Saturday, 14 July 2007

Usergenerated Content - Motivation

The other day I read a post on the Mobile Monday London mailing list about what is it that makes a lot of people share their knowledge, their experiences, their life and emotions on all those Web 2.0 websites in the form of videos, blogs, answers, comments, votes etc. ... without any monetary rewards / material incentive ... While - at the same time - a lot of other people are perfectly happy to just consume rather than add anything themselves ? This got me thinking - what criteria does a website need to fulfill in order to attract and retain both creators and lurkers ? What do each of those user-segments / clusters have in common?

Furthermore, do different kind of web 2.0 sites provide different incentives for sharing / adding content ?

According to Wikipedia motivation can be defined as follows:

Motivation is a temporal and dynamic state that should not be confused with personality or emotion. Motivation is having the desire and willingness to do something. A motivated person can be reaching for a long-term goal such as becoming a professional writer or a more short-term goal like learning how to spell a particular word. Personality invariably refers to more or less permanent characteristics of an individual's state of being (e.g., shy, extrovert, conscientious). As opposed to motivation, emotion refers to temporal states that do not immediately link to behavior (e.g., anger, grief, happiness).

This definition also raises the question whether users who regularly participate and create content share some similar personality and emotional characteristics ? I would argue that the emotional state does not play a major role, as people post content when they are happy, sad, bored, unhappy, angry etc. . Personality might certainly play a role, e.g. one might argue that extroverts are more likely to reach out and share their experiences and opinions. On the other side, one might argue that introverts are more likely to use websites as an easier way to contact others. For the sake of argument, let's assume that personality traits are distributed equally amongst users of web 2.0 sites as they are amongst general Internet users - ie. covering the full range of personality traits, in a bell-shaped curve, with no single trait differentiating participating users from pure consumers.

This leaves motivation, ie. the expectation to fulfill a certain need, to achieve certain goals, as the main causal factor for users to add content. What goals a user might hope to fulfill may further vary based on the proposition / context of a site.

I think sites that attract / are based on user-generated content can be categorized as follows:

1) Blogs

2) Youtube, Flickr and other video- and photosharing sites

3) Knowledge-sharing sites / forums / online reviews, such as Yahoo! Answers, reviews on and

4) Social Communities like MySpace, Facebook - also dating sites like and business networking sites like and

5) Social Bookmarking and Voting, like, digg,

Motives can be intrinsic (for the sheer enjoyment, the activity itself satisfies the need) and extrinsic (as a means to a goal, e.g. praise / trophies).

Likely incentives / objectives for sharing content I could imagine to fall into both the intrinsic and the extrinsic category. The following list is surely non-exhaustive, and of course not based on any empirical data-analysis:

  • To leave a mark / make an impact: the desire to make oneself heard, with the satisfaction being the sense of making a difference. I would argue 1, 2. 3 and 5 above all contribute to fulfilling this need.
  • Social needs: to interact and share with others, enjoying the act of communicating and sense of belonging. All of the categories of sites above will cater to this desire.
  • Creative need: there is an immense intrinsic satisfaction in being creative, in having the sense of creating something new and unique. 1) - 4) do address this, 5) does not.
  • Bragging rights: to see your name / nickname / video rated as highly popular, or listed on a popular sites homepage. On sites of the category 4) above, to show off one's popularity / connectedness might be the incentive to add and interact with as many contacts as possible.
  • Romantic / sexual needs: Certainly, sites from category 4) have this drive as a main motive.
  • Self-PR as expert for a given field: 1), 3) and 5) above

Surely, this list of motives is not exhaustive. But all of those motives are going to be present at some point as well with users who never or seldomly generate content. The potential for web 2.0 sites to fulfill those needs does not explain, why some people choose those sites to fulfill these needs and others choose different means. It does, however, serve as a starting point to nail down which needs different web 2.0 sites need to address and offer to satisfy, in order to attract those users who do tend to choose the internet as one way to fulfill these needs.

1 comment:

angie said...

Ever think of a career in market research?