Controversially, one of the the best definitions we found of User-Generated Content (UGC) was on Wikipedia which is a UGC platform in itself. Wikipedia is a UGC encyclopaedic website because it is written collaboratively by largely anonymous volunteer users who write to contribute without pay (Wikipedia, 2018).
“User-generated content (UGC), alternatively known as user-created content (UCC), is any form of content created by users of a system or service and made available publicly on that system. UGC most often appears as supplements to online platforms, such as social media websites, and may include such content types as blog posts, wikis, videos, comments or e-commerce.” (Wikipedia, 2018).
In a nutshell: UCG is any content generated by users… Simple!
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2007, there is no widely accepted definition of UGC, also known as User-Created Content (UCC) (Economic Co-operation and Development, 2007).
- The OECD has defined UGC as a piece of content made publicly available over the Internet, which reflects a certain amount of creative effort, and which is created outside of professional routines and practices (Economic Co-operation and Development, 2007).
- A very similar definition is adopted by OECD, UGC is published content on a publicly accessible website or on a social networking site that needs to show a certain amount of creative effort, and it has been created outside of professional routines and practices (Estrella-Ramón et al, 2017).
Although the above definitions come from credible organisations and academic publications it is our view and understanding, as practitioners, that among the many existing definitions, UGC is generally to be understood as follows:
|Most common UGC includes:|
Forms of UGC are shared as:
Based on this view and understanding of UGC as reflected by the list above, it is observable that the type of content listed above does not necessarily show a certain amount of creative effort as described by the OECD and Estrella-Ramón et al, (2017). For example, the reality is that UGC such as posted text, links and photos most often do not necessarily show any significant amount of creative effort. Additionally, not only is “a certain amount of creative effort” hard to define but it also depends on the context.
The above definitions are from academic publications and credible organisations such as the OECD. The main issue with these publications (academic publications) is the long period of time between their completion and their publication, which often makes them obsolete by the time they are released. This is particularly true when it comes to phenomena relating to the fast-changing digital world. They are however very useful in discovering the origin of theories and understanding the evolution of things.
The phenomenon of UGC has been around for a while. However, in addition to the above definition from Wikipedia, here are other the definitions that reflect more or less the popular understanding of UGC content provided by practitioners:
- “UGC is the term used to describe any form of content such as video, blogs, discussion form 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 publically available to others consumers and end-users. User-generated content is also called consumer-generated media (CGM)” (Beal, 2018).
The definition of Beal (2018) started well however the issue is when it says “User-generated content is also called consumer-generated media (CGM)” (Beal, 2018). Although it appears that many use UGC and CGM interchangeably, their meaning is different. CGM content is more related to user-generated content in the newsroom and citizen-generated journalism (Paulussen et al, 2008).
- “User Generated Content is defined as any type of content that has been created and put out there by unpaid contributors or, using a better term, fans. It can refer to pictures, videos, testimonials, tweets, blog posts, and everything in between and is the act of users promoting a brand rather than the brand itself.” (TINT, 2018).
- “User-generated content is basically content related to a brand that is voluntarily produced by its customers. Customers who have good experiences with your brand are motivated to inform their peers by sharing their experiences. Referrals are one of the cheapest and fastest ways to expand your customer base” (Boachie, 2018).
The difficulty with TINT (2018) and Boachie’s (2018) definitions, and based on our list of types of UGC, is that UGCs are not necessarily acts of ‘users promoting a brand”. For example, the content most users share on social media like Facebook are for socialising. When Facebook’s users upload family photos or videos, make comments to wish a happy birthday to a friends, these are not “users promoting a brand” but it is UGC.
Some might even use UGC and e-WOM interchangeably as if they were the same thing. E-WOM has been defined as any positive or negative statement made by potential, actual or former customers about a product or company which is made available to a multitude of people and institutions via the internet (Estrella-Ramón et al, 2017). However, they are related and can even appear to be similar phenomena when they are found in Online Brand Community (OBC) (Estrella-Ramón et al, 2017).
- Beal V. (nd.) UGC – user-generated content [Online] Available: https://www.webopedia.com/TERM/U/UGC.html [Accessed: 29 June 2018].
- Boachie, P., (2018) User-Generated Content Brings Authenticity to Brands. Opinion: The average person wants to feel a real human connection (Online) Available: https://www.adweek.com/digital/user-generated-content-brings-authenticity-to-brands/ [Accessed: 3 July 2018].
- Economic Co-operation and Development (2007), Working Party on the Information Economy. Participative Web: User-Created Content (Online) Available: http://www.oecd.org/internet/ieconomy/38393115.pdf [Accessed: 3 July].
- Estrella-Ramón, A. and Ellis-Chadwick, F., (2017) “Do different kinds of user-generated content in online brand communities really work?”, Online Information Review, Vol. 41 Issue: 7, pp.954-968.
- Paulussen, S., and Ugille, P., (2008) Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture. User Generated Content in the Newsroom: Professional and Organisational Constraints on Participatory Journalism (Online) Vol. 5(2): 24-41. Available Emerald Insight [Accessed: 5 July 2018].
- TINT (nd.) What is User Generated Content (and Why You Should Be Using it) [Online] Available: https://www.tintup.com/blog/user-generated-content-definition/ [Accessed: 1 July 2018].
- Wikipedia, (nd.) Wikipedia: About (Online) Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:About [Accessed: 4 July 2018].
- Wikipedia, (nd.) User-generated content (online) Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User-generated_content [Accessed: 3 July 2018].