Are You Someone’s User-Generated Content?

Are You Someone’s User-Generated Content?

Reader Comments (155)

  1. I often wonder if I’m making a mistake by NOT being involved with sites like MySpace, Twitter, and all the rest. Thanks for the reminder of blogging’s uniqueness.

  2. You hit it on the nail on it’s head when you spoke about using your blog as a

    * “vehicle to become known” as well as
    * using it to “build an asset that has independent value”.

    In building our own brands, we have to take ownership into account.

    We must consider who it is that really owns our work, will it be us…or the social networking profile of choice.

    For some MySpace, Twitter and all the rest may it’s merit…but they must also consider whether those vehicles will give them the results that they are looking for in the end.

    Thanks for the post.

  3. Well, I was going to leave a well written, clever and insightful comment, but I don’t want to be just user generated content for Copyblogger. 😉

  4. Brian:

    Good post & good points. The same can be said for those who use and for an extended period. They’re a great way to get started, but once you know you’re going to stick with it, host your own blog and build your own URL. Blogger is number 6 in Alexa rating from the donation of other people’s content.


    [This user generated comment is the property of]

  5. A few months ago, digg had a user party in San Francisco. There was a feel good appreciation of some of the top diggers who were there. These guys had 1,000 of front page stories, one or two of them had even produced fan videos.

    I could not believe the dedication involved. One of the fan videos even joked about digging instead of playing with his 3 year old daughter.

    Sad, and silly too. If they took they same effort of finding stories they like and writing a short summary with a link, they could be neatorama.

  6. Well, I was going to leave a well written, clever and insightful comment, but I don’t want to be just user generated content for Copyblogger. 😉

    Jon, don’t think for a second I wasn’t expecting that one. 🙂

  7. When are these sites going to start paying their influential users? Your point will remain dead-on until the user-generated content sites start compensating people for their “work.” Then it will be like the difference between using AdSense and selling your own advertising. Facebook isn’t worth $15 billion without its users, so when do we get a cut?

  8. I see Twitter and Facebook as extensions of my blog rather than replacements. At least for me anyway. In my cast, my blog has links to me on Facebook and on Twitter. Also my Facebook uses the Twitter application to keep my Facebook status updated with my Twitter status. My Facebook uses the RSS application to show my latest posts from my blog and an Podcast application to show the latest episode of my radio show/podcast.

    If Facebook becomes the place to learn about someone and what they are up to, then I am all set.

  9. I would not be where I am today without social networking. I started out on MySpace which build a massive audience for me (5,000 subscribers to my MySpace blog). From there I launched my own website and started to get freelance work… I now use myspace, facebook, twitter, and other social networking platforms as places to drive traffic to my blog and it has worked well.

    If I would have started blogging on blogger or even bought my domain I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t have built the numbers or the audience half as fast.

  10. Great insight here, Brian, and I agree completely. There is value in social networks, but it is secondary to the value that owning and controlling your own digital property (i.e.: a blog) brings with it.

  11. This is a great article, and I agree with you, as many others.
    I need to add that, with the emerging virtual worlds and the huge amount of data they carry, the need to “own” the thing you create and write is crucial for the freedom of people.
    We cross our fingers!

  12. damn solid point brian. it also deserves to be pointed out that twitter/facebook are mostly surface things, little thoughts that are usually forgotten. blog posts impact people more. SIGNIFICANTLY more.

  13. Great post. I think the glut of social networking sites can leave us spread too thin. Find what works best and stick with it. That’s what the Problogger reader who ceased blogging has shared. 9000 “friends” — who has time for that!

  14. While my blog is my launching pad, I do use twitter, FB, Viddler and Tubemogul to send stuff out and then post them to my blog.

    The blog is where things “live” though and where my content always ends up.

    I wouldn’t stop blogging though- that is foolish.

    There wouldn’t be a real home for my content to live and for people to gather-

    -just another social platform they can browse and leave when they get bored.

  15. The majority of the comments on ProBlogger were of the mind that social media and blogging compliment each other, and I think people’s experience bears that out.

