Handled correctly, user-generated content is one of the holy grails of online communities. With the community manager putting out fires almost 24-7, imagine having your extremely qualified, expert members creating posts and content on their own, and generating huge engagement in the process? The strategy can be hugely powerful and has worked for major brands across the world.
What does “user-generated” content look like?
For your average online community, users will regularly post opinions, questions, polls, calls for help and so on. That’s essentially its intended purpose. User-generated content is another level up. Essentially it means giving your most engaged and active members a chance to put themselves out on a bigger stage than normal. Sometimes when a user has something extremely valuable to say, it can’t be confined to a single comment within a thread. It deserves to be more widespread and heard by a larger part of the community.
What’s the benefit?
YouMoz was an incredibly successful community-contributed SEO and online marketing blog created by SEO experts Moz over a decade ago. It grew out of a desire to give its most passionate users a bigger voice. The way it worked was that any member could now curate an entire post dedicated to whatever subject they wanted.
The benefit for users:
If approved by their editing team, posting on YouMoz gave them a tremendous platform for potential success. It could mean:
- Reaching thousands of fellow SEOs
- Creating a platform for a job hunt
- Catching the eye of CEO or industry experts
- Improving their own SEO and search ranking
And other than investing their own time, there was no cost associated with doing this.
The benefit for the community
A major benefit is free publicity. Say a member writes a thought-provoking article within your platform and it draws huge positive attention to the brand (though sharing, commenting, and general exposure) this can lead to:
- A boost in membership signups
- New customer/lead enquiries
- Essentially free PR
And it’s proven that user-generated content can drive significantly more traffic and engagement than in-house productions. It connects with people on a more personal level. But it also gives your members a hugely aspirational goal to work towards, adding even more value to being in the community.
How to get started with user-generated content
You can start by going through your posts and forums and assessing the vibe: do you think people have more to say? Are there passionate individuals there who could use a bigger platform? Try reaching out to a handful of individuals making excellent points or starting really stirring discussions. Get some onboard and work with them to create something new. Of course the contribution is largely independent, but you’ll still need to wear your moderating hat just in case. Launch this content so it gets attention and see how it goes: do members interact well or differently with user-generated content? If so, should you make it part of your community growth strategy? Should you create a dedicated platform or environment for this? User-generated content has become a cornerstone of success for many online communities. We recommend trying it out—you never know the impact it might have!
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