User generated content

September 18, 2006

So, the buzzword of the year seems to be UGC (no, not that cinema firm) ‘user generated content’. The practice of allowing users to contribute to your website is not a new one however, in fact it’s been around since the 1990’s in the form of forums and reviews, but lately it’s become seen as one of the key points of Web2.0 and it seems everyone is scrabbling to get on the bandwagon (at least they are in travel).

UGC add’s a huge amount of value to your website in a number of ways (here’s a few below):

  • the content changes regularly which is key to securing repeat visitors and a good position in natural search
  • it builds trust; the subject of reviews has made many travel companies very nervous but those who have bitten the bullet and allowed it have found it helped increase conversions by allowing users to read what real people thought of a hotel/destination (you only have to look at the success of Tripadvisor to see the demand for this type of content)
  • it’s free; all the content you receive is freely contributed generally by people who care about the topic

Of course there’s also some downfalls (again, here’s a sample below):

  • quality; letting anyone submit content to your site means you are going to receive alot of badly written, poor grammer laden content which can lower the overall quality of your site (in my opinion you should resist the temptation to edit and leave it as is, editing users submissions is one way to lower the trust in your site)
  • increased work for you; someone of course has to manage this content. While I believe yu shouldn’t edit anything yu allow to be posted you do of course have to filter out the offensive or wacko type submissions you will receive
  • legal; at some point something libellous will get posted (you just can’t avoid it), be prepared to have to deal with it

In my opinion the opportunities presented by UGC far out weigh the pitfalls!

In the travel sector there are many opportunities to acquire and use UGC. I’ve detailed some of the opportunities below and split them into pre-booking, post-departure (while they’re away) and on return (note; this isn’t an exhaustive list, just a few ideas of how I would do it).

Pre-booking:

  • not so much content but at this point I would gather info from the user as to what hotels they are viewing etc and store this to be able to display the most viewed or popular
  • also worth finding out what kind of holiday they are looking for (eg. family, honeymoon, couples) and cross referencing this with the hotels they book to help you classify your content better

Post-departure:

  • there’s an opportunity to cash in on the more tech savvy holiday makers at this point. There are many services that can be built allowing users to SMS or email photo’s from their mobile phones onto your website while they are abroad. Imagine allowing everybody who books on your site to set up their own photo blog for when they are away
  • you could also get reviews from the more tech savvy customers, both online or by text again (the customers blog could include text entries as well as photo)

On return:

  • reviews; get your customers to tell you what they thought of the flights, hotels, resorts, activities, staff etc. This becomes a hugely valuable source of info for prospective customers
  • tagging; get your customers to classify the hotel/holiday for you. If you have a decent content management system you should be able to associate this data with the hotel and allow other users to use this data in their hunt for a holiday
  • photo’s; get their holiday photo’s on to their blog that you gave them. Make it clear that you may use the photo’s and then you can take your pick from the best
  • video; similar to photo, video could be uploaded to the site for other users to view

So there are quite a few ideas for ways to acquire content from your users in the travel sector. There are many more touch points than these where you can make use of their interactions with your website as well but I’ll leave you to uncover them. all these touch points also become great opportunities to collect customer data for marketing purposes as well, so make sure you have a decent CRM system so you can make full use of it!

The key to all of this is having a decent CMS and infrastructure which links all the data you glean from users with your main content repository. There is absolutely no point in collecting content from users unless others users are going to be able to find and make use of it!

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2 Responses to “User generated content”

  1. Mick Gordon Says:

    As for extra work, it is simply not the case, it is far easier to have someone post an article on China and you put it up than actually having to spend a lot of cash and time travelling there yourself. I scroll through the internet (that is what I am doing now – soliciting content) In this way most people are happy to share their work – they are flattered and I get exactly the type of thing that my site needs. User generated content is a fantastic thing.

  2. Steve E Says:

    Thats great to hear Mick and I agree in a lot of cases no extra effort is required. Some sectors seem to suffer more from erroneous submissions than others. The content submitted to travel sites does seem to be better quality than in other sectors I have worked. I believe people are more emotionally attached to travel and therefore their submissions are of a higher quality.
    Great to hear you are doing well from it!


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