Forget UGC, Discover User-Generated-Linkbait

Will Young Screenshot - just for educational purposes! I’m not a Will Young fan!!!!

You remember in the good old days when if you wanted to put content on your site you had to write it yourself?

Then kapow, User Generated Content (UGC) came on the scene which opened up huge potential to just create a site which attracted visitors who would submit and create content themselves. Enter Web 2.0.

Now, I'm largely talking to the converted here - after all who isn't familiar with facebook, myspace, digg, sphinn etc. All these sites basically have no content and are solely built by the community. But what's next? Well having other people write my content is cool and all but I want to go one step further and let people do my job for me too. Let me explain.

##User Generated Linkbait (UGL)

What if you could tap into a resource of internet addicts, in your field or niche, and ask them to come up with some killer content? What if you could then just take that, write it up all nice and pretty on your site and submit to digg/reddit/SU. You'd have halved your work right?! Here's a step by step guide on how to do exactly that:

  1. Find a forum with a decent traffic level in your niche
  2. Spend some time contributing to the community, get your name respected and ensure the mods don't see you as a spammer (having a trusted profile in your niche community/forum is worth it's weight in gold - treat this as a serious investment and don't ruin it for a one-shot chance at linkbait)
  3. Start a post on the forum with the seed of an idea, and a couple of examples from you
  4. Let the forum community chip in their own ideas and funny comments and let them grow the idea for you
  5. Wait for the thread to die down and compile all the best bits from it
  6. Write this up into a piece of linkbait for your site
  7. Social media success!
So, if you're still scratching your head let me walk you through an example:

Say your niche is music, go find a music forum (this is super easy!) and start creating a good user account. You don't necessarily need to become a a power user, just make sure that people recognise your handle/avatar and that people know you're not a spammer. Then, start a thread like "Best music to work out to" and put a couple of your own ideas in there, mention you're building a list and open the floor to the community.

What you'll get back is linkbait gold. People will be coming up with amusing, serious, wacky and bizarre tracks along with some great commentary and funny snippets.

Then, all you have to do is write this up into a neat piece of linkbait, pander to the social media crowds and then release into the social media wilderness. Run linkbait, RUN!

The best thing about all this? If you actually care about your niche (vingold nicely explains why you should) then you'll almost certainly already be participating and commenting in forums relating to your niche which means that this whole process is super easy.

I should also point out that if you write up the content and put it on your site, be sure to leverage the forums for traffic to your site. After all, 20,000 linux using teenagers from the states are all well and good for crashing your server but don't help your bottom line. 300 - 500 visitors from within your niche and probably in the same country as you can be invaluable.

##Things to think about

  • Try using forums as a staging platform to see how good your idea is, this could easily be the 4th step of Hamlet's post. After all, if you start the thread and it bombs - doesn't that suggest that your target audience isn't that interested?
  • Don't just think about digg success when you're talking about linkbait, ask the community about tools, services, how-to manuals and guides they'd like to see and then give it to them. Again, if you can leverage a forum (or 5!) full of traffic within your niche you won't get the same number of visits as from digg but you'll sure as hell build a loyal fan base.
  • Consider leveraging the forum traffic for votes on digg/reddit/su. Use this one carefully, but if you have a story which you want to break which your niche feels strongly about then asking them to vote on your story can really help you out. A fantastic example of this in action. Note that since a lot of the forum members will have new profiles it will take a higher than usual number of votes to get popular (I think the Absolute Poker stories took about 300 before they reached the homepage!)
And last but not least - DON'T SPAM THEM! These are potentially your loyal fans/readers/users - treat them with respect and play nice.

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