Your PM came to you: “We need some user-generated features to engage more people and improve the user retention on our app. Try some design ideas!”

It’s your chance to go wild with your creativity to make the app sticky and motivate your users to generate quality content on your platform.

Hold on, what is user-generated content?

User-generated content(UGC) refers to any form of content that users generate/create on online platforms. It counts for your Instagram or Facebook posts, your tweets, your reviews of products on Amazon, your ratings of restaurants on Yelp, and your Medium posts. We live in a world that we take other people’s inputs to help us with purchase decisions or choose a service provider, and we want to know what the actual experience would be using a product or service before investing our time and money.

User-generated content in different

There are many user-generated content features we can design to motivate our users. We can encourage users to share ratings and comments, check in daily to gain or unlock coupon offers, invite friends to gain points and win badges to become the top influencers… These social rewards are virtual accomplishments that make people feel good and help to facilitate a stronger bonding between the user and the app — the more you contribute to the app, the more you’ll be rewarded and recognized by others.

Badges and awards in apps

Social influence of user-generated content

Even if an app is not highly dependent on user-generated content, user-generated content could still be a critical supplement to the core app experience. For example, we all read product reviews on Amazon before buying something. Though Amazon’s shopping experience is mostly a search-driven experience, reading reviews is still a critical step before placing an order. Also, on Yelp, 30% of their users come to check local businesses through mobile or web and then make real visits within a week. The effectiveness of social ratings and reviews is undeniable.

UGC-focused apps usually optimize the screen space to display as much content as they can and encourage users to swipe and scroll infinitely. Later those screen space turn into banners and ads for marketers to broadcast their products or promote their services.

One of the most popular Chinese social e-commerce apps, Xiaohongshu (also known as Little Red Book or RED) showcases how our online shopping behaviors are formed socially. The app started off as a social platform in 2013 for young female users (age>30) to share their experience with fashion and cosmetic products, and now the app has 30 million monthly active users and supports online stores partnered with top fashion and luxury brands. Led by celebrities and famous actresses like Fan Bingbing, Xiaohongshu creates a space for insiders to find and share their experience in the community.

Xiaohongshu social shopping experience (image source: technode)

Monetize the monetization

Early in 2016, Amazon took upon banning incentivized reviews to prevent the fact that retailers use free products to get their customers to write good reviews. Since good product reviews are rewarded with more product impressions and see-first search results, the gamification on the system kicks in. The value of user-generated content is it’s built upon authentic, unbranded customer opinions. If the authenticity from honest reviews gets diluted, user-generated content is no different from marketed voices in ads and campaigns.

“Stop gaming!” (image resource: RedditUnplash)

On the side, it challenges us to think: what is the user experience we want to create and defend for? How do we confront the misuse of the experience we create? How do we maintain and support a neutral community for user-generated content creators and consumers?

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