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User-generated content (UGC) is any published information that an unpaid contributor has provided to a platform.  The information can be in the form of a photo, video, blog, audio, discussion, forum, polls, surveys, reviews and comments.

With UGC, the consumer becomes the brand advocate and gives it the kind of credibility and proximity with consumers that no amount of advertising can match. It brings a few challenges that brands face on a day to day basis while generating content from users.

BuzzInContent caught up with a few marketers and content platforms to understand the nuances attached with UGC and a few measures that can help the brands reduce them.

Involving a consumer in one's marketing activity is highly rewarding, but the brands need to be very careful about the quality of content.

Karthi Marshan

Karthi Marshan, Chief Marketing Officer, Kotak Mahindra Group, said, “Over time, as people are moulding social media activity into their everyday lives, engagement on good content has become slightly menial. People aren't as serious with their engagement as they were before. Therefore, getting people to seriously engage with brand content is the major challenge a UGC  faces. In sum, it becomes vital for the brand to understand this, and find ways in which the connection between what people organically post and the brand’s task is solid as well as smooth.”

Therefore, the most critical point to keep in mind while creating UGC is that the idea of the content should be so strong that it automatically brings in related, topical, personalised and positive content for the brand. Most of the times, UGC involves some sort of contest or gratification to the consumers, which attract useless content as well. Comes to the rescue is the powerful idea of the UGC which helps minimise bad content generated by users.

Chandramohan Mehra

Chandramohan Mehra, Chief Marketing Officer, Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance, said, “It finally boils down to the core of the UGC idea which should invoke enthusiastic participation and score high on flaunt-ability. If the driver of the UGC is purely a monetary incentive, there is a high chance of undesirable quality of UGC outcome. It will neither generate critical mass participation, the quality of participants and the nature of UGC generated could also be suboptimal. Ultimately, the idea has to be insight-centric and relevant to the brand and marketing task at hand.”

Madhavi Irani

Madhavi Irani, Chief Officer - Content at the beauty brand Nykaa, suggests that to improve the quality of content, one can also build tools to monitor and classify content basis its quality over the time.

She said, “The only way to improve the overall quality of content coming into the feed over time will be building a tool that learns to classify lower quality answers more accurately and pushes lower quality ones lower down on search. Hopefully, this will incentivise customers to write more detailed, engaging answers.”

Last year, Nykaa launched Nykaa Network, an interactive platform where subscribers can chat with other beauty buffs, ask and answer beauty-related questions, give and seek advice, discover trends and join conversations on topics of their interest. The network is 500K strong beauty community and gets on an average of 400 questions and 800 answers per day. To balance between the efficiency and accuracy of the network, Nykaa has a hybrid hierarchy-of-classifiers framework to throw up answers.

When a subscriber types a question, the user-generated answers provided by community-based QA archives work on answer quality prediction use the same model for all answers, though each answer is intrinsically different. However, modelling each individual QA pair differently is not practical. The brand analyses the question type and basis exact search term match, guide the selection of the right answer. Nykaa also offers a selection of answers based on the subject match for a more intuitive feed. This vastly improves the overall answer quality score. 

Because most of the UGC involves contest, another way to prevent UGC quality to be hampered is to bring in content and brand experts in the form of judges to keep a check on the quality of content and choose the best of the lot.

Marshan said, “Recently, in the context of our campaign inviting entries for the theme ‘Bench ki Atmakatha’, the social media activity centred on inviting stories around a bench which was the real protagonist of the campaign. Kotak roped in two reputed storytellers as judges to give the contest gravitas. The contest received quality entries in the form of poems, monologues, rap songs, spoken word poetry and jokes among others that uplifted the entire UGC activity.”

He further said, “Similarly, in the past, we ran a campaign inviting entries from people asking them to showcase their favourite ‘Kona’ of India, in tandem with our theme campaign then, Kona Kona Kotak. Again, we used the help of relevant experts to curate the entries, thus controlling quality to a large extent.”

