As an average internet user, have you ever heard about UGC or user-generated content? Don’t worry, especially because you are probably using or creating it all the time.
Why is user-generated content so important in today’s media and its translation?
First of all, it can largely give you the picture of the quality of the searched item or subject. For example, if an internet user is willing to buy a certain product or a service, that person is going to commit himself or herself to a thorough examination of other people’s content on the subject they are interested in. This is what most people do before they make a decision to give their trust a product or the company which is producing or distributing it or even both. For example, you are very eager to purchase a new phone in the recent future. What are you going to do? First, you are going to decide what characteristics the phone should have in order to meet your needs.
Then, you are going to pick a brand and choose between brand series and models. Now that you are hesitating which model to choose among the top three, according to your filters, the next step is to read reviews and examine lots of related content, and bring the final decision. However, important questions begin to arise in your mind like: Is this completely reliable? How can I be sure if the comments and ratings have not been somehow influenced?
Maybe some comment-leavers are not objective and ethical enough? How can I translate the reviews and be sure the machine translation is accurate since I do not speak the language in which the comments are written? Or, what if the native users of the product or the service I am making an inquiry about are satisfied with and I might not be? These and many more questions can be really challenging or a sort of a nightmare for a potential customer, especially if the person is very detail driven and meticulous in everything.
User-generated content (UGC) or user-created content (UCC) is any form of content created and shared by users online through websites and social media. Usually, the content is in the form of text, but images, videos and audio are not rare either. In other words, user-generated content is a product created by consumers to disseminate information about a certain product, the company held responsible for its production or distribution, or an event.
Luckily, we live in the times of better technology tools and we can create, share and actively participate in generating content online. Such things were unimaginable in the earlier times, like 1970s or 1980s. All media contents were in the hands of newspaper editors, publishers or news shows, so they depended on the few people’s perspective on the certain subject.
Today people all over the world are enabled to easily and quickly access the user-generated content on any topic and in any language. Such examples of UGC are present everywhere: on Youtube videos, Reddit posts, blog posts, user reviews, social media posts and others.
Although the content is mostly expressed in English, there might be certain contents requiring translation which can open doors to more insights shared globally and by the people who can have more observant eye or indicate some valuable points which you, as a future client, would miss and even regret later.
The significance of UGC has been seen on online purchasing decisions since a huge number of consumers has been relying on the reviews and other forms of user-generated content. According to some surveys, almost 80% of people declared that UGC highly influenced their decisions in terms of purchase. It is trustworthy due to its reliability and authenticity. Consumers trust the user-generated content because it comes from the customers themselves who share their views on the advantages and disadvantages of the product they have already purchased and it is a much better recommendation, in most cases, than the company’s selling technique. A potential buyer or service user will believe the other consumers’ points rather than the company’s which is trying to present itself in the best light anyway. Basically, a UGC creator is a former UGC browser, sharing personal experience now.
As affordable or easily accessible as the content can be, several major translation challenges that might be encountered with:
– Large Volumes of UGC
The most obvious challenge in this sphere is the amount of user-generated content requiring translation. Brands that host their own user reviews for multiple products or offerings might find it most difficult due to the huge amount of data left on their websites or platforms, which can be only increasing with the time.
– A Continuous Stream of Content
Building on the previous translation challenge, the stream of UGC should be continual and unceasing. Theoretically, a website or a platform should always be collecting more and more reviews, due to the users’ incessant involvement in uploading their content. Practically, this massive data collection must be reorganized or even controlled in a certain way.
1. Audience Preference
Audience preference may play an important role in the country or region brand targeting. While most people, from different countries around the world, will not mind reading reviews in English, on the other hand, there are nations like French, who not only prefer their native language sources but also avoid or even distrusts information shared in English. To target this market, a brand owner or developer is recommended to deliver user-generated content in the native language and preferably from native customers.
2. Short Life Span
Users want to read the most recent content and base their purchasing decisions on the most fresh and up-to-date uploaded content. For this matter, there is no need for large number of old reviews and comments.
3. Maintaining Authenticity
The biggest strength point of user-generated content is its authenticity reflected in the testimony of other, former or present users. It is like you are hearing customers’ personal experiences and impressions as if they were your family members, friends or neighbors. No intermediaries between you except that online space. So, this is the reason why keeping UGC’s authenticity and the translation are immensely important.
Cost vs Quality
The employment of professional translators would definitely rise the quality level of translations of UGC, but will such a high volume of professionally translated content affect the content’s accessibility and easy approach? To avoid increase in costs, that kind of translation would be left out or just relied on to some extent. For the purpose of at least some understanding among different nations worldwide, automatically generated translation in English should be provided, which the users can later covert into their own language within the translation machines available in their native languages. However, keeping the equilibrium between professional translation costs and the quality level based on translation machines should be carefully approached in order to make the right decision about which of the two extremes should be more prone to.
Various strategies and techniques can be applied to different sorts of content. The most frequently used is the machine translation for textual contents, which cannot always provide users with the correct or unambiguous meaning, but can obtain at least the blueprint of the general idea.
The three main best translation practices for user-generated content are to be presented:
To maintain the level of authenticity, the optimal solution for companies should be obtaining a native experience of the content. This can be achieved by introducing machine translation option to translate all user generated content. On the other hand, a disclaimer inclusion would be a high recommendation. It should be stating that the translated content has been done by a machine and might not be completely and always matching the original language content. Websites like Booking.com is a typical example of this strategy application.
Another strategy in authenticity maintenance is to opt-in to translation. This possibility is slightly opposite from the previous strategy. Generated translation content aside, the other option to provide users with the understandable UGC in its native language, is to offer the ability to translate that content on the fly with MT. TripAdvisor website is a representative of this strategy. In this way, viewers are given an “opt-in” situation where they see the translation if they want, along with the original content.
A hybrid approach of professionally translating high value content, like the brand information or the top ten reviews, and machine translation can be welcome. With high value content trusted to professional translators and machine translating the rest of the content, the user-generated content can be authentic and therefore reliable and even more popular way of making purchasing decisions, taking care of both quality and the costs.