First off, what is user-generated content (often abbreviated as UGC)? UGC refers to various types of content authored and propagated by random people (who aren’t necessarily paid to do that). There are also various forms of user-generated content one example being reviews (which shall be the focus of my article). Just to show you how diverse UGC can be I’ll give allusion to the Share A Coke campaign. I’m sure you’ve seen ads of people showing coke drinks with their names inscribed on cans. That was a sophisticated and unique way of gathering user-generated content. Anyways, let’s start off by why UGC is important:
Importance Of User-Generated Content (UGC)
UGC is deemed authentic and accurate. The thing is people aren’t coerced into authoring this content, it’s voluntary. This means that the moment you see someone taking the initiative to provide certain information in the form of, for instance, reviews they mean it. That’s why you’ll see that UGC is highly trusted as genuine because it’s borne out of initiative on the part of the content generator. Almost 90% of online consumers trust user-generated reviews.
User-related experiences usually inform this type of content and so truthfulness tends to be in the mix. This is heavily opposed to when brands themselves solely used to provide content meant to influence purchase decisions. If a brand is pushing for sales lying and misrepresentation of information is inevitable. That’s why UGC is important because it’s from people who really have nothing to lose by being brutally honest as can be. Social proofs now drive most purchase decisions – UGC provides the much needed social proofs. People are now more inclined to assess a business based on what other people (who probably have interacted with it) are saying about its products or services.
One of the biggest areas of user-generated content is reviews. In most developed countries at least 50% of people now rely on reviews to inform their purchase decisions. Stats even show that year on year percentages of people relying on review sites are continuously increasing. This is made easier by the fact that there are quite a number of user-generated reviews platforms there. I’ll take a brief look at just 3 of them so that you get the picture.
This is arguably the largest travel website on the planet (they also have a mobile app). It’s no wonder because the platform gives people access to almost 1 billion traveller reviews. The site also offers services like price comparisons and bookings by giving people access to at least 200 sites. Reviews provided are for hotel, restaurants plus other value-added services pertaining to travel. Tripadvisor is actually credited as one of the earliest businesses to champion UGC. They have essentially been a game changer owing to the fact that e-commerce and the need for favourable online virtual reputations are now imperative. The major sources of revenue for their business are ad placements and booking fees just in case you’re wondering how they make money.
Yelp is somewhat like Tripadvisor but it’s mainly focused on crowd-sourced reviews for businesses. Its major focus, however, are restaurants thus providing diverse user-generated reviews to that end. As of December, last year Yelp was ranking 2nd to Google as the most visited site before consumers interact with a business provider. In this year’s first quarter, a combined total of more than 100 million different visitors accessed the Yelp website or their mobile app for reviews.
This is another major player in the domain of user-generated reviews. Their focus is also businesses but their approach is a bit different. Rather than just being a platform where anyone can publish reviews, users have to be vetted. So users have to subscribe in order to have access to post reviews. The platform also offers direct interactions between businesses and users regarding reviews as and when needs be.
Implications For Zimbabwe
Understandably we still lag behind in these aspects that I’ve just been discussing. However, we are slowly assuming a trajectory that’ll get us to such levels of widespread uses of UGC. Clearly user-generated content (reviews in particular) will go a long way in putting customer service provision in line locally. Earlier I talked of how Tripadvisor is a big brand they are today because they adopted UGC the earliest. This then points to huge prospects for local entrepreneurs who will seriously pursue the development of platforms that are similar to Tripadvisor, Yelp or Angel’s List.
So gone are the days when a business’ word was the final authority on brand authenticity. Now we’re living in a time where ordinary people’s words are now the final authority on how authentic a brand is. UGC has created a platform where virtually anybody’s voice can be heard and can make a positive difference in the ultimate customer experiences of many. It’s critically important that as a nation we put together concerted efforts in giving ascendance to the availability and usage of user-generated content.