User Generated Content that just keeps getting better

Do you remember that Coca-Cola/Mentos video that was such a hit on YouTube several years ago? A couple of nutty performance artists captured themselves making dozens of geysers by plunging Mentos into big bottles of Diet Coke. Something a friend said to me the other night made me remember it. ‘Advertising is a kind of failure,’ he burbled over (maybe?) his sixth pint. Admittedly, he was being argumentative, but it got me thinking. The old idea that you don’t need to advertise if you’ve got an awesome product, or service, therefore leaving it all to your customers, gets a different slant in today’s world where User Generated Content and Social Networks are revolutionising the media ecosystem.
Now, it seems, your customers can make pretty influential decisions about how they choose to shout about your product. In the early days, it was pretty much just review sites, but now that blogs have made publishers of us all, and YouTube has given every artist the chance to perform to the world, consumers can manipulate the way we perceive brands all by themselves, like those inventive performance artists did. At the outset, Coca-Cola were antsy. They felt the video wasn’t in line with their brand personality. Eventually, when they realised how many sales the whole thing was generating, (probably by kids who wanted to pop their own mentos down a bottle and see the spray go) they got behind it.
I’ve come across an interesting site:(http://www.udemy.com/). It sounds like something you might find in a Japanese restaurant, but it’s actually a pretty cool platform, which has expanded the world of education by enabling anyone to teach and learn online. It used to be that if you wanted to learn about something from someone with a serious qualification you needed to pull out some decent A Level results to get you anywhere. Udemy has taken professors out of their institutions, giving anyone access to them and…get this…for free.
My opinion? Well, anyone can write a blog or make a movie and share it with an online community. Sometimes, like those geyser guys, they might find themselves communicating their work with a far bigger audience. But now people can share their knowhow. This is beyond wacky consumer advertising or the whole, ‘Look at me! Look at me!’ parades we get continually on the web. This is about proper knowledge. Whether there are professors out there – or simply people with wisdom they want to pass on – they can set up their own online course so that anyone who wants to can learn. It’s a great form of democratisation. This is user generated content at its finest.

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