AskPat 29 Episode Transcript
Pat Flynn: What's up, everybody? This is Pat Flynn, and welcome to Episode 29 of AskPat. I'm here to help you answer your online business questions five days a week. Today we have a question from Joe related to user-generated content and building something based on user-generated content.
Before that, I want to mention my resource of the day which is a book called The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, a great book that I've pulled a lot of principles out of to incorporate into my own business and blog and products. Even though I don't have a startup per se, by that definition, but there's a lot of principles in this book that you can use to help you create something amazing for your audience. Again, that's AskPat.com/lean-startup for The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. [Full Disclosure: As an Amazon affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
Now, lets get to today's questions from Joe.
Joe: Hi Pat, my name is Joe over at Twitter handle @askadirtbag. I have an idea for an advice column with a comedic twist. How would I be able to build a brand that primarily focuses on user-generated content as opposed to tangible goods? Love the show, thanks.
Pat Flynn: Joe, thank you so much for your question. For everybody out there listening, in case you don't know, a product or a brand based off of user-generated content sounds exactly like what it is. It's a brand that is based off of everything that its users create and experience on that particular platform. Without the users, without the participation from those who are a part of that brand or community, there would be no content. A good example of this would be something like Facebook. Without everybody using Facebook, there would be no Facebook. Facebook is the experience and the status updates and everything that everybody else shares, the pictures, all those things. That is what creates Facebook and the Facebook experience. Same thing with Twitter and Tweets. Without people tweeting, there would be no Twitter. There's other sites like eHow.com. they used to collect articles from people and post them on their site as sort of a collection or library of articles. Without their users, there would be no content at that point. Although they don't do that anymore, there are other sites like Infobarrel that do. Pinterest is another one.
I have to tell you a quick story about something that I tried to create which was very based off of user-generated content, something that failed, actually. I haven't actually mentioned this very much, but this was an iPhone application that I had built that was based off the idea that people love to leave captions to different photos. People love to do that. They see a funny photo, or they want to be creative and share something witty and interesting about a particular photo, they leave a caption to it. This app that I had built. I had spent about $3,000 building a platform on the IOS iPhone/iPad platform to facilitate discussions around different photos in trying to get people to leave captions. What the app does is when you load it, every day I posted a different picture. I did that for six months. Every day I posted a different picture for this application, and I would try to get people to leave captions. It failed. It failed pretty miserably, especially because we had spent that much money on it.
It failed for a number of reasons. One, because we didn't really push or make a big launch or a big deal out of it. We sort of just rolled it out there. That's one of the big things, that if you're going to have user-generated content fuel your brand or your site, you want it from day one to be a booming community. Imagine a forum, for example. If you were asked to join a forum, and there was hardly any communication or posts or threads there, why would you post a thread or communicate on it yourself? There'd be nobody there listening. That's what the feeling was like when people got this application. It was called iCaption. Again, a great idea, but we didn't launch it the way it should've been launched. We should've launched with a bang. We should've launched with an ambassador group or a user group who was already there, already contributing, so that other people would also contribute and add their own captions to photos. Some people participated, and I would add my own and my partner would add his own too, just so it looked like it was being used. It worked a little bit, and the platform worked. It was built for user-generated content to have people leave their captions, but again it totally failed. It totally bombed.
Another reason why it bombed is because we didn't really give people a reason to generate their own content. There must be a benefit to generate content for the users of your brand if you're going to build the brand based off of user-generated content. There has to be some sort of benefit for that person taking time to do that. On iCaption, there was none. People would leave a caption, and how do you know if anybody read it? We didn't give anybody any sort of validation that their thing was being read. We did have thumbs up and and thumbs down sort of thing, so a voting process, but again, there was nobody there to vote. People would leave a caption and there would be zero thumb ups or zero thumb downs. Nobody really participated because there wasn't really any benefit either. People didn't feel like it was worth it.
