This report examines the impact of user-generated content (UGC) on media, including not just traditional media such as the press but also how it has influenced the digital space in the form of comments, reviews, blogs, forums, social media and other related content.
- Consumers are most likely to have been exposed to user-generated content (UGC) in the form of looking up information on Wikipedia or a similar online reference website, with 85% of adult internet users claiming to do so. Other popular forms of exposure to UGC include viewing videos (eg on YouTube) and reading comments on websites, such as under a news story or a product on a retailer’s website.
- The type of UGC that people are most likely to have contributed is a comment or review on a retailer’s website, with approaching half doing so. Around two in five upload photos to a website, while approximately a third post to forums, comment on a blog or comment on news stories/features.
- Consumers like the way that UGC offers the facility for a two-way conversation between them and companies and media owners, with 55% agreeing that it is a good way for companies or the media to find out what customers think. Other key aspects of UGC are that it is seen as providing an interesting alternative viewpoint to content created by professional journalists (cited by around half) and that it improves the breadth, range and quality of what consumers read, view and listen to.
- A note of caution is sounded by the two in five internet users who agree that the sheer amount of UGC is overwhelming, emphasising that website owners need to ensure that the most helpful/useful comments/reviews are always to be found near the top of the list. Added to this, a sizeable minority of around one in five say that they actively avoid reading or viewing it, indicating that operators still have some work to do when it comes to credibility.
- UGC is clearly influential: almost six out of ten adult internet users say they usually read reviews of products underneath their online listing, rising to around two-thirds among 16-24 year-olds. Additionally, a very attractive group to marketers - high earners with household incomes of over £50,000 a year - are notably more likely to read comments/reviews, with around two-thirds doing so.
- UGC doesn’t just influence decisions, it also has a tangible effect on buying behaviour: almost half had bought something as a result of reading a review on a retailers’ website, while only slightly fewer had decided not to buy something as a result. Video reviews, while less prevalent, have also influenced around a fifth of consumers, while around 15% of adults have been influenced by a blog or Twitter feed recommendation. Again, the influence on buying behaviour is strongest among younger 16-34 year-olds and high earners.