The list below was originally posted on nextNY group discussion board, as an answer to the old-time question: How do you get user-generated site off the ground? I thought to share my advice here as well, in hope this could be useful to anyone who decides to follow a path similar to one I have been through for the last 1.5 years – building a wonderful community of thousands contributors at MyItThings.com.
Things you will need to get UGC site off the ground (applied mostly to bootstrapped sites, although I’m not sure there is any other way these days):
1. Time – get ready to spend the next few months being user #1 of your site, 24/7. Contribute as much as you can, even if sometimes it feels “lonely”. Keep creating and just don’t give up. Remember – passion is contagious.
4. Content – if you build a UGC site never pay users to create content. You’ll take a wrong path (see PayPerPost.com etc) and it will be hard to return to the “free” way. Focus on creating incentives for people to participate – people love cool prizes, badges, titles, and simply competing with peers. Bonus tip: don’t waste your time on convincing friends to use your site.
6. Users – invite bloggers in your niche to use the site. Bloggers are the true trendsetters, and usually are experienced social networkers. Start from targeting smaller blogs, and always personalize your invitations. Allow them to include link to their blog and provide recognition, such as “featured member” spot. In addition to being site members, bloggers are the new press. One post on their blog about your site goes a long way, and people who consume their blogs are most likely to be target users of your site.
2. User Experience – Make your site experience FUN – come up with daily/weekly activities, like poll of the day, or simply highlight a different user every day. Create incentives to come back.
3. Promotions – even if your site doesn’t have a niche, create promotions in different niches every week/month. It’s easy to get free prizes from PR companies, so give away cool stuff, and bring experts on board to pick winners. Bonus tip: sometimes bringing “offline” experts in certain niche is easier than going after the popular web guys.
5. You – start writing a blog, share your expertise (I’m sure you have some), provide value to others, maybe even share your challenges in building this actual site. Communities are built by real people, with real problems and challenges.
7. Your business – create an appealing “About” page, put your face up there and tell the story behind your site. “Humanize” your site as much as you can to compensate on the lack of personal connection. After all, that what it’s all about.