1. Remove barriers
Let's face it. Online, people want instant gratification. As an Internet user, you want your browsing experience to be as painless and smooth as possible. If you make the process of contributing content in any capacity an arduous one, it's likely your visitors just won't participate.
To encourage participation, you must remove any barriers present in your site design. This could be anything from hard to find contribution areas, a confusing sign-up process, or a lack of clear and visible instructions. Any of these points will give your visitor every reason in the world to contribute content to a different site.
, one of the easiest ways to do this is through your permissions structure. Be sure to set a permissions structure that is flexible enough to make content creation for the end user easy, but strict enough so that your user can't inadvertently break your website.
2. Provide motivation
In order to really encourage user generated content on your website, you have to give your visitors a reason to contribute. Unless your website is cause related, your users probably won't just submit content on their own.
So what motivation can you provide?
This can take many forms - from outright paying your users to providing other forms of compensation. Drupal's AdSense module
supports revenue sharing via the old tracker code. You can set up a guest posting policy where users are rewarded with a voice on your site and backlinks for their own.
Along these lines, you could even run a contest on your website. Encourage users to submit photos, blog posts, videos - whatever you like as a means to winning a meaningful prize.
The point is, get creative with your rewards, and make sure they are targeted to your audience. It wouldn't make sense to give away a set of cookware on a website dedicated to the NFL, but it would on a website dedicated to cooking.
3. Make it shareable
Give your users the tools they need to share their stellar content with their friends. This can be done very simply through third party tools like Facebook, Twitter, Digg and Delicious. If you search the database of Drupal modules
, you'll find there's a module for just about every social network.
If your users are creating exceptional content - and sharing it with their friends, your website will benefit because of it. New users, more content, more traffic - you get the point.
4. Seed your community
Rome was not built in a day. And neither was your social community. If your site doesn't have any content on it, a user probably won't contribute anything. But, if your site is chock full of the kind of high quality content you want your users producing, then your users will be more likely to contribute.
As more users join your site, continue to play a moderating role, and continue to gradually seed more content - eventually, your users will get the idea, and will hopefully begin to self-moderate your sites content.
5. Keep it interesting
You may run the most visited website on the world about the evolution of Cheetos and cheese puffs, (thanks @dreamslikefire
), but chances are your visitors won't have much to contribute. As interesting as cheese puffs may be to you, it probably doesn't resonate with the public, and certainly not with a niche large enough to support a vibrant online community.
If you want your community to contribute content to your website, make sure you focus your website on a niche or idea that inspires, creates controversy, or makes people passionate. Boring - at least online - just won't cut it.