    The greatest online social networking tool is still email and the guts to write one and send it to make connections with the right people. I spend most of my time commenting, emailing, instant messaging, and talking on the (Skype) phone. The bulk of the rest of my time is spent creating content. Very little is spent on social networks.

  16. Social media and UGC are great tools to capture attention, but not such great tools to build long-lasting value. I use Facebook and Twitter to capture attention, but they’re just tools to funnel that attention to my blog.

    The format of any blog tends to be ephemeral, but I can continue to offer the writing and ideas I’ve developed there in a variety of formats for many years. I think Kevin’s strategy is very smart–use social media well to build an audience, without confusing social media for the end product.

    At the end of the day, life is painfully short, and I’d rather spend my hours creating something that I think has innate value. Personally, I see more value in re-creating Gaudi’s Sagrado Familia out of toothpicks than I do in becoming a top digger, but everyone values different stuff.

  17. Thank you for the thoughtful article. I find myself sometimes a little “behind the times” when I survey the blogging landscape, but thanks to having recently discovered sites like yours, I’ve begun thinking of and revising my blogging strategy.

    I’m sure it’s old news, but to me it’s still pretty amazing to see how the world has changed in the last 20 years or so.

    Information at the tips of one’s fingertips, small but powerful multi-touch interfaced devices — it’s all becoming very Star Trek-y.

  18. I must have missed this one. Who in their right mind would ever think building a presence on the flavor of the day is a solid business building strategy?

    A year from now whatever social site someone spends all their time and resources on is more likely to be on the downturn (or simply gone) like Myspace than it is to be growing.

    Appreciate the post, but I can’t believe there are people out there who need to be reminded that you sign up for social sites to pull traffic back to a home base. You never ever work online without your own site period.

  19. ” My Facebook uses the RSS application to show my latest posts from my blog”

    Can you do this on MySpace, too? Can their blogs read feeds or do you need special code?

  20. You never ever work online without your own site period.

    Well, Jack.. you know I agree.

    But there’s been a lot of people saying this mess, and I think the tide has quickly turned back. I’m still puzzled as to why prominent bloggers with substantial digital assets themselves would promote such a position in favor of Silicon Valley start-up sites.

    You’d almost think they had some other motivation.

    Nahhh… couldn’t be. 🙂

  21. Social media and UGC are great tools to capture attention, but not such great tools to build long-lasting value. I use Facebook and Twitter to capture attention, but they’re just tools to funnel that attention to my blog.

    This sums up my feelings quite well, and also describes one of the primary ways I use Facebook and Twitter.

  22. I began blogging in Feb of 07 and I am confused by all of this “flitter” about social media.

    All of this frantic running around to get in on the latest software, venue, website, blog and etc. drives me bananas.

    On top of this I have to worry about using rich content and worry if SEO’s approve of my words. I just want to write and develop a readership and hone my craft.

    I realize I have a lot to learn, but why should I think about jumping ship when I still need to master the one I’m on.

    Brian, I appreciate this post and your encouragement to be independent. After all, we are all entreprenuers and known for our individualism.

  23. Great post. In time people will discover the truth of the social-networking miracle… that it is just one more in a long line of mlm schemes that truly on benefit first movers.

    Build your own brand. In time, if it is worthwhile, they will come.

  24. No matter where you go content is key. If your content sucks no one will come. It has to be unique and stand out not just because you want to come up in Google but because that’s the future. If you can’t appeal to human beings, you won’t survive if search is all ‘user driven’ or ‘user generated’. With the development of AI algorithms I see more people getting fun, relevant content and sticking to them. It’s almost like brand loyalty. When I have questions, I always come to copyblogger because you always have the answers. And after a while, readers will expect certain things from certain writers/bloggers. That’s the bond that’s going to give more rewards both sides. As you said Brian, it’s a win-win situation.

  25. I’m a homeowner, used to be a renter, so I love the analogy of being a renter when you focus on social media…….I own my blog, so that’s where my time is spent. I didn’t even start on blogger or wordpress, it’s just so inexpensive to get your own domain, why wouldn’t you?

