain shopping information by visiting social network online communities, such as the products of a brand and services of a company. Among those online information, one part of the contents was made by companies and organsiations, the other part was user created contents (UCC). Peck et al. (2008) pointed out that a tremendous growth in online community and user created content has been witnessed during the past decade.
UCC vs. Advertising
Consumers heavily rely on user created contents (UCC) when they are making purchasing decisions. For example, they read user reviews online to seek more information about the product or service that they consider buying. There is a trend that consumers place more trust in user created content than they do in advertisements, since they think advertising is biased and exaggerated but UCC is not. Katherine (2012) found in her research that 66.3% of consumers looked at UCC when they were considering purchasing something. Furthermore, 65% of consumers trust word-of-mouth contents online more than contents produced by advertisers. These figures are valuable to marketers and advertisers since they assist in developing strategies that reach the target audience as well as communicating effectively with consumers.
User Created Content
User created contents (UCC) reveal user participation and co-creation in social media communication. For participation, it might be as simple as “likes” and “comments” on Facebook, or as involved as maintaining a blog. Participation can take users from creating user generated content (UGC) where users forward content made by others to UCC where users make the content themselves (Hinton & Hjorth 2013). In terms of co-creation, Web 2.0 provided a networked communication environment where users are not only consumers of media, but also producers of information (Hinton & Hjorth 2013). The Internet-based media are regarded as interactive since they conduct two-way communication. At this point, rather than simply responding to contents generated by organisations, users become the original source of information as well. Hence, bloggers might become journalists and video makers might become stars on YouTube if millions of people watch and like the videos.
UCC bring numerous benefits to consumers and organisations. For consumers, they read UCC to make wise purchasing decisions and create UCC to express themselves. For organisations, UCC help them to gain business intelligence, save advertising costs and receive valuable customer feedback (Lacy 2015). However, the biggest concern on UCC is whether the content creators are professionals who have adequate knowledge and experience in the specific fields, especially in Journalism and art (Hinton & Hjorth 2013).
UCC in My Social Media Campaign
UCC posed positive effects on the social media campaign for Journery app.
Firstly, a video was uploaded to Journery YouTube channel and shared on Jounery Facebook page. The video introduced the functions of the app, encouraged people to go outdoor exploring and travelling, as well as motivated audience to download and use the app.
The video shared on Facebook encouraged audience to provide their thoughts and feelings on it. Hashtags were inserted in the text to reach more people who had relevant interests, such as travel, travel app and travel story. It was also trying to bring travel lovers together and build up an online community. The screenshots below show how the audience engaged in the communication by liking and commenting the video.
Secondly, a post on Journery Facebook page invited people who had already downloaded the app and posted travel stories in it to share their stories on Facebook as well. The picture showed an example of how to do it inside the app. It was building connection between the Journery app and Facebook page for stories cross-channel synergy.
Audience’s engagements of liking the post and sharing their own stories from the app to Journery Facebook page were exactly user created contents.
Thirdly, the “best story of the week” was chosen from the app and posted to Journery Instagram page. Take two posts for instance, four to six photos were picked from each story and were made into a pretty college with Journery watermark on it. Moreover, geotags and hashtags were used as well as the story maker and other relevant Instagram account were tagged in the picture. These were user created contents that audience contributed their own travel stories to the Instagram account. Audience loved to be recognised when Journery showcased them in its stream, and they were more likely to get excited about the app and tell their friends about Journery.
In a nutshell, UCC significantly contributed to the success of the social media campaign for Journery. The UCC including likes, share, comments and especially users’ original posts demonstrated that users were engaged in the campaign and interactions between Journery brand and users have been enhanced. Furthermore, the UCC also indicated other audience that the users were actually using the app and feeling great to use it, which would attract more audience to participate in the campaign. Through the project, I understand that social media communication is no longer one-way expression, but two-way interaction between two or more parties. And the UCC improves the effectiveness of the communication.
This unit of study provided us valuable opportunities to gain useful social media communication knowledge including theoretical knowledge on concepts and theories, practical skills through actually launching the campaign, as well as analytics tools that assists in evaluating the campaign results. The knowledge and skills learned in this unit of study will benefit us in future media study, real world social media communication for work as well as our everyday life.
Hinton, S & Hjorth, L 2013, “What is web 2.0?”, in Understanding social media, SAGE Publications Ltd, London, pp. 7-31, viewed 20 April 2016, <http://sk.sagepub.com/books/understanding-social-media/n2.xml>.
Katherine, AM 2012, “User Generated Content vs. Advertising: Do Consumers Trust the Word of Others Over Advertisers?”, Strategic Communication, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 14-22.
Lacy, L 2015, User-Generated Content: 9 Advantages & CHanllenges, Momentology by Linkdex, viewed 18 April 2016, <http://www.momentology.com/5495-user-generated-content-opportunities-challenges/>.
Moens, MF, Li, J & Chua, TS 2014, Mining User Generated Content, e-book, viewed 21 April 2016, <http://USYD.eblib.com.au/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=1460735>.
Park, H & Cho, H 2012, “Social network online communities: information sources for apparel shopping”, The Journal of Consumer Marketing, vol. 29, no. 6, pp. 400-411.
Peck, RS, Zhou, LY, Anthony, VB & Madhukar, K 2008, Consumer Internet, Stearns Equity Research Report.