McKinsey recently came out with a report, How companies can make the most of user-generated content. It included the results of a study of 573 users of four leading online video-sharing sites in Germany and they also examined the blogs of one of the sites. They did this to learn more about what motivates people to participate in collaborative technologies. They found that users cited a variety of reasons for posting content online— “chief among them, a hunger for fame, the urge to have fun, and a desire to share experiences with friends. While some users were open to the idea of being compensated for their contributions, that wasn’t a primary driver: the people we studied weren’t paid for their contributions.”
McKinsey also found that a few users posted the most popular content. “Depending on the site, just 3 to 6 percent of the membership added 75 percent of the videos available for download, and videos from just 2 percent of the member base accounted for more than half of all videos viewed. These figures resemble those reported in studies of other kinds of participatory media, including wikis, bulletin boards, and photo-sharing sites, where 5 to 10 percent of the users contribute half to all of the content.”
These results are not surprising but more data is always nice. This is a classic issue from knowledge management. In the past I have experienced that cultural issues such as senior management involvement, fostering a culture of sharing, drive for recognition in individuals, and a reward for this recognition by the community are much more effective from promoting contributions than monetary rewards.
McKinsey gave some good examples of things to do to get the right people contributing. They said that in one cable company they studied, managers “examined its internal e-mail system to identify key staffers with wide social networks within it. They then encouraged these employees to post suggestions about improving the company’s processes. Identifying thought leaders and promoting their participation boosted the number of contributions and improved the quality of the postings.” This is a good idea to proactively find the right people. We did this on many knowledge management engagements. There are other suggestions and they point to lessons from YouTube. I posted my own lessons from YouTube, looking more at how to make your site more interactive.