User Generated Content

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User Generated Content

User Generated Content (UGC) is defined broadly as any form of content that was created by users of an online system or services. UGC is often made available through social media websites and is gaining popularity as a marketing tool for companies. UGC allows users to interact with one another. It provides a unique opportunity for companies to interact with their users and to see what users are interested in.

Social Media

Social media platforms host an abundance of UGC. From something as simple as a post about your day to a more traditional form of content creation like an animated video, all social media platforms use UGC in one way or another to increase revenue and bolster brand awareness.

Facebook & Twitter

Facebook and Twitter are two of the most popular social media platforms, having approximately 1.75 billion and 320 million monthly active users respectively [1]. For them, their user base is the foundation of their success. The more traffic that flows through their platform, the more information they can gather, which allows them to direct advertisements to users more accurately.

Facebook and Twitter use UGC in the form of data from your wall posts, page likes, tweets and other activity to cater advertisements that align with your demographics, interests, and history. For example, if you like a sports team’s fan page on Facebook, you might find an advertisement for that team’s merchandise the next day. Taking that simple illustration one step further, Facebook and Twitter use your social circle to refine potential product interests even more. They use your social network and cross reference similarities in demographics and other factors with your friends to refine their advertisement portfolios even further.

Because these social media companies rely so heavily on traffic and the number of users, they are constantly trying to evolve by implementing new features that attract more users. The most recent example of this was the release of Facebook’s 'Marketplace' service which replicates Craigslist’s business model, but more simple and personalized.

The aim is to bring a new dynamic to Facebook’s platform that attracts a wider range of users and increases online time. Facebook is trying to create a one-stop shop platform where users can come and catch up on the day’s current events, watch highlights or streams of sporting events, communicate with friends or co-workers, and now buy or sell items. The benefit to Facebook is that they will be able to incorporate a new set of data about users (social class, interests, etc.) to further refine their advertisement portfolios more accurately.


Youtube is the largest online video community with over 1 billion active monthly users and is the second largest search engine behind Google [2]. It is the sheer size and traffic it experiences that makes it such a popular platform for user-generated content.

Youtube provides its content developers with many interactive features, including video monetization, Youtube Analytics, and live streaming. They approach their business model with a very ‘hands-off’ ideology. Instead, they collaborate with content creators by providing the platform and the tools to create and enhance content while content developers use these tools to make their ideas and projects become a reality. So realistically, Youtube’s business model is almost like a partnership. This is why they call it the Youtube Partner Program.

By joining the Youtube Partner Program, users will be able to monetize their videos and earn revenue through ad revenue and Youtube Red royalties. As a partner, users gain access to Youtube Analytics, which displays statistics about your channel and content like demographic of viewers, view time, revenue information, and many other things. Content creators can then use this feedback to manage channel performance and make adjustments to enhance content.

Live streaming is another feature that has become very popular. With TV cable subscriptions down across the board going from 44.5 million in 2010 and falling every year to 37.8 million in 2015 [3], more and more people are turning to platforms like Youtube and Netflix for entertainment. TV stations are now providing streaming coverage on Youtube to try to combat this shift. This was most notably evident with the presidential debates on CNN’s Youtube channel. The NFL and NBA are also starting to turn to Youtube as well signifying a potential shift in live streaming.

Sponsored partnerships are becoming a more common source of revenue for content creators as well. According to a study conducted by Animoto, a cloud-based video creation service, approximately three-quarter of people are more likely to buy a product if they have seen it in a video [4] Marketers are beginning the realize this and it is causing a big transition with how companies approach marketing and advertising. More and more Youtubers are becoming sponsored, which is changing the landscape of how companies operate because it allows them to reach a much different and more specific target audience.


Reddit is the world’s leading social discussion forum. The way it works is registered users submit content in the form of text posts or direct links and users can upvote or downvote content in terms of user interest. This model allows Reddit to naturally filter good, interesting content from bad, irrelevant content.

Reddit earns money through three revenue streams: advertising, merchandise sales, and Reddit Gold. Advertising brings in the least amount of revenue because Reddit does not believe in plastering advertisements everywhere. They are aware that their users enjoy the raw look of the platform and don’t jeopardize that. Merchandise sales is another one of their revenue streams and brings in the second most revenue. They sell various items ranging from t-shirts to Snoo dolls and stickers. Reddit Gold is the last source of revenue and brings in the majority of their revenue. In fact, Reddit is trying to transition to a point where over 90% of their revenue comes from Reddit Gold subscriptions. This subscription provides many features, including turning off advertisements, customizing subreddit themes and your Reddit avatar, and various other comment management tools.

