User-generated content

Much has been made over the past few years about the value of and potential for user-generated content—content created by visitors to a Web site. Much of the benefit derived so far from this type of content has been in user reviews. Numerous research projects have shown that Internet users place more credence in user reviews than in those from other so...
By David Greenfield, editorial director October 1, 2009

Much has been made over the past few years about the value of and potential for user-generated content—content created by visitors to a Web site. Much of the benefit derived so far from this type of content has been in user reviews. Numerous research projects have shown that Internet users place more credence in user reviews than in those from other sources. And Internet visitors are, at least to some degree, relying on these reviews to help make buying decisions. For example, MediaPost reports that nearly 70% of online shoppers read at least four reviews of a product before purchasing it, while almost a quarter of people check eight reviews or more.

Beyond the value of user reviews on a particular product is the value to be derived from shared opinion and discussion. That type of conversation, enabled by the Internet, is what brings the peer-to-peer discussion so sought after at industry events to interested parties on a daily basis, regardless of where they may happen to be.

Control Engineering’s groups on LinkedIn ( http://budurl.com/celinkedin ) and Facebook ( http://budurl.com/cefacebook ) are now home to more than 100 such discussions. It’s been the most exciting development of our entire experiment with social media—so much so that we are now committed to developing some of these discussions into feature article content for the print publication and our Web site.

The first of these articles appears in this issue—“Integrated Safety: Has Its Time Arrived?”

Beginning as a discussion point linking to Siemens’ Charlie Fialkowski’s post on Safetybase.com , the conversation quickly grew to more than 20 user-generated comments (seven of which I had to save before being deleted from the news feed on LinkedIn to use as part of the article in this issue). The comments came from engineers, consultants, and industry vendor representatives, with all sides of the issue being well-represented: for it, against it, and possible under given certain circumstances.

Overall, the comments were well-mannered and insightful, though things did get heated in a few instances. Most importantly, everyone on each side of the issue had an opportunity to comment and share in the discussion and mutual learning experience.

Control Engineering will be featuring similar articles based on our social media group discussions every other month beginning in January 2010. So let your voice be heard—participate in the discussions and feel free to start some compelling content of your own.

david.greenfield@reedbusiness.com