User Generated Content for your website - Inspiring your visitors
7th April 2011

I was completely inspired by this video of Ze Frank explaining his various experiments and projects which look like the holy grail of user generated content. Individuals from around the world take part in his wacky and sometimes inspiring assignments. You can't help but get inspired by this video.

Ze Frank's Web Playroom

Ze Frank rose to Internet fame in 2001 with his viral video 'How to Dance Properly, ' and has been making online comedy, web toys and massively shared experiences ever since.

You and I are not Ze Frank so how can we inspire visitors to contribute User Generated Content?

Ze Frank already has a million fans due to his viral videos and is a well known online celebrity. His wacky and sometimes inspiring projects attract thousands of visitors and are viewed by millions. Even if he selected only the best entries he would have a sizable number of contributions.

However you and I do not have such a following. Most times we start our UGS (what i wil be calling User Generated Content hencforth) campaigns from scratch with little or no following.The starting point  would be to create  a UGC Campaign Plan which would inspire visitors, not use them for cheap marketing gimmicks. Most UGC campaigns fail because the marketers failed to come up with a creative concept that would inspire people into action.

A very large number of   UGC campaigns fail due to this. Its the same story, some smart marketer convinces the client  about a UGC campaign, the client gets excited, a large amount of time and money is spent in creating a great website?then nothing. The net is littered with emtpy UGC website ideas which never took off because the marketers did not bother to think them through.

The simpler the task, the more number of people will participate.

A 10 step UGC task will end before it even begins. A simple 2-3 step task will work better. I once heard of a convoluted UGC proposal where visitors were expected to film themselves, write an essay about it and them submit it through a complicated registration, verification and upload process. Participation is inversely proportional to the complexity of the task. Use the KISS principle - keep it simple stupid. Simple tasks such as creating a voice recording, taking a picture, drawing something works best. Of course the most popular UGC on the net is written contributions but that will not create the significant impact more visual tasks will.

Be clear on what you are expecting from the visitor in terms of their time and resources

Do not assign a UGC task without being clear what it will take for a visitor to accomplish it. Some ideas might seem simple on paper but will take a heck of a lot to accomplish. Can the visitor do it with a simple web cam or does he need other equipment? Does it require visitors to travel or can they do it at their desktop? Does it require one person or a whole gang of people? Questions like these will help clarify what will be needed from the visitors. Needless to say that if the task is too complex or requires too many resources it will be abandoned or not even taken up. View it from the visitors point of view.

Give clear and simple instructions and provide tools whenever possible.

Simple instructions  in clear language will motivate people to take it on rather than vague instructions written in some funky style. Number the instructions in steps. Whereever possible provide tools that can be downloaded or used online. Provide instruction videos or step by step photos. Provide examples and tips on how to do the task efficiently. Make the visitors life easier and he will contribute.

Make it personal, something they can show off to friends and family

People get excited by something which would make them popular or gain notoriety among their community both online and offline. The task should produce a result which they can show off to friends and family, put on their facebook page and tweet about. An inspired contributor will do a lot of marketing   for you. Make sure its fun, a bit wacky and  out of the ordinary. Make sure its not embarrasing or taste-less. Make sure its clean and family oriented.

You cannot buy UGC, don't throw money at it. Link it to a good cause instead.

Many marketers assume that if they offer a large enough award people will contribute more. Tons of research shows the opposite. Money and gifts will not inspire people to contribute as much as feeling good about it. Instead link it to a good cause where you make a donation or support a charity evertime the visitor contributes. Its good karma all around.

Acknowledge them immediately - keep the ball rolling.

I hate campaigns of any kind where I am acknowledged three months after the event when I don't even remember what it was all about. Build a mechanism which will acknowledge contributors right away and display their work immediately. Make sure new work is updated daily. As soon as us build some momentum with UGC keep the ball rolling with new uploads every day. Don't wait to sit and total everything at the end.

Take your original estimate of contributors and half them and then half them again and half them?.

Every marketer always comes up with a very optimistic percentage of total visitors who will participate in the UGC campaign. The truth is that a very very small minority of visitors will take the time to contribute. Marketers must plan accordingly. The people who contribute are very special indeed, most visitors will never bother taking part. To build this very small constituency of dedicated contributors takes time and patience and a whole lot of encouragement. See the previous point.

Make sure you are legally protected.

State clear terms and conditions on the site. Be clear about whom the generated content belongs to. Make sure you mention rules, time limits and what is allowed or disallowed. UGC can sometimes get embroilled in controversies and legal issues.

In Conclusion ?. UGC's are the most difficult type of campaign to pull of and the riskiest too.

Marketers may make it sound simple but UGC campaigns are tough to pull off. Many of the successful UGC campaigns in the past have been accidental successes brought about by viral Memes. Planned UGC campaigns are the most difficult among all kinds of online marketing efforts. However they can be the most rewarding as well with the deepest level of visitor involvment.



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