The reason for their emphasis on Reddit Gold is because it promotes internal growth and community interaction. Users that make posts with comedic value, or share insightful content are often gifted Reddit Gold by others (formally known as gilding). This business model promotes good content and directly supports organic forms of revenue generation as opposed to inorganic methods like traditional advertising.

Online Reviews

With the development of Internet and information technology, consumers now have a new opportunity and platform to share their product evaluations online. Online consumer review forums like those on Amazonand Taobao , are good examples and very popular forms of user generated content. Taobao is Chinese popular online shopping website similar to Amazon.


In terms of consumer reviewing on Taobao, people can assess the quality of the products they are interested in buying because experienced consumers evaluate them according to a 5-star rating system.
5-star rating
Customers also contribute written reviews for products, which are posted alongside detailed information about those products. Also, since sellers on Taobao are individual people rather than businesses, for the most part, consumers can view the sellers’ overall rating for all of the products that they have sold, which allows buyers to determine if the seller is trustworthy.
written reviews


The Amazon consumer review mechanism works in a similar way to Taobao, but it is perhaps slightly better designed. Like on Taobao, customer’s rate products that they have experienced, based on the 5-star rating system. Customers also usually provide a written justification of their rating, which is available for all internet users to see.

Amazon also separates their Positive reviews from their Critical reviews, so that prospective buyers can easily access information about the pros and cons of a product. Furthermore, users can filter through the reviews based on certain parameters like particular star ratings, positive or negative review or whether or not a reviewer is a verified buyer. Prospective buyers can also search through the reviews by Keyword. Amazon has a great feature that actually allows users to assess the quality of the consumer feedback itself. Below each consumer review, Amazon asks “Was this review helpful to you?”, and the reader may answer Yes or No, or “Report abuse” in case the comments are derogatory, irrelevant or if the comments are suspected to be advertising or a fake review. Users can also sort reviews based on which comments were voted to be “most helpful”. Readers can also post comments to the posted reviews.

Amazon has another great review feature which is the Customer Q&A section. This feature allows customers to post specific questions on a linked forum, where knowledgeable customers can answer them. I think that all of these interactive feedbacks mechanisms are incredibly effective because they enhance the transparency of Amazon’s online review system.
Q&A section review

Advantages of online customer review

The benefits of online reviews are that they are open to anyone, and without these online reviews, there would be really no other way to achieve a somewhat objective understanding of the quality of a product or business, other than through word of mouth [5].Salespeople are biased about the products that they are selling and often times, an individual will not know enough people who have experienced the product that they want to buy (in order to get an array of opinions on that product). Online reviews also hold businesses accountable to creating quality products and services. Products will receive a great deal of backlash in their online reviews if they turn out to be useless[6]. As such, online reviews are great for guarding people against buying products that are of low quality.

Disadvantages of online customer review

One of the main problems with online reviews is that they do not often reflect an adequate consumer sample size. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that about 67% of consumers will only read 6 reviews or less before they make a decision of whether or not to purchase a product[7]. Furthermore, online reviewers may not represent an adequate variety of age, ethnicity or gender demographics etc. or people of various social and economic classes. Not everyone who buys a product and has an opinion about the effectiveness of a product, will post a review [8]. As such, reviews can potentially be quite biased. In order to communicate to consumers in a transparent way, how representative certain online reviews are, perhaps online review pages could provide a simple statistical graph like a pie chart that outlines the demographic balance of the reviewers for each product.

Furthermore, often times, reviews will be conflicting. Some people will like a product for certain reasons and other people will dislike it for different reasons [9]. It could be quite confusing for buyers when reviews are mixed. Finally, another limitation of online reviews is that it would likely be easy for businesses to post fake reviews to promote themselves, so this could further skew the efficacy of online reviews. Business competitors could also post negative reviews of a product which would further skew results as well.