I think one thing we could've done better was that when people shared their caption, they would also be able to share it on social media. That was a huge mistake. Everything was sort of enclosed in this application. There was no way . . . And now that I'm talking about this, it's really dumb that we didn't do this. There was no way to, after you post a caption to a particular photo, share that photo on social media. Part of the reason why we didn't do that was because at this time, the APIs and the chat between Facebook and iPhone applications, this was back in 2010, it was not explored very much. It was very pricey. We left part out. A big mistake. We probably could've added it later, but we just killed the application because it just wasn't going anywhere. I think one of the things we could've done better, like I said, was have people not only share their caption on this application, but after they do that, have the option to share it with their own followers and friends. To show off how witty and funny they are to people that they already know. Here we were trying to build a community, bring people together who don't know each other and have them participate in something, when we could've tapped into peoples' existing communities and the relationships that they've had.
If you're going to be building a brand based off of user-generated content, really make sure that you allow people or give some people some reward for their participation. In this case, it could've been the reward of being able to show other people how funny and witty they are. Another reward . . . I mean, think about Facebook. People love to share what they're doing or what they're eating. They like to share their trips that they're on, or photos of their wedding, or things like that. People feel happy and rewarded for doing that, that's the benefit. They're there also to better connect with their audience, as well. Those are some benefits, so you have to think about what benefits can you have when they generate. If you ask them to do something and they don't get anything in return or reward for it, why would they continue to do it? Again, that's another big thing. Building a tribe beforehand, making sure you gain excitement.
I think one thing that goes along with that, which is related to my resource, is when you're building this tribe and when you're getting fans, perhaps you run a Kickstarter campaign to start building buzz for it. Or you start reaching out to people who are influencers who might have a target audience that you're targeting and have them come on board. I would imagine that in order for a user-generated content site or brand or app to be completely successful, you would need at least 100 or 200 people already using it before you launch. What I mean by that is you want to run with the small test group. You want to see if they participate and get them excited about it. See and get their direct feedback on what can be done to improve, or what they might like or dislike about that experience. That way, you're working closely with those people beforehand, before you launch it to the world, but they're also getting special treatment, like they are there as the early bird ambassadors. People who can actually help shape and affect the direction of where this app or brand or this product is going to go.
That's the source of the lean start up model. Don't build everything up front before you release it to the world. Build the minimum viable product, something that really gives value and a core of what you're trying to do, but then work with the people who are interested at first, sort of the low-hanging fruit who really love the idea, and work with them closely to make it better, so that when you do release it to the world, it is something that you know because you've talked to people in that target audience and helped shape that product with them. You know it's going to be more successful. You know people are going to use it. Of course, these people that you've been working closely with, hopefully they would be excited about the changes that you make and feel proud to be a part of that process. When launch day comes, they're going to share it, they're going to participate. You can email them and tell them, “Hey we need day one, day two, day three to be completely active because we want to get this rolling.” That's how I would approach user-generated content.
Think about the benefits to generating content for your users. What would that benefit be? Sometimes its just the ability to share on social media and show something off that they've done. Build a tribe, build excitement beforehand so there's a lot of activity. It also provides some social proof for people who are coming and seeing this brand new when you launch. Start small, make it easy to use. Make it completely easy to use, minimum viable product, and get feedback right away to build it into something that is worth spending time on when people see it live.
The last thing that's come to mind is, as far as having your users generate the content, make it incredibly easy to do it. To go on Twitter, you just need to tweet. To go on Facebook, you just need to write a status update. Whatever it is that you're building that you want users to contribute to, make it as easy as possible. Take down all the barriers. Just go to the minimum amount of effort to do that because that's how you're going to get more people to participate. The more steps involved, the less likely people are going to complete that process.
Joe, thank you so much for your question. An AskPat t-shirt is going to be sent your way for having your question featured here on the show. It's actually a really interesting question because we don't normally talk about user-generated content. We talk about producing content ourselves for our users. It's really cool and really interesting, I hope that helps you. If you have a question . . . If you're listening to this and you have a question you'd like answered here on the show, you can head on over to the AskPat.com and ask a question right there on the website.
Of course I want to leave you with a quote. This quote comes from today's resource which is The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. That quote is, “Lean thinking defines value as providing benefit to the customer. Anything else is a waste.”
So, whatever it is that you're focused on and working on right now, think about it. What is that benefit to that customer, to your audience member, to your reader, to your subscriber, to your listener, to your viewer? Know if there's no benefit there, then why are you spending time doing that? Thanks so much. Take care, and I'll see you in the next episode of AskPat.
An excellent book teaching the principles of running a disciplined business.
[Full Disclosure: As an Amazon affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]