As market by offering niche media tools, which

As the
internet developed into what is commonly referred to as the Web 2.0, the
digital landscape enabled its users to efficiently create and distribute
user-generated content, resulting in significant changes in the online media
industry. The amplitude of User generated content (UGC) created a significant
impact on consumers and marketers alike, which conceived necessity for research
on the matter in order to understand the short and long-term implications for
digital marketing. This essay seeks to uncover attitudes and motivations behind
an individual’s creation of UGC using Katz’s (1960) functional theory of
attitudes; furthermore, this essay will evaluate how one’s attitude and motives
towards UGC can be used by marketers to inform future strategy.

In the
last 20 years, the media landscape has dramatically evolved into a complex and
dynamic assortment of both traditional and digital media which seeks to fulfil
the needs of today’s rapid lifestyle. Whilst traditional media struggles to
adapt to a landscape of increased segmentation, the interactive environment
enables the customers to have a voice amongst the vast amount of noise
composing of information and advertising. The interactive environment enabled
marketers to capitalise on the fragmented market by offering niche media tools,
which empower the customer resulting in increased number of niche markets being
driven more by user-generated content and less by publishers or marketers
(Daugherty et al., 2013).

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User
generated content refers to a type of content which has been created and
published by unpaid contributors rather than professionals which is primarily
distributed online on variety of platforms. The UGC phenomenon is usually
composed of large numbers on contributors comparable with the popularity of the
activity, ranging from a small number to tens of thousands or more; UGC is
often jointly focused activity in which contributors collectively develop new content,
which is of value to a larger audience. 
Examples include comments, reviews, blog posts or electronic word of
mouth (Crowston and Fagnot, 2018).

The
impact of Web 2.0 technologies enabled the customer to communicate and influence
a mass audience with platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia, Blogs and
personal Web pages in addition to a plethora of others (Gallegos, 2016). Wikipedia
is one of the most influential examples of UGC; the online encyclopaedia has
expanded to more than 40 million articles in over 290 languages with a large
majority of its contributions stemming from voluntary contributors whom develop
and edit content for the site with more than 2 million contributors active on
the site (Statista, 2018).

As a result
of the aforementioned factors, the online industry continuously shifts towards
a user-centric model and away from the traditional approach portrayed as more
publisher-centric. A large number of today’s customers are active and in charge
of their media experiences, making it more crucial than ever before to grasp
the motivational factors that drive consumption (Brill, 2016).

2 Main Body

The
power shift which occurred challenges marketers 
to change the way they view their target audiences with lesser focus on
examining the effects of media and a greater focus on why and how customers use
media, thus its essential for marketers to gain better understanding user
generated content has on the online environment (Daugherty et al., 2013). UGC’s
influence has sparked change in the market with a majority of today’s customers
relying on UGC produced by other customers rather than relying on marketing
material, according to the Nielsen Consumer Trust Index, 92% of customers trust
organic, user-generated content more than ordinary marketing messages (Brown.
2017). Thus, it can be argued that trust amongst customers can be taken
advantage of and capitalised; tracking customers willingly shared product or
brand related content has the potential to provide improvement over
contemporary customer communications. Furthermore, UGC has also decentralized
the way people produce and consume content; traditional content is limited to a
select number of media producers such as broadcasters, production companies, marketing
organisation etc. created for or by various organisation. This can lead to
bottlenecks in content production; the current social media platforms allow
millions of customers to become self-publishing customers; This means that
media outlets and organisations no longer control the flow of information in
relation to their brand; instead grassroots of the internet and individual
content contributors become a significant driving forces of social change (Wang
and Li, 2017).

In
order to understand the motivation behinds user’s aptitude to create user
generated content and media consumption, their attitude needs to be taken into
consideration, attitude being closely linked with motivation (Tormala and
Brinol, 2015). Media consumptions refer to a deliberate and active behaviour in
which audiences seek content according to their internal motivations (Eastin
and Daugherty, 2005). Internal motivations represent functional sources, which
are constructed to meet specific consumer needs and serve as the foundation for
attitude formation, which in turn influence behaviour (Daugherty et al., 2013).
Motivation can be defined as an internal process that impulses an individual to
act; motivation cannot be directly observed, however observing an individual’s
behaviour enables marketers to uncover motives behind certain actions; attitude
also plays a major function in creating motives; for instance if an individual
possesses a significant positive attitude towards cars; he might be motivated
to join and engage with other users on an automotive discussion forum (Cherry,
2017).

