8 simple ways to implement a user generated content strategy.

October 16, 200813 Comments
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There’s only so much one person can do when promoting a site. If you are planning on hitting the big time, and receiving *thousands* of visitors a day, there’s only one way you’ll be able to grow exponentially.

User generated content.

This has been a bit of a buzz word in marketing circles for a while; but how can you apply it to your website, and what does it mean exactly? How can you take a site that is generating hundreds of visitors, into one that multiplies that by ten, in as quick a period of time as possible?

Huh? What is it again?

User generated content is *any* content on your website that is developed / posted / created by your site visitors, whether that be in written form or in say audio or video formats, it all falls under the same umbrella. The beauty of it – is that your site starts to grow in size and is developed and shaped on its own, via your visitors. This then requires minimal moderation required from you – depending on how you implement it.

I’ve had a think about some of the main ways of integrating user generated content into your site, and how best to go about it. So read on for  an overview.

1). Blogs

Yep, bit of an obvious one, but blogs, out-of-the-box, are automatically geared towards user generated content, albeit in the comments of your posts. To encourage this many blogs respond to visitors questions in the comments, and keep the conversation train chugging. Encourage comments, by implementing a top commentors plugin. Another great way for WordPress users is to offer visitors a way of posting mini-links, or news which are then in turn moderated and posted on the site.

Also let people know you are offering the ability to guest post on the site – Guilty as charged here, I’ve had a few freelance writers contact me for writing gigs, but nothing actually on the site to say I accept guest posts. (I do by the way).

2). Forums

Ahh…The humble forum. What the internet (back in the day) was born on.  Early Internet forums could be described as a web version of a newsgroup or electronic mailing list allowing people to post messages and comment on other messages.

The attraction to anyone trying to develop a user generated content strategy is immediately obvious. Once you get it off the ground. Forums, by definition encourage debate, opinion, and fresh as a daisy content. They also help to define a tone for your site, so be careful how you moderate.

3). Visual Content – Images

Many site have been born out of the use of images. Two successful sites that I can think of that employ this particular image based content strategy, are B3ta and HotorNot the latter, organically stripping many of the major dating sites of traffic by some margin.

They both have two things in common, ratings and comments on the posted content. So from that we can determine that if you are going to try and develop a visual strategy, you will need to integrate some form of interaction. Whether that be a simple vote for the best content, or allowing visitors to chat amongst themselves via comments. Oh – and do remember to K.I.S.S.

4). Visual Content – Video

Video has experienced a resurgence on the web in the past couple of years, thanks to the uptake of broadband. Youtube, and MetaCafe being the main contenders in the field of user generated video content. So why have they succeeded where others have failed? It all comes down to one simple reason.

Flash video. With simple implementation. + Viral embedding.

The format, and usability of the system to upload video in a wide range of alternative formats that gets remuxed server side – which basically means, virtually no loss of quality, and with the penetration rates of flash being as high as 97%+ it’s no surprise that these sites are winning. Youtube in particular was clever enough to give away its user generated content to third parties, allowing people to embed the resulting video. That’s why the branding on the youtube videos is apparent top right in the video file.

If you can find a niche that relies on video as a format, and can develop a simple straightforward way of providing these videos to your users, you might be on to a winner. Keep in mind the same interaction comments I mentioned earlier though – again Youtube and MetaCafe both allow interaction.

5). Interactive Content – Games

If you are planning on launching a site offering games to users, you could do worse than take a look at some of the larger flash game sites. Most if not all of them allows users to “submit games”. The better sites amongst them go a step further and offer a “top contributors” section to allow the creators to be rewarded, or offer tutorials on the creation of games to help turn “players” into contributors.

Rewarding visitors for submission of content is another must. SecondLife springs to mind, with actual potential for financial reward for the submission of graphics etc that can be sold to other players in the environment. If you can provide a platform such as this, the rest will follow. The old adage of “if you build it, they will come”, if you pay ‘em – they will come in droves.

6). Interactive Content – Polls & Opinion

Sites such as PollDaddy and Epinions, are born out of the fact that people in general enjoy sparking debate, and hearing other people’s opinion on things. Allowing visitors to generate their own polls on your site could tap into two things. Firstly you’ll hear what questions your visitors want answered and secondly you’ll get responses from the other members on your site on their thoughts.

If you have a traditional e-commerce site, why not integrate opinions on products into it to hear what existing buyers thought, or the concerns of prospects?

7). Social Media – Sharing

Another way of generating content is to let your users share. If you can provide a way for your visitors to share things with each other then relationships will be built, and repeat visits will follow.

I’ve already put together a post on how some fashion sharing sites are providing retailers with alternative ways to promote content, and there are also a host of social bookmarking sites out there which show that the web is willing to share.

8). Build Relationships

Or provide the infrastructure necessary for visitors to do so themselves. Twitter, Ning, LinkedIn not to mention Bebo or Myspace - all do this brilliantly. With Twitter and LinkedIn in particular we either know or want to know the people we are connected to, and the result is content flowing between both parties.

Overall, user generated content allows your site to grow, provides the search engines with fresh content to chew on daily, and takes some of the pain out of promoting your site, by putting the site promotion back into the hands of your visitors.

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About the Author ()

Paul is a regular 30 year old web bloke / programmer with a penchant for online marketing. This blog is a personal outlet, with an eclectic mix of articles.

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