How to get users to generate content for you: Vanessa Gennarelli

How to get users to generate content for you: Vanessa Gennarelli

Remember that moment of clarity (insanity?), brought on by two weeks of frantic writing, when you realized, “I don’t have to produce all the content for my website; my users can contribute too!”

Amazing idea. Challenging to execute.

But it can be done and done well, according to Vanessa Gennarelli, learning lead for a very cool grassroots open education project called Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU). With 67,000 users and a very small staff, all of P2PU’s content is generated by its community members, who come together to advance their own educational pursuits in various subjects.

The following are tips from Vanessa’s Confab 2013 presentation, “Getting the User-Generated Content You Want,” about how to encourage user-generated content that actually benefits both your organization and your community.

4 tips for promoting good user-generated content

  1. Shine a light on exemplary folks. These are the folks who do it well, contributing the kind of content you want all of your users to create. This approach also gives recognition and status to users, so think about saving space on your website for featured Hall of Fame content or launching a badge-earning system.
  2. Provide stellar sample copy. When asked to contribute content, often it’s difficult to know the context in which users’ content will appear. A good solution is to provide some sample content or instruction in your fields. AirBnB does this well. For example, when you go to upload photos for a listing, it highlights why your “first impression” photo is vitally important. Hacker League is another example of someone who provides great in-line help content. One of the tips in their user registration form is “all hackers have great user names.” This prevents users from signing up as “John Smith” and potentially affecting the community vibe.
  3. Create spiffy resources. Create sexy informational documents. People will read them and use them as guides when creating their own content. This approach also will help save your support team’s valuable time for more pressing issues. Mail Chimp is a great example of a company that is very good at creating visually compelling resources.
  4. Create safeguards to maintain the integrity of your content. Enlist the help of your community and ask users to help flag abuse. What governance mechanism will you create so that community members regulate each other? A good example of this approach is Sound Cloud – they give clear guidelines as to what they consider inappropriate, making it easier for users to identify abuse.

Download Vanessa’s presentation slides.

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