Topic 4 – Do you think it is ethical for organizations to incorporate user generated content?


(Source: Image by me, information from link)

Before discussing the ethical implications which social media has on an organization, let us first discuss what exactly is ethics? The definition of ethics is hard to pin down and often lingers in the grey area. Jay Shepherd claims that it’s as simple as knowing the right thing to do, then doing the wrong thing. These days, media has a huge influence on boosting a business by increasing inbound traffic to websites and improving brand loyalty. However there are bound to have occasions where by ethical lapses occur:


(Source: Image by me, information from link)

A case I would like to highlight is the User Generated Content (UGC) also known as “WFF”– Working for Free. Below is a short clip showing a scenario on how “WFF” comes in play.

(Source: Clip by me using PowToon, information from link)

David Vinjamuri, a former brand manager, consider UGC as a “deadly sin of social media”. Some organizations exploit from their consumers who are often professionals in the field of art and design. The participants spend time creating ads or designs and are not paid what they rightfully deserve. These organizations continue to reap the benefits of not having to spend any money, gain social value, and at the same time add on to the value of profitable growth.

(Source: FastFoodGeek)

Ironically, there are huge brands out there which have proven the perks of adopting UGC. Taking for example Lay’s – a premier potato chips company, ran a UGC campaign ‘Do Us a Flavor’ to curate new, unique chip flavors. Consumers can vote on Facebook or Twitter among the top 3 finalist’s chips flavor. The winning flavor will be put for sale in the long run while the contestant stands a chance to be featured and receive a cash prize. You may find out more about it here. This campaign allowed Lay’s to leverage the relationship with their customers and build trust in their brand as consumer-made content often adds credibility.

A recent finding has shown that 65% of millennials find that UGC is a more truthful and reliable source of information online, and 86% feel that UGC is generally a good indicator of the quality of a brand, service, or products (Bazaarevoice, 2012). As a marketer and a consumer, I personally feel that the perks of adopting UGC overshadow the ethical issues mentioned above. Yes there are companies which abuse the system and eventually cause potential ethical issues. However if these platforms are properly managed, it would only add value by building brand image, lessens the cost in marketing strategy, engage with customers and several other benefits rather than to perceive it ethically.

(417 words)


Adelaine Hansson (2016). The Downsides of User-Generated Content. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Nov 2016]

Aimee Millwood (2016). 8 Inspiring User Generated Content Examples Done Right. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Nov 2016]

David Vinjamuri (2011). Ethics and the 5 Deadly Sins of Social Media [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Nov 2016]

Greenwald, G. (2014). Why privacy matters [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Nov 2016]

Ronald Dod (2016). How User-Generated Content Can Benefit Your Online Business. [online] Small Business Trends. Available at: [Accessed 11 Nov 2016]

Sharlyn Lauby (2012). Ethics and Social Media: Where Should You Draw The Line? [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Nov 2016]




18 thoughts on “Topic 4 – Do you think it is ethical for organizations to incorporate user generated content?

  1. Hi Klarissa! I really enjoyed the images you created yourself. It adds value and emphasizes the facts that you have made pertaining to the topic. User Generated Content is increasingly becoming an issue especially with the rise of popularity of social media. Using Lay’s as an example of how UGC works is a very good idea as well. It clearly shows how UGC works and shows how UGC is used positively. Personally, I have friends who enjoy participating in such competitions as it allows them to creatively express themselves.

    I also concur with you that UGC can be used unethically by companies. Companies do exploit their consumers by not giving credit when due, even when they have made profit off it.I think that such cases are becoming more rampant An example of unethical use of UGC would be the recent Zara case in which they copied the work of Tuesday Bassen without giving any credit.

    Do you know of any other famous cases involving unethical use of UGC?

    Thanks Klarissa! SENSATIONAL WORK.


    1. Hey Sean! Thanks for taking time in reading and commenting on my post.
      Allow me to give you an example of unethical use of UGC in the music industry. I’m sure you know what Spotify is? Spotify provides digital music service that allows one to access millions of songs. They were slapped with a copyright lawsuit by Melissa Ferrick, a Massachusetts-based artist. She claims that Spotify failed to notify her and obtain a license when it copied her compositions and made them available on its streaming music service. This is just another recent incident, there are countless of other examples of UGC being used unethically since it is so commonly used these days. Hope my input helps, cheers! 🙂


  2. Hello Klarissa!

    I adore the images an video you made yourself! The video helps show clearly how UGC (User Generated Content) is demonstrated in many companies. Thanks for bringing up this issue!

    This is an interesting topic, I went to search up more on UGC! To my surprise, it helped me gained more insights on such marketing techniques. Other than creative contests organised by companies, there are other various types of UGC like reviews on TripAdvisor and even User Generated Product!
    UGC not only helps a company get interesting and eye-opening ideas, it also allow companies to get reviews on their product! For example, ” My Starbucks ideas” allow Starbucks lover to voice out their opinions and improvement that Starbucks can make! Some of the ideas are really carried out, value adding to Starbucks and building trust to its customer!

    However, I feel that UGC may bring about unethical issues as well and should not be overlooked. For instance, unrevealed endorsement! Wal-Mart supported two bloggers on a road trip in USA and writing positive reviews for them. It was then found out that Wal-Mart was indirectly paying them to do so.

