user-generated content

Ok, so a Community Manager walks into a bar… no, just kidding. But a Community Manager really does walk into his or her office, sits down and looks at the calendar. It’s THAT day. You know what day I’m talking about: the day where you click open the Excel (or Google Doc) content calendar for the next month and a slow tear comes down your cheek as you stare at the unbranded abyss. That lack of future content makes you even more nauseous than the two grande coffees you just had.

But then you remember, “Hey, we are now crowd-sourcing content from our online communities” (and yes, I will use that buzzword only once. Apologies). The flashbacks of your meeting with the Strategy Director and CMO are coming back to you and the words “we need to start incorporating more user-generated content from our fans and followers” blink in bright neon lights. You then take a look at next month’s naked calendar and attack it with no fear.

Well, before you do this you need to read the below tips on how to not go nutzo with user-generated content. Because as transparent and effective as it can be, it can also be lethal to your brand or organization if overdone or done poorly.

1.  MOST IMPORTANT: research where your content is coming from. I know there are other things to do on your list, but take a few minutes to make sure the content you are using is from a credible source. Believe me, if you publish content that is from a sketchy source fans and followers will call you out on it. And you don’t have time for that.

2. Do not forget regular content strategy. User-generated content can become addictive, especially if you have a large brand that enjoys tweeting, posting and producing videos about that product. Stay the course with your brand’s marketing strategy! Content from the community is an add-on, the icing on the cake. It is a strategy that should be periodically tossed in to spice things up and make everyone think, “Cool, they are listening to us and publishing our content.” Don’t fall into the trap of becoming addicted to your online community’s content. If you get hooked then all of your walls, streams and pages will become flooded with fan and follower content. Your brand message will be lost, thus creating confusion as to anything you were actually trying to push.

3. Make it exclusive. This is the point of it all. Make your community members feel as though they are part of the VIP section at the Viper Room when something of THEIRS is published by YOU. To that person, it’s a stamp of brand approval. They will say to themselves (and their friends), “Yeah, that’s my video that was RT’ed.” But if your consistency amps up and everything becomes user generated content then this exclusivity is lost. It is no more the “secret lair” you wanted it to be. The zest, the rush of it is lost.

Now, as you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), remember these tips when implementing a user-generated content strategy (wow, I’ve used this word a lot. Please comment on another word for this. I seem to be getting buzzword syndrome).

Finally, have fun with it. That’s the bottom line with all of this. Content, branding, online communities, etc. are supposed to be fun and engaging. Don’t forget that when making things shareable and RT’able.