User generated content is a new buzz phrase that's been getting a lot of attention recently. Websites can take off in popularity if they have great user generated content, without the creators having to put much work into content creation.
What exactly is user generated content? How does it work? How do you encourage user generated content? Let's take a look.
What Is User Generated Content?
User generated content is any content that's generated by the user base and not by content creators of the company.
High profile examples include Wikipedia and YouTube. The staff at Wikipedia and YouTube don't spend all their time creating entries or videos. Instead, their job is to make it easy for other people to create content.
Other people do, and Wikipedia and YouTube benefit from it.
Lower profile examples include forums and blog comments. Again, these aren't created by the site owner, but can still draw a lot of search engine traffic.
So how does one encourage people to create more content?
Give Them Room to Express Something They Want to Express
It's very hard to create desire. Trying to get someone to want something they don't already naturally want is very hard.
YouTube exemplifies this principle. YouTube didn't create the desire for people to share videos, they just made that desire possible through the internet.
What do your users already want to talk about that they're not able to talk about yet?
Make Them Feel Like They're Part of Something
A forum, for example, often thrives when there's a sense of people helping one another out. People are more inspired to post their success stories and help other people out in their hardships.
On the other hand, forums where there's animosity and lack of community tend to die down over time.
Wikipedia also does this really well. People feel like they're part of a larger purpose and that their time put into generating content is for a good cause.
Make It Fun
Don't make it feel like work to generate content. Make it fun.
For example, when Gmail wanted to have users create a video for them, they didn't make it sound like work.
Instead, they made it sound like a contest and made all the descriptions of the video they wanted very bright. They got tons of submissions and had a stellar video to use at the end of the day.
If you're not employing user generated content as part of your web strategy, you're missing out. The content generated can bring a lot of traffic to your website with barely any additional cost.