Without a doubt, the single most exciting content strategy that exists online is that of creating a successful program around user generated content. This can be a dangerous strategy for numerous reasons, but it can also give you an endless flow of self perpetuating content that has the ability to turn into a far larger attraction than anything you could produce on your own. This is the core idea of social networks and forums. The key is creating a unique and attractive value proposition and providing a simple and intuitive user interface.
The Value Proposition
What is to be your value proposition? Why should users put time and effort into adding their own voice to your site?
Are you giving them exposure? If so, you better already have significant traffic.
Are you giving them the ability to connect with others in an interesting way? If so, it should be unique, there are already a lot of social networks and forums that you will have a very difficult time pulling market share away from.
However, if you can cater to a core group of like minded users, with an appealing interface and give the promise of benefits that your users believe in… then this sort of strategy could absolutely turn you from a competitor in the industry to a provider in the industry and that is a distinction that allows you to rise above the competition. This is how thought leaders are born today.
The first step toward this should be to create groups in existing social networks. Invite your core audience and provide a framework for discussion. Get people talking and see where the interactions go. Once you have built up the group and analyzed the most engaging types of conversations, that is when it is time to begin building out a platform to move the group onto your site. It can also be a good idea to survey the group about how they would feel about a new platform that takes place off of the existing social network. Again, this can be a tricky transition, but if you can make it work it can also be an absolute game changing grand-slam for your business.
Some of the easier ideas around this can simply be to run contests that collect user generated content such as images, videos, testimonials or articles and offer prizes on a weekly or monthly basis. You can use social networks to promote the contest and collect entries, but then only post and feature the entries on your new platform that resides on your own website. This is an effective strategy for getting people who submit on the social network to actually visit your new forum so that they can see their submissions. You can also get people link building for you by giving them a link to promote the content on your site in an effort to win the contest. This can be very effective for both link building and driving traffic as people will tend to invite all of their friends, family and co-workers and those people will go to your site in order to vote.
Again, this can be an extremely powerful strategy, but you want to make sure that it is well thought out and done right. You don’t want to spend a lot of time and money on a project that fizzles out. Make sure that your strategy is built upon a stepping stone approach, with proof based milestones and ultimately built to support promotion, link building and traffic generation.