    Re: social media and focusing on that instead of blogging….I don’t get that. I have heard a lot of talk about using social media to promote your own blog and bring traffic to it, however I’ve always heard that the main focus of your blog should be creating unique content.

    I wouldn’t ever think of dumping a blog to pursue building a social media profile, but if I could spend a little time here and there on the social media while spending the bulk of my time blogging, then that could be OK. I really don’t spend much time with social media right now, in fact of all of them, I pretty much just use Stumbleupon.

  26. It’s impossible to declare which social networking tool is most appropriate or most effective. It’s dependent upon a multitude of factors. For instance, my blog has enabled me to effectively reach a niche market in a timely and cost effective manner. But, is that to say it’s the most appropriate tool for everyone. Absolutely not.

  27. As usual, great job of saying what a lot of us think.

    Another angle, not explored, is that those who gave up blogging to hang out posting pictures of themselves doing dumb things with dumber people is that they were on the verge of blogger burnout due to having exhausted the supply of content in their brains.

    Little experience = few posts

    Lotsa experience = lotsa posts

  28. Brian,

    Thanks for this post – confirmation of my own long-time reluctance to blog on the social networking sites that I’m a member of – the idea always seemed to me to be a duplication of effort, since I never had any intention of giving up my own blog!

    Now I can continue to ignore the blogging aspects of them with a clear mind :-)!



  29. I agree with Sonia, I use LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. to bring readers to my blog. I never got into Twitter because my phone is just a phone! I don’t have the time or inclination to send and receive text messages all day.

    I can see a day not too far off when a disaffected college student will write a Firefox add-on that updates all of your social network sites right from your browser. Then you don’t actually have to spend the time to go there. And that will crash the advertising model. Gotta love open source!

  30. Own your shit. Always. And I don’t think you should ever use social networking if it is not part of a larger plan to trade a little bit of your ownership for a larger audience. But the goal should always remain the same…

  31. Being a web designer I couldn’t bring myself to use something like blogger. It had to be my own. My own design. My own brand. My own content. Great article. Thanks.

  32. It’s so true… why in the world would you give up blogging for facebook? You could do both, but there is so much more pride in having your own space where you are the king.

  33. Thank god you said what was on my mind and bugging the hell out of me. The thing about owning, really owning one’s own blog is that we get to create and be in ONE conversation, not the unfocused hysteria of doing all, being all, often at the expense of our livelihoods. The only conversation that matters is the one that expresses brand you in service of your customers/clients.

  34. Another thought on this post. Why do companies continue to use job posting sites in lieu of developing their own career sites? I understand the importance of expanding your audience by using sites like Monster and CareerBuilder, but many companies have really weak or even non-existent careers sites. It’s the same exact content issue in another arena.

  35. Great post, Brian. While I have both FB and Twitter accounts, I generally find the platforms too ADHD for my taste. While many may disagree, I believe that creating a brand is fundamentally different than creating a celebrity persona for yourself via one-liners, the number of zombie points you’ve amassed, or how many “followers” you have. People who read your blog regularly because it resonates with them are a greater long-term asset, not only physically, but on a deeper level as well.

  36. I can’t imagine giving up my blog and yet accept that maybe other people have a different vision and can get what it is they need solely from the social networks. I believe it is not a good idea to ignore the social networks and some of them like facebook have facilities for accepting blog posts similar to the way ezines do. On reading on the Ask Dave Taylor site I learned that we need to be careful with these RSS feeds and to only use an extract that has the post title and some freshly produced words in the excerpt and not the words of the post. The reason being is that we risk duplication of copy and the possibility of competing against our copy for Google ranking.

    I wonder how that relates to posting the same video on several sites. Would this create similar problems?

  37. I think you said it all especially the part about the blog being your piece of real estate so to speak. Sites like Facebook and MySpace are ‘community creativity sites’ the community determines where they go. A blog is defined by you and your interpretation of market needs and wants. I hope I made my point.

  38. I suppose the majority of people on facebook aren’t looking to make money from the web. As an Internet Marketer I believe you can and should try to leverage the traffic those sites get, but you should be spending most of your time on your own properties. You have to give a little to get back.