Tourism Industry

D.Buhalis (1998) noted that tourism is one of the industries with a close relationship with a new information and communication technologies.[10] Based on our research, most travelers nowadays often use the internet as a tool for planning travel. Travelers are increasingly turning to online user generated content for vacation planning. The internet is being used by the travelers in more than 75% of all journeys since website and social media provides a lot of information regarding to experiences and review of the destination, hotels and restaurants etc.[11] There is a growing consensus which has shown that UGC is playing an increasingly important role in the customer decision-making process. And the structure of tourism, has been changed by the impact of the UGC.

UGC’s Popularity in the Tourism Industry

The reason why UGC is heavily used in tourism industry is because the special attributes of both Tourism industry and UGC. Specifically, travel products and services belongs to the category of being experience good which means travel products are instantiable and cannot be evaluated beforehand, travel customers tend to rely user generated content as a guide to lower the risk and uncertainty could be the primary reason why user generated content is heavily used in the tourism industry. The second reason why user generated content is heavily used in the tourism industry is that user generated content of a destination not only has the ability to attract or detract a travel, but also develop consumer expectation which is essential when customers use user generated content as planning tool for first time visit and travel international. Moreover, consumers were influenced by recommendations associated with an experience product, and compared to the service provider, travel consumers prefer to rely on travel related content that posted by the previous customers in their decision-making process, as non-commercial information. And this information is perceived to be more credible. [12]

Follow Me To Project

LA Las Vegas 2015 Hype Cycle 2015 Hype Cycle

[1] This website was created by Murad Osmann, a Russian photographer, at oct 28. Osmann is best known for the Follow me to project that began in Barcelona, Spain in 2001 when his girlfriend became annoyed each time he kept stopping to take photos. She would pull him away, but he took the photograph anyway, this sparked the “Follow me to” series. For now, Osman has about 4.1 million followers on his Instagram account. The influence of this project was phenomenal, plenty of travellers from worldwide took pictures like Osmann did during their trip. And the number of travelers for the place where, Osmann has been to, was increased sharply. In addition to photos, they also post their journals and videos to the website. Here is a video that was posted on their website. [13]

Follow me to

UGC as a Credible Source

Kids Review a Michelin-Starred Restaurant
Customers tend to deem Murad Osmann and other social media users who posted UGC as trustworthy due to they have nothing at stake[1], while UGC attracting consumers’ attention to bring awareness to the travel products. Moreover, travelers are inclined to make choices on popularity. In a situation that other information is absent, most travellers would prefer to stand in a queue at a crowded place rather than an empty one. In the tourism industry, UGC is often ranked according to the quantity of views, which means the popularity of the UGC increases credibility. Moreover, credibility plays a fundamental role in the process of information influence since it could change a customer’s opinion significantly. For now, a lot of travel companies would like to use User generated content as a promotional tool. To be more specific, they invited people who with higher credibility to review their products and use the reviews as a commercial advertisement. There is an example.

UGC and Word of Mouth

Word of mouth was already recognized as influential in the tourism industry long time ago since the high credibility is often placed on word-of-mouth information as it is believed that the person providing the WOM information has nothing to lose. [1] The AW video has shown that the company invited the customers who are in their targeted segment to review their products by using the method of WOM.

UGC as a Business Model

TripAdvisor is travel website company which providing reviews of travel-related content. As an early adopter of User generated content. TripAdvisor offers advices from million of travellers and providing a wide variety of travel choices. Moreover, TripAdvisor is a representative company which developing business models based on UGC. [2]

Video Game Industry

The Video Game industry is ripe with different kinds of UGC. UGC related to video games spans a number of different platforms and varieties: videos, forums, mods, fan art, fan fiction, blogs, articles, etc. The video game industry has an enormous user base that often behaves as a community surrounding particular games or genres. Users create content to improve overall gaming experiences. Twitch and YouTube are used to upload and stream video. Content is added through a variety of sources and as the amount of content increases so does the value and the entertainment generated from the game.

Twitch is an online stremaing service which can be used for watching and broadcasting video game content. Uploaders range from experienced/professional gamers streaming to millions to regular people casually streaming with little to no audience. Generally the set up of a stream has the game featured prominently with a small picture of the streamer in the corner. People streaming the service can participate in live chat which the streamer can reply to, this creates a community and an interactive forum in which to share the game. Twitch hosts tournaments for players, as well as gaming events, and streams demos for new games before their release. Twitch is available on PCs, consoles, and mobile devices. Twitch has its own application which is used by subscribers regularly to watch videos and interact with other users.

