As of March 2016, an estimated 298 million people are actively using mobile adblocking browsers. Click through rates for marketing emails are reaching new lows. This glaringly shows customers’ emotional as well as intellectual delinking with the communication that they receive from companies. Ads and regular marketing messages are often non-participative and monotonous, so customers’ lack of engagement makes sense. But the biggest reason for their disinterest is that such communication doesn’t come across through the impartial source. People view it as a marketing gimmick. This need for an honest and trustworthy source explains the popularity of user generated content. As it comes directly from customers, it’s seen as much more authentic than professional marketing content. But before diving into pros and cons of user generated content, first, try to understand the exact meaning of the term.
UGC is the term used to describe any form of content such as video, blogs, discussion posts, digital images, audio files, and other forms of media that were created by consumers or end-users of an online system or service and is publicly available to others consumers and end-users. User-generated content is also called consumer-generated media (CGM) or consumer generated content (CGC). It’s important to understand that almost all the advantages that UGC scores are mainly due to the unmatchable trust factor that it brings with it. Note that 70% of US consumers trust user-generated content more than other information on a company website! In order to properly implement and use these valuable assets, though, it’s important to know the pros and cons of user generated content.
Pros of User Generated Content
Increasing Engagement and Conversion
The most obvious benefit on the list of the pros and cons of user generated content is the authenticity that it generates. As noted above, shoppers trust images, videos, and reviews that come from other consumers much more than content produced by marketers.
- 92% of consumers worldwide say they trust word-of-mouth more than advertising.
- According to a report by Forrester, 70% of consumers consider product and brand recommendations from their social circles trustworthy and 46% trust online reviews posted by other customers. In comparison, only 10% trust banner ads on websites.
This trust produces concrete results in terms of conversion and engagement.
- 82% of shoppers say that user-generated content is extremely important when deciding on purchases.
- Brand engagement rises by 28% when consumers are exposed to both professional content and user-generated product video.
- Brands see 25% increase in conversions when user-generated photos are used instead of professionally made product shots by brands.
- When UGC is included in advertising, online stores see 4x higher click-through rates and 50% drop in cost-per-click.
- UGC can improve conversion rates 6.4% for clothing, 2.4x for jewelry, 1.7x for footwear and 1.6x for products in beauty and consumer electronics verticals.
Solving the Content Crunch
A study done in 2014 revealed that the number one challenge that marketers face (36%) is producing compelling content. The next most common challenge (21%) is making enough content. The issue of content crunch has become much bigger due to the over-explosion of content. Coming up with outstanding content on a regular basis is becoming more and more of a challenge. But through the content that customers submit, the burden of daily content creation can be eased. Besides, most of the UGC content springs from the daily lives of people- like a summer vacation, birthday parties, or reviews written about a recently purchased product. All of these instances are extremely relatable, and they’re usually evergreen.
Discovery is a less common concept when it comes to the pros and cons of user generated content, but it’s important nonetheless.
Obviously, going to the store is not the only way to find products nowadays. Consumers now connect with brands across a multitude of touchpoints throughout the customer life cycle (CLC) from discovery through purchase and engagement. With mobile phones and laptops, which are now empowered by much more robust and powerful internet connections, customers simply dive into online research to know if there is anything in the market which is close to their taste or need.
This is where UGC can be a huge influencer. And the reason is its shareability which makes it a viral element on the internet. If the customer comes face-to-face with UGC campaigns or photos of your product or ratings and reviews about your product during his discovery phase, they create imprints of your product in his mind. And considering the fact that the number of worldwide users of social media is expected to reach some 2.95 billion by 2020, it’s too important a benefit to overlook.
Another mode of discover is SEO. One study has found that more than 30% of shoppers prefer to start shopping at a search engine. Based on this data, marketers can calculate the importance of a solid SEO strategy in driving shoppers to their product pages. UGC in the form of ratings, reviews, Q&A and even user-submitted images can be a catalyst in boosting site’s search rankings, as customers use common terms that increase visibility around valuable keywords. Remember that search engine algorithms value fresh and unique content…and UGC constantly supplies that. Moreover, search engines understand the consumers’ need to go through ratings and reviews. They show preference to web pages that render review content by default, without a click.
UGC isn’t just about images and reviews. It includes interaction with customers through answering their questions also. Irrespective of the clear communication that you put on product packaging, people will have questions about that product. Through a questions and answers platform, if a company representative or other customers answer such questions, it can reduce calls to call centers; and thereby the service costs.
On this note, user generated content has also been shown to reduce returns by providing more information to shoppers.
Cons of User Generated Content
Fielding Negative Content
It’s way too easy to feel the burn of UGC, as it is controlled by the users. By allowing users to post content on their site, companies are letting them have more control in the sense that they can post a variety of things, that may or may not be good for the company and brand image.
While tools like ratings and reviews moderation, visual commerce moderation and curation, and questions and answers moderation–which should be a combination of automatic filtering as well as human intervention–help, there will still be negative reviews and comments that you should publish. There are many benefits of negative reviews, in fact, including increased authenticity, valuable feedback, and more. In actuality, then, this item on the list of pros and cons of user generated content can be turned into a positive outcome.
Tackling Unknown Sources
As explained in the above point, UGC gives control to the users. But the anonymities and fake profiles that sneak through the internet and social media create the risk of getting information from unreliable sources. Other customers may doubt the authenticity of the users who have been submitting content. The way out here is to send an invite to those within your database or email list, and provide “verified review” badges.
Understanding the Legal Tapestry
Contrary to what many believe, not everything that a user uploads on social media with your hashtag is usable. Because the sole owner of that content is the uploader. Therefore, companies have to get proper permission from the user. They can do that through implicit or explicit user generated content permissions, which you can learn about in full detail here. While these rights management issues can initially seem daunting, they can be managed in a simple fashion through your visual commerce dashboard.
Clearly, just like everything in life, there are pros and cons of user generated content. But those downsides are manageable with measures like new emerging software that reduces the need for intensive labor and authentication of profiles. Looking at the tremendous impact that UGC can have on the overall functioning and ROI of the company, such measures deserve a chance. But for its implementation, getting a fair idea of the pros and cons of user generated content is necessary. This necessity becomes, even more, sharper when you get to know that only 9% of top 250 consumer brands place user-generated content directly on their product pages.