  39. Great article but I think it’s missing an important point. Eventually people may get tired of reading blogs that do not offer some type of social networking element. Yes blogs are great for finding content and for many people that is all they need but there are those that seek community. With the exception of Mashable blog don’t generally offer any networking.
    I completely agree that we should “own” our own property but it may be wise for some blogs to keep up with the changing web and offer some type of networking. Whether it be incorporating widgets from other communities or creating your own community within your blog. I have recently done this with one of my blogs using KickApps > Horse Approved
    Social networks are also a great way to increase traffic to your blog if you are intentional about it. I don’t mean leaving spammy comments either. People like to follow those that offer using info. If your goal is to always offer rich content whether it be on your blog or in a network than people will follow you.
    I am currently experimenting with social network marketing as well as attempting brand myself as the Queen of Social Network Marketing. (
    Anyway, great article but I just thought I would include some of my thoughts 😉

  40. I agree with you Brian, I would rather create my own content to enhance my online property than being someone else’s content but monavea has a valid point of blogs lacking a community, which is what is the USP of social networking sites. I agree with her about using social networking for marketing your brand.

    I am definitely with you Brian in saying that blogging is not dead..

    Vineet Nair

  41. Good point.
    I like to think of my blog as an advertisement for myself, a way to share with friends and maybe meet new people, and something that might someday be its own product.
    You defintely shouldn’t waste all your time on myspace and facebook, but I think a profile on those sites can sometimes help attract readers to your blog.

  42. A few months ago I decided it was time to enter the online conversation and unwisely jumped into the whole shebang all at once. Trying to figure it out as I go along, not only do I find myself spread too thinly but can honestly say that the Facebook experience is feeling a bit like a big silly game. Sure it is a colorful way to share emails with my true friends but there is very little meaningful interaction with most of the people on my friend list. Don’t get me wrong, I am for goofing off just as much as the next guy but when you only have so many hours in a day for efforts that are actually going to get you somewhere the little trivia competitions and digital beers don’t quite cut it. Give me a real beer anytime.

  43. Facebook is nothing more then a fancy email platform.

    Until Marketers are capable of categorizing the different reach mechanisms available to them online, they will struggle to utilize ANY individual mechanism in a meaningful way… Neverlone use them coherently as part of a larger strategy.

    The most amusing part of it all is the gross generalities I see when Marketers discuss these reach tools – whether they be personal blogs, or a myspace page.

    There is no “Web 2.0” – all these social media are vastly different. Facebook has nothing but a “user base” in common with Wikipedia. But the hypers of the “social web” would have anyone willing to listen believe these things all fit into a larger, extremely important scheme. And that newbies need to do them all… NOW!

    Truth is, it starts, and ends, with the market. If you have a reach strategy which generates leads for less money then they can be monetized for – and a decent offer, then you’ll make money.

    Everything else is bullshit. Simple as that.

  44. I think it really just depends on what you’re interested in doing.

    If you’re trying to sell something, like shoes, then it makes sense to use social networking and maybe blogging too. But if you’re selling a book blogging is probably better. If you’re not selling anything and instead you’re trying to sell yourself to potential employers or publishers, a blog is a good idea. If you just want to make money, well there are a ton of ways to do that and you just have to do what’s good for you. If you’re trying to get someone elected or change public opinion about something, you’ve GOT to use both methods: blogging and social networking. If you’re just out there to have fun, do what you want, both will do that.

    Basically, it’s a false dichotomy. Obviously, you can do both, either, or none if you want. It’s a big, wide web full of possibilities.

  45. i’ve generated visual content for 7 years since my daughter was born. For me it’s about the body of work and how it develops over time. (

    The biggest *behavior* change in my authoring has been how I may carefully syndicate parts of that work within my social network in a targeted way, as all trackbacks come back to that *body of work*

    I agree with the comment above. “Valuable content on a site you own is a classic win-win for readers and the site owner…” — To me, this is legacy building, and why we make, create.