Twitch was acquired by Amazon for $970 million in 2014. Twitch has 100 million unique viewers, 1.7+ Million Unique broadcasters per month, 12,000 members in the twitch Partner Program, 20 Billion minutes watched per month, 106 minutes watched per person per day, and an impressive 38+ million installs of the Twitch iOS/Android app [3]. Additionally, Twitch is listed fourth in the US for internet traffic behind Netflix, Google, and Apple respectively. In the beginning Twitch was only a genre on Because of its popularity twitch became its own spin-off which was worth millions and has continued to be successful even though has shut down.

Twitch has two revenue generating strategies money: through advertising and subscription fees. Twitch is a highly desirable market for advertisers because of its established user base, and ability to target a very specific demographic. Because twitch users are on the site so frequently, this provides repeated exposure for the people who advertise with twitch: gaming companies, game portals, game developers, game event organizers, etc. [4]. Subscriptions offer an alternative way for twitch to generate revenue. Twitch offers membership for $8.99 per month, which allows users to avoid ads, as well as other enhanced features.

In addition to Twitch generating revenue, Streamers can also make money which gives them incentives to produce more content. The Twitch Partnership Program enables streamers to get a share of the advertising revenue and subscription fees recieved by Twitch. Streamers can become a Twitch Partner by applying, and then by meeting requirements such as minimum follower numbers, viewers, and a certain number of broadcasts per week [5].

YouTube Gaming

YouTube Gaming is a branch of YouTube dedicated to video game content. Games have their own pages, where users can find content including videos and live streams. Additionally, there are channels for game publishers and YouTube creators.

YouTube gaming was developed to be a twitch competitor and focuses largely on bringing large audiences from the gaming community. Much like Twitch was a section of, YouTube gaming is a subset of the larger YouTube community. Its biggest challenge will be taking on Twitch which is the established dominant company in this market. Youtube Gaming offers a few different features but has similar services to Twitch. Part of Youtube Gaming’s competitive edge comes from the archive of videos that already exist within YouTube. Users have been putting video gaming content onto YouTube since its inception.

Because of this YouTube had an enormous amount of videos before the YouTube Gaming service ever launched because of Users creating content in the past. Before the service was launched YouTube gaming had millions of videos, and popular streamers with large follower bases [6]. YouTube Gaming’s ability to filter by game and to modify search criteria to get a specific video, and their video archives make them a potential threat to Twitch.

Another advantage for YouTube Gaming is that Twitch users are also YouTube users. Twitch has made it easy to export videos from Twitch to Youtube [7]. The biggest challenge YouTube will have is convincing Twitch subscribers that YouTube Gaming offers services and content that Twitch is lacking.


Video game mods refer to modifications made to videogames in order to make it different from the original release of the game [8]. Mods can change simple things, like the colours of a specific item in the game - or completely change the game itself. They can be massive additions of content and items to the game and can be comprehensive changes seen in every part of the game. Mods are wildly popular in PC gaming but can also be installed on tablet, smartphones and consoles. However, mods require that the original game be installed in order to run. There are different types of mods: partial conversions, total conversions, and unofficial patches. A partial conversion mod refers to mods which add new content to the original game. Total conversion mods create an entirely new game based off the original. Unofficial patches are a popular kind of mod that fixes bugs from recently released games.

Because the majority of new games are connected to the internet in some way it creates ample opportunity to create mods which are a form of UGC. Mods are generally created by users to fix problems, add value, or make changes to a game. Many games are designed with the option to add content: this allows companies to benefit from the gaming community as a whole and from user generated content without having to pay development fees.

Often in game menus will allow users to view mods that can be added to the game. This mod marketplace is supported by the company who originally developed the game, but the main benefit is that they get a library of additional content without the price tag that it would typically entail.

Because unofficial patches are used to fix bugs before the company comes out with the official patch mods can be used as a critical part of the games early release to add in features that are necessary to the game but are buggy or missing from the original game. Users who create the mods can be much faster and more nimble than companies who create the games.

Mods are another excellent example of the gaming community creating extra value through UGC. There are a number of channels on youtube, and forums on reddit which are used to discuss the best Mods for a particular game. Or to build mod packs with a number of different mods that work well in conjunction. Additionally, it allows users to add things that are relevant to the changing times and popular culture into the game - keeping games relevant past their release date.

UGC as a Strategic Business Tool

User generated content has been able to generate an increase in revenue and brand awareness due to social proof.

