Daily Archives: October 10, 2013

Lessons from Moderating: User-Generated Content (UGC)

I was one of two moderators for this week of class when we discussed User-Generated Content, otherwise known as UGC. Here are some lessons I gathered from the community discussions on how to best approach UGC.

You can’t force it

There seemed to be a strong consensus in the class that the best UGC is natural, not forced. If you want to take advantage of good press and try to turn it into UGC, it might not be the best option. It would take a lot of work to encourage that UGC, and you may not get the quality you want.  But when people organically want to contribute, that’s what you’re getting somewhere.

Accept that you have less control… But set clear expectations.

Content is always the #1 priority, but human writing and storytelling through author personality is what will make your content interesting and different. Don’t stifle personality with perfectionism. You don’t want bad writing on your blog, period. Content, quality, style, and tone should be fully understood by your and your UGC creators.

Kelly’s prompt on the G+ community promoted a great discussion about this topic, and there were awesome answers by my classmates. Set yourself up for UGC success by vetting your content creators properly: set clear quality standards and get to know your UGC creator’s skills before you promise them a feature.

Less for you, more for your community

If you have users writing well for you, not only do you have more time to devote to other tasks to growing your community, but you are giving you and your audience more to talk about. More writers can mean more perspectives, and if those writers are good, it can increase the reach, quality, and engagement of your community. This was something that was addressed frequently in our G+ Hangout with Sean Keely and Ally Greer.

#1 lesson on UGC from Moderating: Be Patient.

Moderating was much more difficult that I thought. I’m not a patient person, and moderation is a huge test of patience.

If I could go back, I would have written much less in the discussions. It was hard to be patient and let others write, especially when sometimes the wait was several hours before anyone commented.

By the end of the week, I began to understand the rhythm of the community. Most people start commenting and posting in the evenings. This makes sense: people are done with classes and are home from being on campus all day.

This is a struggle that all communities have to go through: you can’t start a community and the next day ask for UGC. It’s a natural step in the evolution of a community, and you must be patient in growing it. If you’re patient and focus on engaging your audience, you might reach the point of UGC.

 

Community Management According to Community Managers

Though we’ve certainly touched on and learned the basics of community management in the last several weeks, it was unquestionably more enriching to have Ally Greer and Sean Keely speak to our class and address what had otherwise been a concept confined in our readings. Hearing their experiences with community management helped contextualize everything else we’d learned this unit.

Takeaways from hearing Ally Greer speak:

Ally mentioned that, prior to being hired, she didn’t even know what being a community manager meant. She said that she had to discover and learn her responsibilities on-the-job, specifically by looking at other bloggers and community managers for guidance. The nature of the Internet lends itself to that kind of self-teaching, given that everything moves so much faster on the Web; the best people to learn from are your contemporaries and competitors.

One of the more interesting points that Ally made was that being a user of a product doesn’t automatically make one a member of that community. Through her work for Scoop.it, she had an easier head start with building a community, mainly in that she already had a built-in community to start with. Her plan to turn the top percentage of their users into “ambassador communities” definitely helped jump-start the process, all the while making her community members feel instantly included.

Takeaways from hearing Sean Keely speak:

I thought it was interesting that Sean had to start his blog first—and then go back and manage his community. He had a chance to really establish his voice first, which must have helped with going back and deciding what sort of tone to take on with his community. Compared to Ally, Sean had to build his community from the ground up, starting first with himself and then drawing people in with content that had to be niche enough to draw that kind of audience, but engaging enough to keep people there.

I find Sean’s tactic of incorporating “fan posts” onto the blog a smart move. It’s a low-risk strategy to get content on his site, providing everyday users with an outlet for writing where their visibility is in their hands. At the same time, it’s a smart means of finding new blood and bringing new staff writers to his blog. It builds his brand both ways.

Altogether, participating in the panel helped me understand what community management really entails and how to apply it in a real-world context.