At A4UExpo yesterday I spoke about user generated content, its benefits and how it can be used effectively on a site. here are the slides from that presentation and some more information on the 5 tips I provided:
1. You don’t need to be sexy and fun to be engaging
Your site does not have to be as slick and sexy as Polvore or as fun as I Can Has Cheezburger to engage users, increase loyalty and increase user generated content. It’s more important that your site has a strong personality and that the site and strategy are designed to encourage interaction.
Side note: The slide for this includes a picture of Steven Fry as an example of someone who is not sexy or fun but is engaging. However, apparently some people think he is fun. I left the slide in as my other option was Richard Dawkins and I wasn’t sure how many people would recognise him.
2. Request Reviews
When you ask someone directly for their opinion of you, your appearance, performance etc. they are far more likely to (in customer review speak) rate you highly. When simply providing their opinion to a third party they are likely to be less generous. This psychology applies to online customers too. Ask them their opinion and they provide you with much nicer reviews.
The best time to ask them is Tuesday or Wednesday between 10am and 4pm, when they are bored at work and looking for distractions.
3. Don’t host a Microsoft party
Remember when Microsoft attempted to encourage us to host parties to celebrate the launch of their Windows 7 operating system? The video went viral for the wrong reasons and almost no one hosted a Windows party. They failed to understand what motivates their users to have a party. On the other hand, Apple might have got away with something similar.
Obviously, never host an actual Microsoft party but avoid a metaphorical one too. Different things motivate different users to create or curate content on sites. It can be simply interest in the subject matter, social status, rewards, self promotion or numerous other reasons. The key is to understand what will motivate the users on your site and ensure to build that into the site.
Content creation tends to follow the rough principal described by Jakob Nielsen:
In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.
It’s important to understand these three types of user and design the site for all three, providing the incentives that potential power users require.
Wikipedia is successful because it appeals to various types of people, from content creators to editors to casual users who can make minor updates without the barrier of logging in. Google’s ill-fated Knol on the other hand attempted to make the user do all of these jobs themselves.
There are hundreds of forums and wikis, video upload sites and image sharing sites. You need to do something different to appeal to users. MyDeco allows users to create and share interior designs, request designs from the community etc. It provides creative tools to allow this to happen. In this case, user generated content is absolutely integral to the site.
MyDeco leads the field in this niche (as far as I know) and given the level to which they have implemented the creative tools, it’ll be difficult for anyone to catch up.
5. Build a camera-phone not a camera and a phone
Encouragement to participate should be integral to the site rather than just an add-on or afterthought. Design the site for all three types of user (power user, casual user and lurker) and try to find a mechanism to get users to bring their friends into the community.
Holiday apartment rental site, Airbnb.com brings in new users by allowing users to set up detailed profiles about themselves and their services and incentivising users to get recommendations from friends. The friends are incentivised to join the site by doing a favour for the user. This creates more content and another user for the site, a certain amount of whom will also go on to use the service and invite others into the site.