Early Adopters Are Lining Up...
Interestingly enough, the market for these types of services is so new that customers who want to get started are more concerned about setup and presentation than what's happening on the back end, where they tend to trust the vendor to deliver the goods. "The market is early enough that when customers come to us, they have blog and wiki requirements or they want to get into social media or user-generated content. I don't think the market is mature enough yet that they will be coming to us with concerns about delivery." He says it isn't until companies get a bit more educated about what these communities can do, and the amount of traffic they are capable of generating, that these discussions arise.
Gordon says that Limelight, which handles the network for YouTube and MySpace, has gotten calls from vertical companies expressing interest, but he says these are for the most part early adopters, what he calls the "first wave." He expects more companies to gain interest over time, as user-generated content becomes standard fare on enterprise websites. "I think within a couple of years most people in corporate America will be looking for ways to leverage not just user-generated content but the whole internet generation's approach: The always-connected, broadband, media-focused, interactive, my-voice-counts generation. These users are intensely focused on the web, and corporate America will want to meet them there in addition to the places they meet them offline," Gordon says.
As a matter of fact, some companies are doing it right now. For instance, Akamai has been working with Anheuser-Busch to build its user community called Bud.TV. Jennifer Donovan, a spokesperson for Akamai says this approach to selling beer might seem unusual, but Anheuser-Busch wanted to try a new approach to connect to its target market. A Bud drinker, says Donovan, "wouldn't necessarily go to anheuser-busch.com as a destination site, so they are making Bud.TV a destination site with user-generated content and special videos and clips. You can't go online and buy a six-pack, but they are building something to interact with their consumers."
As user-generated sites like YouTube and MySpace gain popularity, it's only a matter of time before mainstream corporate America takes note as it continually searches for new ways to connect with its core constituencies. As you explore ways to add user-generated content to your site, keep in mind the impact it could have on content delivery, then find yourself a vendor to help you deal with it. Don't just concentrate on the interface, but ask questions about performance and how to deliver. As Gordon says, in this internet-driven, gotta-be-right-now world, if users have to wait for the content, chances are you've lost them.