Social Media started with content relevant to your “social” world. It was through new channels like Twitter and Facebook and about you. But once released from the bottle, the genie cannot be held to just the social aspects of life for long.
But while the conversations are certainly growing, user-generated content carries a few more influential characteristics as well.
Packaged Goods Media was centrally controlled and needed costly distribution channels like subscribers and/or airwaves, which required a return on investment. Given the costs there was a resulting correlation between the “professional” look of the medium and the assumed quality of the message.
But in addition to the social change of “who has something to contribute”, the technical and economic changes have equalized the distribution playing field.
The Walla Walla Washington high school newspaper website has the same reach as the New York Times or BBC. [I picked them because they came in second in the 2011 Edward R Murrow High School Journalism Competition.]
Technology has also made media capture and manipulation common for the common man. Print, photo, web, music, and other rich media can be laid out and published like never before. These are the same applications used by the media enterprise. Thank Adobe for this.
As a result User Generated Content with its endless reach, low investment, and equal perception of quality has enabled anyone to generate and distribute anytime. ANYONE CAN DO IT! Look at me. If “video killed the radio star” than the digital revolution killed the radio, print, TV, newspaper, and guest keynoter.
But are we pushing a string or pulling it with this ability? Do people really want to create content?
“Sharing is a social and generous act: it connects us, it establishes and improves relationships, it builds trust, it disarms strangers and stigmas, it fosters the wisdom of the crowd, it enables collaboration, and it empowers us to find, form and act as publics of our own making.”
The network on which this user-generated content is shared is making the world smaller. Maybe not literally, but the “6 degrees of separation” are now 4.7. Some bloggers have more street cred and influence than established news writers.
How does this affect the experience marketing and events industry?
First, ANYONE CAN CREATE AN EVENT. Certainly anyone can create valuable content. Your community, competitors, just a guy looking to make a few bucks while you need to make more. What is your real experience advantage? Your event, and its relationship with the audience, is no safer than the radio, video, or TV star.
Second, supply and demand quickly come into play when there are so many willing and able to provide content. Any equation between the value of content and price paid is broken. Thousands will freely contribute content to news outfits, blog sites, or direct to readers, friends, fans.
“FREE” or inexpensive content is expected. If you’re selling something, people will find a back door to getting it for less or free. If content is a key to your financial success – you are in trouble. Professional photographers have been replaced by Flickr searches, record companies bypassed, and comics are producing their own TV specials.
Some organizations have embraced this Janus Moment. The Event Marketing Summit has introduced Unsessions – Targeted conversations created, managed, and executed by attendees. They have looked to “place” as the differentiators in the marketing mix.
Lynda.com have done one better. With no direct affiliation with Apple, Adobe, or Microsoft, Lynda.com offers a universe of user-generated print and video content on all things computing and software from self (and community) proclaimed subject matter experts resulting in a differentiating “product” with search, digestible and relevant results, and monthly subscriptions.
The desire of Janus Dialogs is not to adjudicate the appropriateness of any trend, but to bring it to the forefront for consideration by the caretakers for the shared moments in time we call experience marketing.
How are you dealing with User Generated Content?
- Does the rise threaten your events value?
- How can/are you adjusting the content exchange?
- Beyond content, what other aspects of your program are or should be user-generated? The agenda, tools, locations?
Contribute your user-generated content to the dialog –