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7 steps for community-driven content

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Successful brands today think like publishers. They keep their followers engaged 24/7 on sites, apps and social channels through a mix of content: originally created content by the brand (or their agencies), co-created content with others online (like top bloggers) or curated content from the public at large. With ever more social channels to fill, co-created and curated content will play an increasingly important role. This "community-driven content" can come from your brand's social followers as well as other online influencers. It brings your community closer together, better engaging your thousands of online followers and converting some of the best into ongoing brand contributors. But how do you successfully implement community-driven content—and more important, do it right? Here are some easy-to-follow guidelines for companies considering creating an online space populated with editorial contributed from fans, followers, influencers and other independent writers.
  1. Pick a platform. First, choose a publishing platform. You can use a free system (such as Tumblr or WordPress) or use an enterprise solution that enables more granular control over the community, how it looks and what content is published.
  2. Identify stakeholders and agree on your editorial vision. Humanizing the experience for contributors is key, so decide early on who your stakeholders are and who will be managing and monitoring the community. The most successful and well-organized communities have one person in charge, like a chief content officer, to facilitate the needs of contributors. Then, be sure your team is on the same page about what tone your content will convey. Use this to set your initial editorial calendar to tie it to other brand initiatives.
  3. Recruit your contributors. Without the right contributors you have no community. Start with your core network, people you've worked with in the past. These people should have social media reach, a good reputation and effectively reflect your desired editorial voice. Use them as your charter members to help get the community off the ground, then start reaching out to new people you want involved.
  4. Review and moderate. As content begins to come in you'll have to carefully monitor it to ensure it's a fit. You should create a process to ensure content submissions are moderated and posted in a timely fashion. You can manage this process manually or utilize systems to make editorial review easier and more efficient.
  5. Reward great content. Create tiers of achievement and incentivize the creation of great content through direct payment or indirect rewards. Incentives, giveaways and samples can all be effective. An awarded badge can go a long way toward showing appreciation. If you can tie this to exclusive access, it increases engagement even more. Insider newsletters, forums, invite-only events or Q&As make community contributors feel like they're "inside the tent."
  6. Stay in close contact. Once you're up and running, communicate with your fan contributor community on a weekly or biweekly basis to talk about what you're looking for. An example of this is our Epicurious Community Table weekly Table Talk.
  7. Cross-promote. Great content shouldn't languish. Cross-post your best entries on your brand's established Facebook and Twitter channels as often as you can. It will also be greatly appreciated by bloggers with less social reach. Try to tag contributors in tweets as well to showcase the writer; and, if you can't tag them, consider dropping them a quick note to alert them that their post is live.
Any online community requires close attention and oversight, especially when you are starting out. The more you put into the community through content curation, contributor feedback and your own promotions, the more you'll get out of it. With time, your community of contributors will thrive on its own and your brand will reap the benefits. Matt Myers is CEO of content publishing company Tidal Labs. He can be reached at matt@engagethewave.com.
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