An
individual’s attitude represents a psychological tenancy, expressed by enduring
set of beliefs, feelings and behavioural tendencies towards socially
significant objects, groups or symbols; psychological tendency is expressed by
evaluating a particular entity with some degree of like or dislike (Eagly and
Chaiken, 1993). Attitudes are structured in three components: Affective
component, this involves an individual’s feeling towards an object, for example
I am scared of snakes. Behavioural component, which describes how an attitude
relates to how we act or behave; for example I will run away when I encounter a
snake in the wild. Finally, a cognitive component, which involves a person’s
knowledge about an attitude object, for example I know that snakes are
dangerous. This model is known as the ABC model of attitudes (McLeod, 2009).

Attitudes
can vary in many ways; attitudes can be positive, negative, or neutral, this is
what is known as valence. Furthermore, attitude can differ in the extent to
which they deviate from neutral; this is what is known as extremity.
Additionally to varying in extremity and valance, attitude can vary in terms of
underlying bases (Tormala and Brinol, 2015). In the context of media
consumption, consumer’s willingness towards UGC depends on their attitude
towards consumption and creation of UGC.

It is
also important to acknowledge the relationship between attitude and behaviour,
the relationship between the two can range from non-existent to relatively
strong. For example one’s attitude towards a specific object, determines their
interaction with it. In the UGC context, consumer’s attitude towards user
generated content stems from their perceived value in addition to how it
relates to their existing motivational sources (McLeod, 2009). Attitude also
enables marketers to predict their behaviour, for example if a person is
religious, it can be predicted that they might frequently visit a place of
worship.         

As
motivations vary between individuals, reasons for why consumers decide to
consume or create UGC vary greatly (Crespo and Gutiérrez, 2015). According to
Katz’s (1960) functional theory, attitude serves various motivations depending
on purpose; an individual’s behaviour becomes a function of their attitude
towards that specific behaviour. The core basis of this theory is focused
around the outlook that to influence behaviour, one must grasp its motivational
source. According to Katz (1960) cited in Crespo and Gutiérrez (2015), attitude
serves four personality functions: utilitarian, knowledge, ego-defensive and
value-expressive.

The
utilitarian function takes into account that people are motivated in order to
gain rewards and avoid punishment; Utilitarian function is based on the theory
of utilitarianism, where one’s decisions are based on producing the greatest
amount of happiness (Dean, 2010). This function mainly represents attitude
based on self-interest. In context of UGC, consumers motivated by this function
are often driven by personal incentives. For example, a customer with a
utilitarian attitude might be more motivated to create content if offered a
reward. For example YO! Sushi in their latest marketing campaign offered two
tickets to the good food event in London in exchange for engagement on their
Facebook profile (Sharma, 2017).

On the
other hand, the knowledge function recognises that people are motivated by the
need to gain information and understand the environment; thus, customers
motivated by this function create content as it helps them to understand their
environment or the specific subject the content is centred on (Daugherty et
al., 2013). A customer with a knowledge function based attitude might be
persuaded by a fact based comparison for instance, with vague and non-relevant
messages being ineffective on this particular audience (Dean, 2010).

The
value – expressive function encompasses attitudes that allow people to express
or relate their self-concepts and values, this enhances one’s image in the eyes
of the external environment via comparable moral beliefs, this creates a sense
of self-esteem in UGC creators, as they become members of a community that
shares similar principles. This in turn validates and helps them feel good
about what they are and what they believe in (Daugherty et al., 2013).

The
ego-defensive function represents motivations, which are used to defend one’s
internal insecurities and external threats, which in turn serve the function of
defending an individual’s self-image. In the context of UGC, users motivated by
this function participate to minimize their own self-doubts, seek a sense of
belonging or in some cases, diminish the sense of guilt by not contributing.

