February 06, 2012

Pros and Cons of User-Generated Content

As the role of user-created content becomes more and more relevant, it is important for companies to consider whether to follow the trend of putting their brand into the hands of users or to keep the reigns tight on their marketing strategy. So, what are the pros and cons of letting your customers speak for you?



By outsourcing publicity to real customers, a brand can appear more legitimate from the eyes of a consumer. When customers express sincere opinions of a brand, whether it is organically (social networks) or through testimonial campaigns, they are sharing experiences and opinions that can’t be made up, which makes a brand feel authentic. Because consumers are telling stories at their own free will, the message is fresh and serves as an honest testament to a brand’s quality and popularity.

Personal Connection

When a company’s communication strategy includes user-created content, it allows the brand to sit amongst its audience and act as a peer, rather than a  business looking down on the world. When communication efforts are more conversational by way of Facebook and Twitter, it gives the message a personal quality that is hard to capture with traditional advertising. In any situation, it is more comfortable to be “talked to” than to be “talked at”.

As a relevant example of a brand correctly leveraging consumer enthusiasm and input, Dorito’s annual “Crash the Super Bowl” contest gives real customers a chance to share their ideas to promote their favorite snack brand.


A lot of brands are afraid to shift the power to consumers. You don’t know what you’re going to get when you turn your brand over to the masses – it’s an easy way to feel the burn of user-generated content. And the amount of time it takes to sort through consumer-created content is no simple task. Successfully using content created by customers requires around the clock supervision. Mismanagement can lead to false rumors and confusion, which can be devastating for any brand.


Honesty isn’t always a good thing. Exposing your brand to honest customer opinion can create vulnerability. While dissatisfied customers used to be limited to word of mouth, they now have the option of instantaneously posting their thoughts for the world to see. Allowing users to speak their mind will always yield a degree of negativity, and any attempts to censor that conversation can backfire.

Lowe’s and Chiquita both recently came under attack for business decisions related to user-generated content. Both are great examples of how the freedom of consumer speech can sometimes be more pain than glory.


We can all agree that consumer integration and interaction is a great opportunity for any brand. But it’s easy to get in over your head. The key is to not overdue it and make sure every initiative and platform is well managed. And most importantly – have fun connecting with your audience. Showing passion and enthusiasm will lead to have a positive experience.

Contributed by Christy O’Keefe.

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