Creating a website using user-generated content seems like a dream for publishers. Imagine having a site full of content without having to pay for any of it! However, if something seems like it’s too good to be true, it usually is.
What is User-Generated Content and Why Is it Important?
According to Wikipedia, User-Generated Content (UGC) is defined as “any form of content that was created by users of an online system or service, often made available via social media websites”.
It’s basically content that was created by users of your website. It includes blog comments, guest posts, testimonials and social media posts.
Even though UGC seems like a brilliant way to create content for your WordPress site, the reality of it is not that simple. The question is not CAN we do it, but SHOULD we do it.
In this article, I discuss the pros and cons of creating a user-generated content site in WordPress.
User Generated Content Pros And Cons:
The Benefits of User-Generated Content
In this article on TopRank Blog, Ashley Zeckman predicts that, in the future, “Democratization of content creation across organizations and communities will increase as more companies implement targeted crowdsourcing of content and user generated content (UGC) programs.”
So, in short, UGC programs will be important for organisations to implement in the future. It is also a very easy (and cheap!) way to post content on your WordPress site. It is a very attractive option for webmasters who want to boost page views and advertising revenue on their sites.
Internet users love to contribute their opinions and ideas, which is why blogging and social media are so popular. Your site will be well received, if you offer your website visitors a way to share their ideas to a targeted groups of users. A UGC program can work very well if implemented correctly, and if the content is moderated.
User generated content is free and costs you nothing but the expenditure on site maintenance and some time and effort required to moderate content. If you’re pressed for time, you could even employ an assistant to do that for you. The benefit is increased search visibility, more traffic and advertising revenue.
The Risks Of User-Generated Content
Allowing unmoderated user generated content on your site can set you up for copyright infringement, defamation, and slanderous or libelous statements that could trigger a lawsuit.
Most internet users are not familiar with the journalistic principles regarding content and reporting. They are quite likely to copy and paste content from other sources, claiming it as their own, or ignorant of the knowledge that they are violating someone else’s copyright by doing so.
On internet forums, users often take to complain about products or service providers they have used, without realizing that making negative statements without proof could be construed as slanderous or libelous. If you’re not careful, you could also end up with content that is pornographic or violates your country’s laws.
As the publisher, it is your responsibility to moderate such content and ensure that you’re not slapped with a lawsuit because of a careless remark or negative review on your website.
Even sites like Facebook and YouTube, that thrive on user generated content, have had their share of issues with copyright violations and inappropriate content. In fact, Facebook and YouTube are currently in the midst of a showdown over copyright infringement.
User generated content also suffers from quality issues. Low-quality articles and videos can turn away website visitors, increasing your bounce rate and lowering your rankings. In such cases, more content is not necessarily better.
User Generated Content Best Practices
1. Ready all your legal statements
Create a user-generated content policy and get your users to agree to your Terms and Conditions before posting content, to minimize your liability as a publisher.
Site users also must grant you permission to use the content they share with you as you please, and syndicate it on other sites, if you choose to do so.
2. Moderate your content
The best sites, or multi-author blogs, that depend on user-generated content or guest posts, don’t necessarily accept every submission that comes their way. You need to implement a user generated content quality control policy to prevent low-quality content from being published on your site.
It is a mistake to allow content to be published without some degree of moderation, either by a bot that picks up inappropriate content or by human moderators. The latter is usually the best option if you want to maintain content quality at an acceptable level.
The most important reason you need to moderate your content is to prevent copyright infringement. Use tools like Copyscape to check that articles have not been copied and pasted from elsewhere.
With videos, it’s much harder to check for copied content. As a publisher, you should at least perform a perfunctory search on Google or YouTube for the title of the video to ensure it has not been downloaded from elsewhere.
3. Take the conversation to your website
Are your social media fans and followers posting a lot of comments and stories on your Facebook and Twitter channels? Although this contributes immensely to positive sentiment and mentions on social media, it doesn’t necessarily translate into more traffic and improved search engine rankings for your website.
By inviting your social media followers to post their reviews and comments on your WordPress blog or website, you can take the conversation to your website.
To get your fans to change their posting habits may require an incentive at first (for instance, a free monthly giveaway to the best new review or testimonial), but it’s worth it if you can have your reviews, comments and testimonials where they will do the most good – right on your WordPress site where all your visitors can see them.
Implementing a UGC Program For WordPress
It’s quite easy to allow users to post content to your WordPress site. You can either allow them to create their own WordPress login and give them Author status, or allow them to post content without registering, using a number of WordPress plugins.
To implement a user-generated content program for guest posts in the easiest way possible, you can use a WordPress plugin that doesn’t require registration.
Some options are:
You can also create user-generated content with forums, Q&A systems, or even go the whole hog and create a complete social networking site with WordPress plugins like the ones below.
I hope you found these tips on creating user generated content on WordPress useful. If you have any of your own tips to share, do post in the comments below.