How do you measure value?

I was going to put this question to the community via Twitter but I think it takes more than 140 characters. I hope I can get the same kind of response here as I would with @replies.

How do you measure the value of user-generated content versus something paid or otherwise, erm, not user-generated (enterprise generated?).

The not-entirely-hypothetical would go something like this: The inherent value of a YouTube campaign founded on user-generated content is greater than the value of a YouTube campaign comprised of professionally-shot, staged videos. This seems obvious to me. User-generated content lends an air of authenticity, the ‘buzz’ seems more valid because (assuming things go well) your message is coming from someone else’s mouth.

But how do you measure that? Or, put another way, how do you convince a skeptic?

In terms of ROI, a campaign populated by user-generated content has a much lower bar to clear, obviously. The investment (at least in financial terms) is low because the organization isn’t paying to create content. But when one factors in the perceived intangible benefits of a professional campaign (higher quality content, more consistent application of messaging etc.) the apple-to-orange evaluation becomes less cut and dry.


  1. It might be best to phrase it in terms of engagement.* I’m aware Radian6 uses the term engagement in a fairly specific context. I mean in a more general sense of connection and involvement.

    Having pretty and polished agency videos is nice, but the problem with it is that your audience’s involvement with it is one-way and short-lived. They watch the videos, they (might) enjoy the videos, and unless your agency creates something like the financial officer equivalent of “Wassup” then everyone moves on a minute or two later. In theory, campaigns involving user-generated content allow more people to get it on the fun, and then people react to their submissions, and so on. In theory. Of course, the benefit of paying an agency for a campaign is that you don’t have to rely on other people – who may not bite – to get that content (and you’re more on-message, as you’ve pointed out).

    As for how to measure it quantitatively, well, that’s the $64,000 question for everybody these days. Some of the metrics will be easy to track – views, video submissions, comments, and so on – but how that fits together into an overall impression of your success or failure depends largely on what you were trying to do.

    Or, like Skittles showed us, weren’t trying to do but ended up doing anyway.

  2. Hi Joe,

    I think Dan hits on something when he talks about how invested the community is with your content.

    While I think there’s a place for company-created materials, user-generated content has an “of the people, for the people” feel that’s hard to beat when it comes to building trust and a sense of authenticity with your community. I actually tend to think that the value of having your customers and fans do the talking for you can be far more impactful than any “messaging” we might try to put out there as communicators.

    When people feel invested and part of a company through their own contributions, they talk to people and tell them. That kind of endorsement can’t be bought at any price.

    Amber Naslund
    Director of Community, Radian6

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