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What is user-generated content (UGC)?
User-generated content is any content that’s created by users of an online platform rather than its owners, whether that content is text, videos, photos, or something else. Most social media platforms rely on user-generated content, but so do many other online spaces like websites, online forums, and online communities.
Even if you’re not a social media giant, you can use UGC to your benefit. For example, most of our Mighty Networks thrive especially because of user-generated content, as people come together to build a community, master something that interests them, and have some great conversations.
User-generated content advantages and disadvantages
User-generated content has lots of advantages for those who own or host platforms. Getting users active can scale content creation much faster and further than could be done by an individual site or company. Many of the social media giants rely on this principle. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, and YouTube all create very little content themselves (if any), but create the space for user-generated content to thrive. The result is rapid, organic growth of the platform and increased valuations for these companies.
Even if you’re not a social media giant, you can use the same principles to grow your impact. For example, with online communities, users create content and conversation which propels the community forward without the Host needing to create a ton of extra content—we call this the Network Effect.
For a company or brand, user-generated content can be used to improve the customer experience and even customer service; for example, Apple’s customer community includes users who respond to Q&As on their own time.
There’s one main disadvantage to user-generated content, and that’s the need for moderation. When you allow users to create content on your platform, you don’t control what’s created. Ask anyone who’s hosted any type of UGC, even if it’s just their blog comments, and you’ll see that this can lead to some messy interactions, with things like bullying, racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. creeping in.
However, don’t let this discourage you from allowing user-generated content. Many of these negative impacts can be mitigated with some clear ground rules and good moderation. Giving users a way to help with moderation goes a long way too (e.g. a “report this comment” button). When your users invest time and energy into a space, most of them will want it to be positive. They’re often happy to help with moderation.
Pros of user-generated content
- Scale content creation fast
- Bring in diverse voices and points of view
- Increase organic reach and conversation
- UGC can bring new users onto your platform (e.g. if it gets shared)
Cons of user-generated content
- Need for moderation
User-generated content examples
- Community members in a Mighty Network share posts with their community and respond to others’ posts.
- Posting pictures of your cat on Instagram
- Writing a blog post on Medium
- Creating videos on YouTube.