  46. I equate my blog to a “magnet.”

    It attracts potential clients, new JV partners, advertisers looking to gain traffic for their business…and a little cash along the way.

    Without it, I would not have the business I do today.

    Joseph Ratliff
    Author of The Profitable Business Edge 2

  47. Very good read! I (as mentioned above) like to use social media sites as an extension of my blog and to meet new like-minded people. And, yes, blogs also create user generated content … and I’ve mentioned on my blog that quite often the comments and information provided by the comments left are as good or better than my post – so user generated content is valuable too. *SmiLes* Suzanne

  48. I agree, and have long advised my clients against putting their brand in the hands of a third party that they do not control. Every business owner, regardless of what they offer, should have their own branded blog as the central focus of their online marketing efforts. FaceBook, Twitter and all the rest are the icing, not the cake. Thanks for the thoughtful points.

  49. While I agree with most everything you’ve said, do I still own my content, if I’m using free blogging sites like Blogger, or I’m almost at the point where I’m going to do the get my own site thing, as I can afford to do that. But that’s all I can afford. Would be interesting to hear other thoughts on this…. That is, if they aren’t out there already 🙂

  50. “In other words, every company is a media company.”

    Yep, even the local pizza shop, hair salon, plumber, and auto repair shop.

    With all the social media “noise”… and hey, who doesn’t like FREE- as in a free Facebook Fan Page or Twitter account… lots of local small businesses are next to fall in line for the “Facebook Slap”.

    Yet, with a little effort and creativity funneled into a blog, the local pizza joint or hair salon can dominate the conversation, drive website visits, get the phone ringing, and attract more customers.

    No, you no longer make pizza, cut hair, unclog toilets, or fix cars…

    You’re in the Marketing Business. You’re a Media Company.

  51. Exactly. My blog is my hub of information, no one else is going to own what is rightfully mine. I use social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like to drive traffic back to my home(blog) which is just as it should be. 🙂

  52. I think the Web has given individuals the power to be as effective as corporations. In many ways, it is leveling the playing field. OTOH, because of the enormity of the Internet, the little guy can still get drown by lack of attention. The big companies ultimately gain more exposure and mindshare.

  53. On the privacy thing, try asking Facebook to send you your entire Facebook history log including people who have tagged you, linked/shared your photos and wall posts, etc. Privacy laws in various countries are considering this to be required for Facebook to provide to their users.

  54. Valuable content on a site you own is a classic win-win for readers and the site owner. – I have to write down this sentence to remember my lesson today.

  55. While I need to get better at using social media to promote my blog, I would never choose it as my platform. Facebook feels like that person you suspect would read your diary behind your back or go through your closets when you’re not at home. I just wouldn’t want to be in business with someone I didn’t fully trust.

  56. Such a timely re-post, with the announcement of paid promotions. Many of the page owners I know didn’t even realize that their posts didn’t show up in fans’ feeds but about 15 – 20% of the time. Imagine shutting down your blog, putting all your effort into the facebook platform, learning you really aren’t even reaching a significant portion of your audience, and then you have to pay to reach more of that audience YOU built? Wow. Talk about a *DOH* moment.

    I honestly have no problem with facebook ads, Twitter promoted tweets, Pinterest’s affiliate links, etc. These companies have to make money in some way – anyone who says otherwise is jaded, naive or doesn’t pay their own bills. Forcing content providers to pay to reach an audience they built is crossing the line though.

    It all goes back to ownership of your content, safe and secure on your own domain. Everything else is introduction, distribution and promotion.

  57. Thank you for reinforcing my point that any entrepreneur or company needs to have a blog. Blogging is far from dead. In fact, I contend that it is more important than ever. As you point out, don’t become a content creator for a third-party and how can you possibly break through the noise of 900 million+ members on Facebook? Your blog is your home base from which you distribute YOUR content to subscribers and social media networks. But it is your content. You own it. It is your brand. Love this post and it’s as timely as ever.

