User-generated content (UGC) is all the rage in online marketing – every marketer and their dogs would LOVE to establish a place and receive content (hopefully for free) that glorifies their brand and product(s).  The Huffington Post and YouTube are breakaway stars and made us rethink the traditional publication-content model. Everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon and believe they have the right answer. Some choose to expand the idea further and conceive campaigns that seek people online to generate content for their brands and I think it is a dangerous practice.

The inherited danger of relying on customers to advocate for your brand by submitting their own content is this: your brand may not be as loved as you think.

Recently, Yahoo! Taiwan’s It’s Y!ou campaign organized a competition on their subsidiary site, The competition asked users to submit their video(s) on their love for the brand. One of the most popular entry that focused on complaining Yahoo! and Kimo’s less than stellar service (watch it here). The poster had not violated the terms of the competition nor jeopardized the integrity of the platform – he was merely expressing his subjective frustrations with the services and people identified with him. Talking to a friend in Yahoo! Taiwan, she mentioned that they didn’t know what to do with the entry – removing it will create backlash, keeping it will reinforce the negative perspectives on the brands.

So, here’s some ideas for digital marketers, aspiring digital media owners, etc. to think about:

  • UGC =/= free content – it requires even more monitoring and management than traditional content publishing
  • Really think about your products and services’ brand equity – social media is not the answer for a lot of brands
  • When stuff happens during your campaign, weigh carefully between users’ backlash and brand equity

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