User generated content (UGC) is any type of content that is created by users who use the website and not by the owner of the website. User generated content can be textual content, images, videos, bookmarks, comments or tweets. Any content which is created by the end user and not by a particular person can be classified as user generated content.
A website can have content both in the form of user generated content and editorial content. Typically, blogs that allow user comments have a mix of curated editorial content as well as user generated content in the form of blog comments.
Forums or Online discussion groups fall in the category of user generated content. Let’s take some example sites who are based on User generated content alone
- YouTube – User generated content in the form of videos. Individual users upload videos on the YouTube website which is viewed by a community of users. YouTube comments are also generated by users who use the website.
- Flickr – User generated content in the form of images. Individual users upload images on the website which is viewed (and sometimes downloaded) by the Flickr user community.
- Quora – User generated content in the form of questions and answers. Individual users add questions which are again answered by users who know the answer of a question.
- Pinterest – User generated content in the form of “Pins”. Users who like a webpage or an image can “Pin” that content to their boards.
- Facebook – User generated content in the form of individual “Posts” by users who use the Facebook website. Facebook does not post any content on their own, all the content on the website is published and maintained by the people who are registered users of Facebook.com.
Now you may wonder – Is Wikipedia a user generated content site? The answer is Yes, it is.
Wikipedia is the largest user generated content website so far but it is not a typical user generated content platform. Wikipedia has a staff of editors and moderators who keep a check on the content that is published on the website so we can say that Wikipedia is a User generated content site that is moderated by a team of editorial staff.
Why is User generated content important?
This greatly depends on the goals of a website and what the website is trying to achieve by allowing users to add content to its platform.
Interactivity – User generated content adds a lot of interactivity to the website. People post content, comments, add pictures and videos and it creates a good ecosystem where the users of a website can interact with each other and exchange ideas. If moderated well, a user generated content website can actually be the “Go to” place for a subject and attract links from other sites, which in turn helps in propelling the authority and popularity of a website. But bear in mind that the content needs to be kept in check from spammers and imposters, otherwise user generated content can hurt a website’s reputation, branding and the qualitative aspect greatly.
Originality – User generated content can also add a lot of original content on the website, which the authors may otherwise miss. It is not possible for a group of authors to know everything about a subject. No matter how much knowledgeable editorial staff is hired, it cannot replace the original content that is added to a website by its users who come from different experiences, geographies and knowledge level.
In short, user generated content can be good or bad, depending how you actually use it on your website or blog. Here is a good article on MarketingLand – best practices for using user generated content