  58. Great post, and very timely, seeing how fragile the Facebook world can seem when it comes to long-term value. And I agree totally with other comments (especially from Sonia Simone, way back) who said Social media (etc) are great tools to capture attention, but not such great tools to build long-lasting value. Facebook, Twitter, etc are great for driving people to your Blog, where you can develop a relationship and built relevant and beneficial subscriber offers. (It’s ‘horses for courses’). At our Writer’s Website, ‘Write2Profit’ we’re developing a new Blog at present, with the aim of giving our subscribers useful Information, the latest Writing News, and beneficial Offers which will add value to their writing businesses, and to our ongoing relationship. Something Facebook could never do.
    Andy Gage.

  59. Thanks for publishing this ‘Copyblogger Classic’ post.

    Personally, I’d rather have a blog because I could turn it into an eBook, book, screenplay, video series, etc. I believe a blog will be more valuable than social media in the long run. Social media is a great online marketing tool, but we don’t know the long-term effects of social media. For example, Facebook’s stock is $27.57; it started at $38. There have been some rumblings that Facebook will eventually fade away. Who knows…? At least with a blog, you can build and grow it, and develop relationships with readers. Use social media as a complement to your blog.

  60. It’s funny to think this was written 5 years ago and still rings so true today, mate – just goes to show the fallacy in the “blogging is dead” meme.

    This statement stands out the most for me:

    “I now have a brand on someone else’s property….” – never a truer word spoken. And that someone else can do what they want with your brand, including selling your information to sites like Klout and making money off you, while you might be turned down for a job because of the “score” allocated to you by the company who now owns your brand.

    Gotta love THAT logic! 😉

    Hope you’re having a great weekend!

  61. Thank you for this Brian.

    Apart from its value for signposting back to a central website, social media seems to have become one huge cesspool of me-diocre links, likes and quotes, churning through the web like the stale air continuously recycled by the air-conditioners on a long distance plane trip.

    Here’s to top quality blog content that contributes fresh ideas, debate and discussion!

    Best to you,

    Robin Dickinson
    Cheeky toonist and hard-nut business facilitator 😉

  62. Hi Brian, great article!
    Creativity and depth – these certainly make blogging more meaningful, in my humble opinion. Sensible blog discussions create deeper relationships because interactions arise not just through superficial posts, but due to a reader’s need to validate or negate a blog article. Blogging also provides the perfect avenue to show and sharpen an author’s creativity in reaching out to intended “audiences”. Owning your site is a definite advantage, of course. This elevates blogging a notch higher than other social media. It would be a waste if one rejects it for another. It’s like a home you’ll always wanna go back to.

  63. We all know what its like to work hard for something but not reap any of the rewards. This is obviously the way most bloggers seem to feel these days when their work is used to generate traffic for other websites. On the other hand we are all spending time blogging so that we can spread our ideas and thoughts to a bigger and bigger audience. This is why I personally don’t mind if a proper website is using my content to obtain more traffic. Yes they are benefiting from my hard work but so am I by spreading my work which I am sure i will eventually benefit from. I mean who would mind it if Time magazine published your blog! i like to think that through the internet is a giant mess full of crap, the cream always rises to the top and in the process creates a journalistic meritocracy.

  64. Just this morning I was explaining this very point to a client who just wanted to start a blog. It is so pretty clear if you have been in the game for a while that facebook and other social networking sites just swallow your content. I don’t personally want my content to be seen by a fraction of the world locked up within the blue walls of facebook. I want my content to be seen by as many humans searching for it online…and this can only be achieved on my digital platform!

    Thanks Brian for the timely reminder!

  65. Many people publish what they do on the web without knowing what other people can do with that information, I loved the article congrats!

  66. That last quote on Darren Rowse’s anecdote really hit home.

    Better to spend hours creating meaningful, life changing content on your own website than doing that on someone else’s turf.

    The danger is they can easily shut down your account and take all that away from you in an instant.

    Great post. Thanks!

  67. A really insightful post (as are many of the others on here). The biggest problem I find as a web edtior is that I need to write good material for my clients in order to enable me to fund the time to run my own web properties. Then I watch as the material I’ve written for others becomes ranked higher than my own! I expect this is something that many other freelancers can relate to!

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