When Is User-Generated Content Not Useful?

To judge from Time Warner Cable’s director of digital communication Jeff Simmermon, the answer to the question above is “often.”

Simmermon was one of the speakers scheduled to take the stage today at Ketchum’s daylong “Respect the Internet” event, which is being livestreamed here as well. After a few audio glitches during the opener, the discussion “Brands as Creators and Innovators” began, with a chunk of the discussion focused on the uses of consumer feedback.

The other panel speaker, Erik Martin, a GM at Reddit, (someone from BoingBoing was also slated for the panel, but he wasn’t on stage) talked up the importance of listening and reading what people have to say about your company and brand online. In his opinion, a lot of marketers and brands aren’t taking full advantage of what’s online.

“I see a lot of conversations that end just as it’s getting interesting,” he said.

Simmerson, while not dismissing the importance of being “immersed” in what’s online, was much more critical of the value of a lot of UGC.

“I can’t wait for the fetish for user-generated content to begin to fade,” he said.

As the conversation continued, Martin talked about consumer interest in “seeing how the sausage is made” at their favorite companies and brands, and how involving consumers in the “marketing and product development is a good thing.”

On the other hand, Simmermon brought up the consumer desire for a more a la carte menu for their cable service packages (yes please; and better customer service would be nice) and the obstacles posed by revenue numbers. In that case asking customers for feedback and then not being able to deliver on anything the customer says is a negative. Instead, he said questions need to be asked and framed in order “to manage expectations.”

So readers, what are your thoughts on this topic? At what point is user-generated content not useful? The comments section is open, and you can let us know what you think on Twitter and Facebook. (We would find your user-generated content very useful.)