One of the dangers of introducing user generated content (UGC) onto your intranet is that it will be seen as separate from the rest of your existing content – a form of ‘second-class’ information that will sit in ghettos and not be taken as seriously … it is, after-all, known widely as social content. It’s important to understand what value UGC brings to the party and integrate it into what you already offer. Failure to do this will banish UGC to the margins where it will deliver little value and validate the views of those who regard it as a frivolous activity for geeks and time-wasters.
One significant benefit UGC does provide is a context for static content – but only if they sit side by side and are presented together to users. A good example of this in BT is our corporate newsdesk – BT Today (see image below). This service is hugely popular in BT. Second only to the on-line directory, it receives millions of hits a week and is accessed by virtually all employees. It is professionally run by a team of free-lance journalists with a couple of full-time, BT-employed editorial staff to manage the whole thing.
To make it more interactive, new UGC functionality was added about six months ago (see red circles on below diagram). The new functionality is called Your Space and is composed of:
- Your photos – a sort of internal Flickr but with a short story alongside each photo users upload to make them more interesting to a wider audience
- Your adverts – where employees can advertise their stuff (free up to a certain value then there is a charge)
- Your announcements – a section to wish people happy birthday, anniversary etc.
- Your views – the most interesting section, I think, where employees can start discussion threads about topics of interest to them.
Your views has proved extremely popular and some quite controversial topics have been aired in that space. Currently, each thread gets around 25k hits and around 100 comments from users wishing to get their point across – which, considering the high profile nature of this site, is pretty good (there’s no anonymity on any of our UGC tools). What is also encouraging, is that several BT board members have gone in and commented in the discussions as normal users. They’ve also started a few threads themselves … they really seem to want to join the conversation. So successful have the UGC sections been, that the site is soon to be redesigned giving these sections greater prominence in the centre of the screen. New functionality to allow users to comment on news stories is also being introduced.
I wonder how long it will be before the whole site is made up of only UGC – like CNN’s iReport site! 🙂
I’ve also highlighted RSS on the diagram – this site alone has around 150 separate RSS feeds so that users can subscribe to, and receive, information that is relevant to them in a very granular fashion.