One major concern that brands face while generating UGC associated with some gratification/contest is that of fake profiles by a single person to win the contest. Karan Kumar, Chief Brand and Marketing Officer, Fabindia, said, “There are enough people who are available on all the platforms who are basically the contest crackers. They may and may not have actual similarity to your actual target audience. Therefore, you will get all kind of content which will have no relevance to what your brand is seeking to do.”

To overcome this challenge, Marshan said that the brand should undertake a continuous screening process where each entry is checked for being a genuine one. The shortlisting should be done on various parameters like creativity, format, storytelling of inclusion and many other factors. Any discrepancies with regards to the entry should be immediately actioned upon.”

While Irani suggested, “The only way to cull out such UGC is to have a good site moderator who keeps an eye on content and looks for repeating patterns. Ideally, as a community grows large enough, machine learnings should allow for a program that picks up the repetitive word and phase patterns in ‘different profiles’ and removes duplicate profiles from the community.”

Karan Kumar

Kumar of Fabindia pointed out another way to keep a check on the quality of content through influencer-led UGC. “He said that the brand can get category B and C influencers on board to create unboxing videos with its product. The influencer will then send it to the brand to approve it beforehand and then only he will put it up on his social media handles. The influencer can then tag the brand. In such a case, the brand is working with s closed set of people and gets better control of the UGC.”

It’s highly essential for brands to associate with platforms that give them maximum ROI (Return on investment) through UGC and are safe for them to associate and for users to express their thoughts. Therefore, the brands must choose the platforms that understand the nuances of user-generated content.

WOOP (Women of Opinion) is a platform to grow trust via communities of brand advocates, motivated by a cause. WOOP creates ROI-driven campaigns, which combine word of mouth marketing with cause marketing by sponsoring education for one girl child for every 20 women engaged in WOOP across multiple brands.

Rashi Mittal Nair

Rashi Mittal Nair, Co-Founder and CEO, WOOP, said incentivising UGC in the form of reviews improves the quality of content. She said, “On Woop, to overcome this we have incentivised the reviews in terms of which is a more useful review, which automatically improves the quality. It is something like Amazon has the button ‘Did you find the review helpful’. Depending on how many more people found your review helpful, we incentivise that.”

The platform also holds training of the people contributing to the content of the platform. “We all come on Facebook live sessions and teach the users on how to create better UGC.”

Momspresso is a content platform for mothers, with over 90% content generated on the platform is by users. Over 7,000 mom bloggers contribute up to 200 pages of long-format content and 60-80 short-format stories every day.

Vishal Gupta

Vishal Gupta, Co-Founder and CEO at Momspresso, said that the curation of UGC on any content platform is the key to good quality content. “Quality begets quality. The quality of UGC that you accept on any platform sets the benchmark for the future contributors as well. If you set a low benchmark, you get trashy content. It’s like a vicious circle. In UGC, you need to have an element of curation,  which has to be built into the platform. For that, there are elements which are technology related, and there are also elements where someone is reading the blogs and curating the best ones,” he said.

Having a proper curation team helps brand safety. In UGC, there are specific themes that become very popular, but if you put up too much of one kind of content then people get tired of it, and the people who are getting their content published think that this is the only route to get published. Therefore to maintain the curation quality, Momspresso classifies content as beautiful, funny, inspiring and useful. The contributors who are creating content for the platform know that there are different genres and their contribution is welcomed.

Gupta said, “A lot of times, people don’t have any topic to write, but the moment you plant an idea in their head, they have a lot of interesting stories to share. The challenge here is that you want diversity of content and not too much of one kind of content.”

Recently Momspresso also launched an agency ‘Momspresso Bharat’ that will help brands to communicate with the consumers in vernacular languages of the country. Gupta said, “Today so many more people have access to the internet. The challenge is to ensure that the content coming in all the languages on the platform follow the same principles as of English and Hindi. Therefore, you need to have experts who are well-versed with these languages. Brands are not equipped to be addressing so many languages in their own setups. In fact, there are very few agencies who are equipped to manage social media pages in Hindi. Brands will have to work with agencies and people who can converse in these languages.”

User-generated content can easily take your marketing and promotion to the next level, but it takes a clear strategy, planning and dedicated time and resources to make it successful.