Love it or hate it, user-generated content continues to make the debate circuit. There’s a line of demarcation between professionally written content and the words of laypeople.
You want your publication to be relatable, and that’s not always easy. By giving users the freedom to add their own opinions to your site, the line begins to blur.
Neither inherently good nor bad, user-generated content does have its place in some publications. Here are a few reasons why.
User-Generated Content Is Free, and Then Some
The best things in life are free, or so the saying goes. But ”free” gets an uptick when it broadens the audience. User-generated content is free content, and many readers are more than happy to oblige. The more they write, the less you have to.
An interesting thing happens when you let others share their opinions on your website – they find their voice. Not only that, you find their voice, and so do your readers. Content Marketing Institute suggests that this is a critical movement in mainstream media today.
”It’s not debatable that UGC (User-generated content) gives people around the world a voice, whereas traditional content does nothing of the sort.”
Further, when people other than staff writers contribute content, you don’t have to wonder where their interests lie. This can be especially helpful with understanding what’s germane to younger readers. With luck, they’ll grow into mature readers who view your publication as relevant.
Surprise! User-generated content is also more trustworthy in some cases. Your readers wouldn’t necessarily ask a peer to report on foreign policy, but they may put more stock in peer opinions about products and services.
Isn’t There Always a Downside?
User-generated content is only one way to grow readership and loyalty, and it’s far from perfect. One of the main concerns is credibility. While users do gain ground with peers about certain topics, you might want to draw the line at offensive bias and content that offers critical advice.
When you open your doors to users, remember whose name is on the masthead. You set the policy. You have control over what makes it onto the page. But this means you have to decide between letting content monitor itself, which boils down to users policing themselves, or taking an active role. An active role is a safer solution.
Another issue is bias. Most users don’t have a degree in journalism, and simply speak their minds. While this makes relatable content, it can also damage your publication’s reputation as a credible source. A workaround might be to harness user-generated content in one easily-identified area of the website.
Open the Doors, and Content Should Flow In
Chances are, you won’t have to host a magnificent marketing event to spur user content. In many cases, all you have to do is ask. Social Media Today says:
”Sometimes, all the motivation people need to send you a glowing quotation or photo of themselves with your product is an invitation. Large segments of the population love being in the spotlight, and reusing someone’s content can result in a certain degree of celebrity.”
Incentives such as a subscription or company swag could get the ball rolling in the right direction.
If you want a bit more control, consider running a contest. Users who produce the best material win a slot in your publication. If you want one user-created piece a week, run a contest once a month and pick the top four entries. Simple as that.
User-generated content has both glowing reviews and a black eye. That’s quite a conundrum. If you want the full benefit, you might have to accept some of the negatives that go along with it. But caution isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Tread in lightly — just to test the waters – and moderate with caution, and you might find potential that you never knew was there.