Best Practices for Managing User-Generated Content

If you see branded content that doesn’t come from a brand itself, it’s probably user-generated content, or UGC. In fact, UGC is any type of content — from plain text to images and videos — created by an audience of a brand and published to an online or social network.

There are many articles on how to encourage users to create such content for your brand: get a branded hashtag, run a contest, offer a free trial in return for a testimonial, and so on. In this article, we’re not going to focus on that. We’ll speak about what we’re experts at: user-generated content management. We’ll tell you how to upload, moderate, host, and deliver such content so that it doesn’t harm your customer experience or web performance. Let’s get started!

But First, Why Is User-Generated Content Important?

Whatever form UGC takes, it usually works much better than traditional advertising. Here’s why:

  • It’s authentic. 90% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support, and, according to them, user-generated content is more authentic than brand-created content.
1,590 consumers and 150 B2C marketers were surveyed.
  • It’s trustworthy. People tend to trust UGC more because it’s not you talking about your product, it’s a real person outside your company. If the user sees that your product has solved similar problems for another company, they’ll trust you much more than after viewing your landing page.
Hey, I’m experiencing the same problem!
  • It helps you make sales. The same research shows that 79% of people say UGC highly influences their purchasing decisions.

On top of that, such content doesn’t require lots of time or money investments from the brand. Usually, it’s created organically; you just need to gently push your audience in the right direction by creating a user-friendly flow on your website.

Whether your site consists of content that’s created by users, or you just plan to add a comment section to your blog, keep reading to discover the best practices of managing UGC right.

Wait, Is UGC Management a Big Deal?

  • Some users can post irrelevant or offensive content.
  • Bots can spam your website.
  • Users can upload files that are too large or in the wrong formats, which can harm your website’s load speed.
  • Users can post images of different sizes and styles, leading to a lack of consistency throughout the website.
  • The content published by users won’t be properly optimized for search engines, harming overall website performance.

Now let’s take a closer look at each of these challenges and describe some of the most common user-generated content management mechanics.

#1 Write a Content Policy

  • Types of content that aren’t allowed. Examples: Spam, malware, irrelevant links, offensive content, private information.
  • Your guidelines for photos and videos. Examples: The image resolution should be 640 x 480 pixels minimum; do not publish pictures or videos in which people are identifiable without their permission.
  • Rules for communicating with other users. Examples: No hateful or offensive comments; do not reveal someone’s personal information.

A UGC policy will help users understand what you expect from the content they post. Plus, it will act as your guide for all questionable matters during content moderation. To create this page, you might need to consult with lawyers.

Tell your users what’s allowed and what’s not.

#2 Provide an Easy Way to Upload and Edit Visuals

The fastest and easiest way to solve this issue is to integrate a ready-made file uploader. Uploadcare File Uploader is a good choice because it provides a built-in image editor with lots of possible image transformations. Besides cropping, users can resize, rotate, adjust quality, blur some areas, or even add a watermark to a photo.

Cropping an avatar photo in Uploadcare.

An easy-to-use file uploader will help you get more user-generated content: if users don’t meet any obstacles while uploading and editing their visuals, they’ll be more likely to make it to publication.

Another feature you can use for these purposes is Smart Crop. Let’s say you allow users to write product testimonials and back them up with product photos. The problem is, some photos taken by users can include an irrelevant background that distracts from what’s important.

With Smart Crop, you can teach your system to analyze images, detect the most important object in each photo and crop the rest automatically.

#3 Make Sure Uploaded Content Is Optimized

Even if you’ve created a well-written content policy and clearly specified maximum file size and required formats, it doesn’t give you any guarantees. Some users probably won’t pay attention to it, some don’t have graphic editors or don’t know how to use them to crop images. Actually, they don’t have to know all those things. It’s the task of the site owner to make sure everything works as needed.

Uploadcare can help you with that too. It allows you to:

  • Shrink all images uploaded by users automatically. All you need to do is tick the checkbox in the settings.
  • Automatically convert all the uploaded photos to WebP format — the best format for publishing photos on the web.
  • Automatically convert GIF files to video format, which is also better for SEO.
  • Specify maximum and minimum file size as well as allowed formats.

# 4 Take Care of Content Moderation

  • You can recruit content moderators. Of course, it depends on the amount of UGC you receive. If you run a small blog with a comment section in it, you can monitor it yourself. Just set aside some time to review your user-generated content regularly. If we’re talking about a large marketplace that receives a lot of UGC every day, you might need to think about recruiting moderators who will help you with that.
  • Use a CAPTCHA on content submission to fight back against bots. One of the most popular systems you can try is Google’s reCAPTCHA.
  • Allow your users to help you with moderation by adding a “Report a violation” link to user-generated content.

Alternatively, you can use Uploadcare’s Object and Face Recognition tool to automate your moderation process. This tool helps you define a general class of objects in a photo: it can detect a car, a person, a vegetable, or any other object you need.

This means that if you, for example, run a site about cars, you can train your system to detect everything that’s not a car and prevent people adding such photos to your site. Also, you can set the system to detect adult or violent content and automatically forbid uploading it. But note that this tool wasn’t created specially for the purpose of moderation. It can save you from some types of forbidden content but not all of them.

#5 Don’t Forget About SEO

Why is this important? See, the main goal of search engine robots is to make sure that the information on a website corresponds to a user’s search query. To find out if your content is relevant and adds value to the user, search bots need to understand what your page is about. Keywords and tags are what helps bots understand your content better and show it to users who really need it.

That’s why you need to use the right HTML tags throughout the entire website: metadata, headings, subheadings, etc. Find the full list of recommendations for HTML here: HTML Living Standard.

Another thing you can do to help search engine bots better understand the context of your page is to provide structured data. Structured data is a standardized format for classifying the page content. For example, if there are reviews on your page, you can use a review schema to structure the content. Here’s what it’ll look like:

By adding this markup, you not only give search bots more context, but also allow them to showcase this information via Rich Snippets:

If you provide structured data, rating and other info can appear in the SERPs.

All the schemas for structured data are gathered on Schema.org. For user-generated content, you can use review and comment markups depending on your needs.

#6 Organize Your Storage

The most optimal way to host UGC is to use separate cloud storage, and Uploadcare can provide you with it. Plus, the Object Recognition feature can detect what’s in the picture and assign labels to each photo. This can help you organize your assets, sort them out into folders and quickly find the content you need.

#7 Provide Privacy

In fact, that’s right: you can’t publish a photo if there are people in it who didn’t give their permission. What you can do is simply blur their faces. With Uploadcare, it won’t take you longer than a few minutes. You can allow users to blur areas in the photo manually, or you can adjust your system to do it automatically in certain cases

#8 Ensure a Proper Security Level

  • Restrict uploading certain file types. For example, set up your uploader so that it doesn’t accept executable files (.exe, .bat, .app, etc.). These file types are capable of executing commands and running malicious code.
  • Set a maximum file size and limit the number of uploads. This will help you prevent a potential service outage if someone decides to bring your site down by flooding it with large files.
  • Store files outside the webroot. This will prevent you from having security problems as well as data losses during migrations.
  • Set up SSL encryption. This will secure data passed between the web server and browser.
  • Ensure compliance. The upload form should be compliant with the GDPR, EU-US Privacy Shield, and other regulatory standards recommended for your niche and country.

Uploadcare provides all these features out of the box, as well as some advanced security features like data encryption, access control, and backups.

Wrapping Up

Uploadcare has everything you need to upload, moderate, deliver and store UGC. If you want to make sure it’s the solution you’re looking for, you can give it a spin using the free plan, or you can schedule a demo and our tech specialist will show you around.

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