Last week, I wrote about a special kind of content consumption app where developers could, in essence, trick users into creating content for others to consume, thereby reducing the creation stress on developers. This week, I want to expand on this idea by describing some strategies apps can use to get users started in the first place.
There is a chicken-and-egg problem for user generated content apps: people are unlikely to want to create content for platforms with no users, and platforms won’t have any users if they don’t have any content. In my last post, I described why GasBuddy is my favourite example of these user generated content platforms because they convinced their user base to create content for others by posting gas prices they observed each day; however, without people posting prices, there is no user base to leverage to post new prices.
So how can we jump start the process and get people engaged with the platform?
Seed with developer created content
The first approach is to see the app with developer created content. For the first month/year, the app developer could create the content themselves in order to get people into the platform, thereby increasing the chance users will start posting prices themselves. I don’t know whether GasBuddy in particular had this problem, but it is a reasonable mechanism in the short-term.
Make creation part of the sign up process
A second approach is to include content creation as part of the on-boarding process. This approach was used successfully in the Happier app. Happier is a social network for sharing happy moments. During sign up, the app prompts users to post about something that makes them happy. This serves a dual purpose: it quickly trains users on how to use the app by getting them to create a post, and also creates new content that other users can consume.
Reward users for creating content
A third approach, one that I don’t have a specific example for, would be to reward users for creating content. For example, an app could lock certain functionality until a user creates a minimum amount of content. This is akin to many casual games, which slowly train users on how to play the game by providing new power-ups after they pass a certain number of levels. There could be other rewards as well, such as badges on some forums that identify which users are heavy producers of content.
Apps with user generated content are a great way to offload the work of content creation onto your users, empowering them to make the platform their own; however, there is a problem at the beginning, when there are no users to create new content. The strategies I’ve described in this post are useful ways of jump-starting this process.
Andre Doucette is the lead interaction designer at Push Interactions. With his background in human computer interaction, he believes that thoughtful design can delight users in ways we can only thus far imagine.