Researchers from Rutgers University and New York University published a new paper in the Journal of Marketing that investigates the occurrence of user-generated content during experiences.
The study published in the Journal of Marketing, is titled “Generating Content Increases Enjoyment by Immersing Consumers and Accelerating Perceived Time” and is authored by Gabriela Tonietto and Alixandra Barasch.
“Enjoy the moment. Put down your phone.” The press is filled with headlines telling consumers that to genuinely enjoy their experiences, the first step would be to ditch their phones. Nevertheless this information often appears to fall on deaf ears. Major events routinely match huge surges in social networking posts as millions converse during adventures such as the Super Bowl and World Cup. This presents something of a conundrum. People clearly generate large amounts of content — remarking on what they are currently doing, hearing, and seeing–as experiences unfold, but is that this behavior helpful or harmful?
The study team systematically examined the effect of producing content on people’s feelings of immersion in their own experiences and found this common behavior can actually improve experiences. Across a collection of studies, results imply that when folks produce content about unfolding experiences they enjoy the experience more, because creating comments increases participation and also makes time feel like it is “flying.” Tonietto explains that, “In contrast to popular press advice, this research uncovers an important benefit of technology’s role in our daily lives … by generating content relevant to ongoing experiences, people can use technology in a way that complements, rather than interferes with, their experiences.”
The researchers examined the potential benefits of creating content across many different experiences such as the Super Bowl halftime show, holiday celebrations, a dancing performance, virtual safaris and bus excursions, and a horror film. During these encounters, which differed in their pleasantness and duration (from a couple of minutes to multiple hours) they consistently found that producing content led individuals to feel immersed in their encounters and to feel as though time had been passing more quickly. Interestingly, this happened whether people tended to say negative or positive things about the encounter. Additionally, generating content improved people’s pleasure of positive encounters, though this impact did not occur for negative encounters.
Importantly, just because a consumer is on her phone does not mean that she’s distracted or unable to become absorbed in her experience. Barasch says “We found that when people choose to generate content, they tend to do so in a constructive way. On average, people create content that is directly relevant to their current experience, with positive effects on their evaluations of the experience. However, when people use their technology to generate irrelevant content, this behavior is no longer beneficial. That is, only when people communicate about the unfolding experience itself does content creation increase immersion and enjoyment.”
Interestingly, marketers frequently encourage consumers to communicate about their events and experiences. For example, businesses can utilize branded hashtags, offer discounts and rewards connected to posting on social networking, or use sharing platforms customized for individual events. The study tested two potential strategies for firms to encourage content production: 1) an incentive (i.e., reward) for generating content; and 2) a standard nudge, where customers are knowledgeable about how common this behavior is one of other consumers. As anticipated, both strategies effectively improved content creation. Even more importantly, consumers who have been incentivized or inspired by social norms to generate content reaped the exact same experiential benefits as those who created content organically. In other words, content creation in response to a firm’s encouragement can nevertheless lead customers to feel immersed in the experience and to enjoy it longer. These findings demonstrate how Implementing consumer content creation can benefit marketers and consumers alike by enhancing encounters.
So, the next time you’re advised to put down your phone in order to truly live “in the moment,” recall this is dependent upon how you are using your phone. If you are posting about the last movie you watched while ignoring the person across the dinner table from you this will potentially detract from your current experience. But if you are using your device to remark, joke, or even whine about your current experience, then this research indicates you may be more engaged and enjoy that experience more than if you retained your phone in your pocket.
Related Journal Article: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0022242920944388