Social proof influences actions by eliminating risk and by building trust. It encourages purchases based on approval from your peers and people within your social circles to provide positive reassurance of the decisions you make and the products you consume. Social proof is at the centre of user generated content because all the content being used to target consumers are already stamped with the social approval they are seeking. Therefore, it makes your customers your best salespeople.

Coca Cola’s Share A Coke campaign has generated countless online impressions through the customization of each bottle of coke. Overall, helped the compain gain a 2% increase in revenue, earning the company over $210 million in the year the campaign launched. It also gave room for Coke to generate it’s own UGC contest by asking its consumers tovisualize the “Ahh” moment of drinking Coke. This campaign generated over 6 million online mentions and helped decrease the marketing department’s idea generation spend by 92%. Therefore UGC not only creates more interaction, increases revenue, but also helps a company generate new ideas without increasing spend.

C&A Brazil capitalized on social proof in the aspect of shopping for clothes. They understand that women like to get multiple opinions in buying a piece of clothing. C&A created a store that would reflect the live likes of a product on Facebook to help shoppers make a faster decision. This resulted in multiple collections selling out within 1 day, it increased 1,000 new Facebook fans per hour and increased their Facebook Page traffic exponentially. Other retailers such as Best Buy understand that shoppers often use their cellphone when shoppping in their stores, therefore they include QR codes with their product displays to help shoppers gain quick access to their product review pages. The ratings and reviews give shoppers confirmation concerning the product they are looking to purchase and encourages a faster decision making process.

UGC can also be utilized as the sole marketing tool. GoPro has established a marketing platform entirley based on user generated content. Their YouTube page is full of user generated videos and photos GoPro chooses to publish. They also source solely UGC for their promotional videos for online ads. This has allowed the company to spend more money on research and development rather than advertising and marketing. UGC isn’t just for the new, up and coming organizations, but they are suitable for all kinds of organizations. The Canadian tourism department, Canada Explore, commissioned a 17 viral video ad series sourced completely on Instagram photos taken within Canada to share their message to the world. This allowed the government to generate an authentic tone to draw in more international travellers.

To market their new phone, Apple used UGC to market its own product through showcasing the camera functionality. Shot on iPhone 6 and Shot on iPhone 6s billboards and YouTube videos flooded the physical and cyber surroundings. Every photo was genuinely shot by an iPhone owner, and most likely posted on Instagram with Apple or iPhone specific hashtags. Shot on iPhone 6 spanned 70 cities and 24 countries and Shot on iPhone 6s spanned 85 cities in 26 countries. The only costs Apple incurred with the rental for ad space and for paying a small royalty to the actual photographer, saving themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars in obtaining such a large wide variety of photos and videos.

UGC also moves beyond the marketing campaigns that we have mentioned previously. It also includes every tweet, Facebook post and Snapchat Story. WIth what you post, how often you post and what other Pages you have liked, you become more and more easy to target. Facebook ads allows your business to target a specific segment based on geolocation, preferences, age group and more. The more content you post on social media, the more you become the product of social media networks.Other platforms such as Twitch blatantly explain who is on their sites, where they live, what age range they lie to help advertisers better target their desired audience.


Overall, UGC has allowed companies to target more specific as well as more efficiently, putting the power into the hands of the consumer. Not every situation has been ideal for the company, but when it’s done right, it is very, very effective. On the consumer end, the increased usage of UGC has allowed for smarter and faster decisions prior to purchase, making it easier for consumers to shop in a sensory overload world. UGC is a new form of marketing that is here to say, because there is nothing that says “buy me” like another human people that has said “this product is amazing.”


  1. Stephen W. Litvin(2005) Electronic Wood of Mouth in Hospitality and Tourism Management
  2. About us page of TripAdvisor Retrieved from
  3. (2014, February). Traffic. Retrieved from Twitch Advertising:
  4. Investopedia. (2015, August 21). How Works and Its Business Model. Retrieved from Investopedia:
  5. (n.d.). Twitch Partner Program. Retrieved from
  6. YouTube. (2015, June 12). A YouTube built for gamers. Retrieved from YouTube Official Blog:
  7. Amadeo, R. (2015, June 15). Hands-on with YouTube Gaming - Google builds itself a Twitch Killer. Retrieved from ars Techina:
  8. Wikipedia. (n.d.). Mod (video gaming). Retrieved from
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