In ‘Exploring
consumer motivations for creating user-Generated content’ Daugherty et al.
(2013), Argue that the ego-defensive and social functional sources contribute
significantly to attitude formulation in relation to UGC. Their research
provides a strong correlation between the need to feel important, increasing
self-esteem and the perception of feeling needed and a part of the community as
key contributors in attitude formulation. On the contrary, the social function
motivates to create UGC as it enables them to connect with others and feel the
sense of belonging. They further argue that value-expressive function has a
negative relation with creation of UGC as value expressiveness often reflects
internal moral beliefs, often associated with serious or controversial topics
such as religion or politics; where as UGC often offer entertaining, focusing
on humour, informative topics. They continue to argue that although content
reflecting moral beliefs is more often than not, produced professionally rather
than created and distrusted online by users. Thus, value expression plays a
lesser role when determining motivations behind the creation of UGC. It is
important to note however, that although functional source may play a role in
independent motivational contributions to the formation of an individual’s
attitude, a person’s attitude is more likely to stem from multiple points of
origin and it is more than likely than the attitude is driven by a combination
of sources.

Rensink
(2013) cites value-expression and more specifically self-enhancement as key
motivators in creation of UGC. He argues that users might be more motivated to
write an online review if more individuals are aware of their created content.
He agrees with the argument stated by Daugherty et al., and he further argues
that people are more likely to be involved in writing an online review for
social benefits. Rensink (2013) argues further that individuals might be
motivated to generate content in order to meet new people and communicate with
others, social benefits positively influence the involvement in creation of
content, this applies to both positive and negative reviews, blog posts etc.

Bahtar,
(2016) showcases a different insight by highlighting a noticeable difference between
the creation of UGC and consumption behaviour; he argues that customers are
more likely to create content such as blog posts or forum posts to simply
consume them; this suggests different motivations behind specific behaviours.
He further argues that a majority of UGC consumers treat this content similarly
to traditional sources and adopt a passive approach. In Addition he argues that
UGC creators seek self-expression by engaging in behaviours which provide them
with a voice and exhibit their individual thoughts and opinions. He states that
the difference between behaviour might stem from the impact of individual
skill, self-efficiency and level of cognition. For example, creation of blog
posts, product reviews or posting or editing a wiki page, require a specific
level of aptitude and knowledge compared to engaging in a forum discussion.
This highlights the need of additional investigation in this area in order to
provide more thorough understanding Bahtar, (2016).

3 Conclusion

As
user generated content becomes more universal; understanding customer’s
attitudes and motivations behind creation of content is crucial; notably as the
online industry shifts towards a more user-centric model of consumption.
Identifying motivational sources which affect the formation of attitudes toward
user generated content enables marketers to more accurately predict the
behaviour of their target audience; this is crucial in order to ensure
effectiveness of any marketing campaign. Understanding how customer’s attitudes
interact with motives for creating UGC enables marketers to understand and
recognise how such content might benefit their strategy in the future.

Research
conducted by Daugherty et al. (2013) and Rensink (2013) successfully link Katz’s
(1960) functional theory and sources of motivation with attitudes towards user
generated content highlighting the role of ego defensive and social sources
having a strong connection with attitude formulation in the UGC context; Bahtar
(2016), on the other hand, showcases the contrast between creation and
consumption of UGC in addition to highlighting the limitations in the current
literature.

Determining
positive relationship between customers attitude and behaviour towards a
specific object; in this case the creation and use of UGC is crucial for
marketers; the relationship suggest that as customers attitudes towards UGC strengthen,
consumption and creation of UGC increases whilst being mediated by attitude.
This highlights the importance of creating positive customer experience in
terms of products and content used to promote the organisation via UGC.

It is
of the upmost importance for marketers to understand these motives and provide
ample opportunities for consumers to engage with the brand on the UGC platform;
doing so enables the marketer to strengthen brand equity by engaging customers
in an active media experience; for instance in 2014, Walkers launched the “Do
us Flavour” campaign where the organisation encouraged people to invent their
own favours for a chance to win £1m; the campaign was hugely successful
generating record numbers of customer engagement and significantly boosting
brand awareness and recognition for the brand (Wright, 2017).

By
harnessing the potential of UGC, marketers can connect with customers in a more
authentic and personal way, this in turn can greatly strengthen trust, boost
loyalty which ultimate will lead to increasing sales; by not focusing on UGC,
brands are missing out on key opportunities to let customers promote the
business as many passionate customers can become very effective brand
advocates, which in turn can create brand communities and in some cases
formulate a strong brand sub-culture. This is especially important given the
level of trust customers have towards USG content as opposed to traditional
marketing communications.

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