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Ten Tips for Creative Content

by | Mar 24, 2011 | Industry News & Trends

This is the second part of our Successful Launch series (for more on that topic, learn Five Tips to a Successful Online Community.) Today, we’re focused on creating content.

You’ve heard it — content is king and while we can argue whether it’s content, experience or people that bring your members back to your site again and again, there’s no arguing that content is important. The goal is to offer up-to-date, unique, easily-accessed content (although not too easy, you do want members to log-in and become members in the first place). You’ll need membership software that allows quick content changes and uploads to your website and online community as well as an ability to limit who has access to content. No one will visit your private community if all of your content is attainable elsewhere. Assuming you’ve done that, here are ten tips to creating extraordinary content:

1. Winning. Give them a reason to log in for the first time. Sponsor a contest or hide an icon somewhere on your site and the first member who finds it wins a prize. If you have multiple blogs on your site you can hide clues in the content thus driving readership. Your goal here is to get them to sign up and update their contact information. Your members will get to experience your great new online community and you get them to update their member data. No more keying it into Excel for you. (See number seven below for more about contests and influencing behaviour.)

2. Twinkle, twinkle. You’re a star. Feature members or a vendor site monthly. Make it a special announcement. Allow others to nominate their favorites. Give prizes or make a donation in the recipient’s name.

3. Write away. Give your members a platform for their knowledge exchange, be it in the form of  a personal blog, wiki or member profile on your site. When people are empowered to share you’d be amazed at what they do. But don’t overlook the non-writers in your group. If photos are more their thing or they are particularly proud of a presentation they gave recently, why not allow them to upload it? Better yet, feature it with a link on the front page. Rotate this content often. Make it a coveted spot to land.

4. If you ask me to….Ask your members a question. Remember the art of conversation? One of the first suggestions in getting someone to talk is to ask them something about themselves. It can be as simple as a survey on past organization events. Or you can get creative by asking them to submit a video answer to a question. Maybe your association or school is celebrating a milestone. Ask them why they first joined your organization. Offer an incentive to take part, a contest — most creative reason wins a flip video camera. Ask them to send in pictures of their pets for Be Kind to Animals month. It matters little whether it is directly related to your cause or organization. What you are aiming for is traffic and repeat traffic.

5. Silly org, games aren’t (just) for kids. Gamification  (yes, that is a word) is picking up speed throughout member-based organizations. You see it in avatars and communities that allow you to level-up. A weight loss community may give a badge for ten pounds lost or a software forum may have a member designation star for answering twenty-questions. If you provide a way for members to achieve a higher level or recognition by meeting a set group of milestones, you’re practicing principles of gamification. Look at all the people who check-in at locales through location-based social networking apps to unlock badges. Sometimes it involves a monetary discount but frequently, it’s just the idea of “leveling-up” or “displacing” someone else that spurs them on.

6. That’s a nice (in)vest you’re wearing. When your members feel invested in an event (for example), they are more likely to attend. Take for instance the Brooklyn Museum’s Split Second: Indian Paintings. (Deirdre Reid wrote about it here.)  They have a quick online survey, the results of which will shape an upcoming exhibit. But this is not your grandparents’ survey. Several thousand people have participated in this split-second fun, decision-making online activity. And when people think their opinion has shaped an outcome they are twelve times more likely to attend. (I just made that random statistic up but just ask any kid in an art show and you’ll see how feeling represented makes you want to attend and invite everyone you know.) The same goes for content. When someone has contributed or shaped the content in some way, they will draw traffic to it by spreading the word among friends, family and peers.

7. That works for me. Contests are a great way to excite members and drive recurring traffic. But they also can influence member action. Consider rewarding members for “good” behavior such as what the Florida Automobile Dealers Association did. They wanted members to renew their dues early — less costs for the association from an administrative standpoint and less time involved in chasing payment and sending out reminders. They came up with a contest that only those who paid their dues by a specified date would be eligible to win. This resulted in 60% of their members qualifying (by paying early).

8. We don’t need no education. (Yes, you do.)  Upload a free online seminar, podcast or a white paper on your site. Encourage uploading of “video” questions or written comments. Use them to guide future offerings. You can even offer a more advanced seminar for a fee. Intimidated about doing it on your own? Record a panel discussion on a topic of interest to your members. Offering content in multiple forms is always wise. Your audience is made up of readers, writers and viewers with different attention spans and time constraints. Make sure there’s something for everyone — from quick snippets to more in-depth analysis.

9. Content lite. Offer a summary section of the hot social media topics or blog posts for the week. They can be your content or others. This becomes an invaluable highlight for your members as they do not have to dig through scads of information, you’ve pulled it all together for them in digest form.

10. Make mine a Cosmo. This is an oldie but goody and many have written about it — Cosmopolitan-ifying your content headlines draws readers. Don’t believe me or wondering how that can work for you?

Your goal is to become part of your members’ daily Internet routine. Just as so many of us have become addicted to checking status updates, you’ll want your members to get to the point that every time they access the Web, they’ll feel the nagging urge to check your site. This comes, in part, from good content. It doesn’t matter who the author of this content is — your staff or your member community, you want people to feel like they are missing something if they’re not logged in.

What other creative content ideas have you come across?

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