    At such, do you think UGC is the wave of the future and a possibility for companies?

    Great Work Klarissa, i enjoyed reading your blog 🙂


    1. Hey Yangting! Thanks for taking time in reading and commenting on my post.
      Looks like you did a very thorough research on UGC haha 🙂 Yes, I do feel that this trend will prevail. Huge brands like Lay’s and the example which you quoted – Starbucks, have proven successful. If a company can work smart, and perhaps not so hard, yet at the same time set up engaging elements which consumers will gladly generate content, why not right? Another winning factor is definitely to save costs. If a company can find a way out in saving costs and still get their creatives done professionally, I am sure more companies will hop on the bandwagon especially when the UGC trend is dominating online marketing. Those are just my views! Feel free to share yours too 🙂


  3. Hey Klarissa!

    Great work there with the video to illustrate how UGC is used by companies to make people “work for free” for them. I’ve known of such contest and upon further research, ( realized that many big brands actually used this to connect with their customers, help build credibility and generate new business.

    UGC allows students and freelancers to showcase their talents and would greatly boost their portfolio if they managed to win anything. I feel that UGC campaigns is only ethically wrong if companies exploit their participant’s work without acknowledgement and permission. If not, UGC campaigns can actually benefit both the companies and participants. Companies need to know when to get the rights to UGC and how to ensure the protection of their participants. With that, what do you think are some of the ways or techniques companies can use for building a safer user generated content campaigns? Here’s a good read which I’ve found :


    1. Hey Charlee! Thanks for taking time in reading and commenting on my post, and sharing these insightful articles!

      I’m glad you learnt a thing or two about UGC. I have to agree with you that UGC campaigns can go ethically wrong if companies do not seek permission or acknowledgment from content creators. This could even result in a lawsuit! Pertaining to your question, I feel that the most effective way would be for companies to train their employees on the proper procedures to obtain legal rights for the creatives. Employees ought to be aware of all the legal ramifications to avoid taking any risks. One of the procedure could include having contestants sign an affidavit authorizing your brand to use the winning materials post-contest. Hope my input helps! 🙂


  4. Hello Klarissa!

    I love your topic of UGC as it is very unique and I feel it is a very underrated topic that people touch on. Your powtoon was exceptionally well done as it is straight-forward yet clear on how UGC works. Now i have a better understanding of it thanks to you! UGC also reminds me of Coca Cola’s Share a coke campaign where consumers produced Coke bottles with customers’ names on the labels!

    I agree with your portion on their perks. However, I have to say that is does have some downsides and unethical parts to it as well. For me, personally I feel that it can be unethical because it leverages the general public as a whole and not only in the arts and design field to create something they deemed is “theirs” when rightfully, the credit goes to others.

    Do you think if UGC is being used too often, it will backfire on companies by having little or no response from the public because people find it boring the same marketing strategy is used to attract and engage with them? Would love to hear your thoughts on them!

    With regards,


    1. Hey Beatrice! Thanks for taking time in reading and commenting on my post.
      I personally do not feel that UGC will backfire on companies if it is being overused. Even though the same marketing strategy is used, a different content is being introduced each time. There will definitely be a campaign that suits one’s liking. Taking for example Belkin – an American manufacturer of consumer electronics, tied up with Lego to create a customisable phone case. Belkin then encouraged their customers to showoff their creativity and tag their Instagram photos with #LEGOxBelkin.
      Companies constantly modify their campaigns to keep up with their audiences’ needs and interests. People our age group are more geared towards setting trends hence this constant change keeps things fresh. Hope my input helps! 🙂


  5. Hi, Klarissa! Thank you for the great post, I enjoyed reading it. This User Generated Content (UGC) issue that you’ve written about is really interesting. I agree with how UGC allows firms to gain profits from consumers without paying them.

    In Curalate (2015)’s survey, it was discovered that four of five Instagram users were willing to provide brands permission to share their photos. This is a very commendable move as brands now possess users’ consent in using their pictures. However, there was an interesting instance in 2015 in which one user posted a picture with a Crocs hashtag on its caption. Crocs proceeded to repost the particular picture to promote brand, yet they only asked for the user’s consent after the repost was up. What do you think of other firms who don’t ask for users’ consent before using their photos to promote the brand? Is it ethical?



    1. Hey Maureen! Thanks for taking time in reading and commenting on my post 🙂

      Thanks for sharing this particular case on Crocs. This is definitely unacceptable in my opinion, it no longer makes a difference to ask for the content creator’s consent once the trust is breached. Using simpler terms to explain, if someone takes what belongs to you without permission and only asks after taking it, would you think it is right? Same goes for this situation. Every firm should practise the proper procedures on obtaining legal rights to their customer’s contents. Basing on this article, Crocs does have the policy to get permission before using the photos which consumers tag them in. Ms Way’s case was probably just a one-off incident. Even so, a one-off incident can take months or perhaps even years to establish trust again. The worst case scenario would cause the firm to lose this customer, the customer spreads this incident through social media and eventually tarnish its reputation. Therefore a code of practise should be issued to ensure that all employees involved in the promoting of a product comply with the standards to avoid potential ethical issues.


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