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How To Add User Generated Content To A WordPress Site

by Sharon Hurley Hall

Forums, reviews, blog posts, comments and social mentions are among the types of content that can be generated by your users.

UGC is used by news organizations such as the BBC and CNN to plug the gaps that their own journalists can’t cover by submitting photos, videos and updates on breaking news. This kind of content is effective for attracting a community with nearly any demographic.

Recent research from Hubspot and others has shown that using user generated content is  a particularly big winner with millennials or Generation Y, the largest ever consumer segment. The Hubspot research shows that:

  • 80% of users look for recommendations from strangers to influence purchasing decisions.
  • 51% see these recommendations as more important than those given by friends and family
  • Among this group, user generated content in the shape of reviews is key to purchases of electronics, cars, travel, credit cards and insurance.

No business can afford to ignore this huge group of consumers.

User Generated Content is powerful.  So how can you tap into the user-generated content vibe?

If you’re running a WordPress site, then you have lots of options. Here are some of them.

Using Built-in WordPress Tools

Roles and Capabilities

Roles and Capabilities in WordPress

One way to allow users to submit content to your WordPress site is to use the roles built into the software itself.

You can choose the default role for new users in the admin dashboard. People can register as contributors to the site and can then create and submit posts for you to review. This basic role has some limitations, such as the inability to add images or to access posts for editing once they have been submitted.

Other roles give more access, but may also give contributors capabilities to alter other aspects of the site, which you may want to avoid. Another option for managing roles and capabilities is the WP User Control plugin. This adds a login, registration and password reset widget to your sidebar.

Email Posting

WordPress has a very useful post by email feature and with a bit of tweaking you can use this to get users to submit content to your site. Greg Boggs provides a useful outline of how to achieve this. Use a contact form plugin – almost any one will do – and point it to the WordPress post by email address. Experiment with your form design so you get the right fields for post title, content and so on.

The two options above work, but they are not perfect. With the first, remember that users may not want to register in order to contribute to your site. With the second, you may still have to do some tweaking to format the posts in the right way for the site. If you want to make the job a bit easier, then an even better option is to get a plugin to do the heavy lifting for you. Here are some plugins to help you manage UGC.

5 WordPress Plugins for User Generated Content

1. User Submitted Posts

User Submitted Posts

2. FV Community News

If you want users to submit relevant news in your sector, then FV Community News is a good choice. This plugin creates a form from which users can submit a title, link, description and image. This content then goes to your admin panel for moderation or editing before you make it live. You can change field names and the default behavior for user submitted content and can place the form via widget or shortcode. There are additional options for producing a list of posts and a tag cloud for community content. (WordPress download link)

3. Quick Post Widget

Quick Post Widget

Quick Post Widget does exactly what it says: provides a widget from which users can write a post and make it live. It even includes the option to switch to the visual editor and can be customized to allow admins to approve posts before they go live. NB: This plugin does not appear to be available via the WordPress plugin repository. Similar functionality for photos only is available via the Quick Post Image Widget.

4. WordPress Guest Post Plugin

The WordPress Guest Post plugin allows you to add content to your site via a form on a purpose-built page. The form includes a Captcha to help weed out spam. These posts go in their own tab in the admin dashboard and you can review them before posting. The latest version of this beta plugin is available here.

5. Gravity Forms

Gravity Forms

Gravity Forms isn’t free, but thousands of users rate it as one of the top contact forms out there. So you won’t be surprised to find that it’s a great option for getting UGC on your site. All you have to do is set up the form as usual, but use form field titles from WordPress for title, content, tags, categories and so on. GravityWiz has an excellent tutorial on the process to help you get started.

Forums and UGC

Another option for getting user generated content on your site is to include a forum on the site.

There are several forum plugins for WordPress, but among the most popular are bbPress and SimplePress. If you need more choices, check out the ones in this article from WPMU.org. These plugins include all the functions you expect from forums including user registration, post moderation, signatures, anti-spam tools and much more, as the SimplePress feature list shows. The great thing about forums is that they help you to build an engaged community on your site and, while you may need a moderator, they pretty much run themselves.

Finally, don’t think that you have to pick just one of these methods for getting user generated content on your site. You can include a forum, have some regular contributors and use a form on a page or sidebar so that other users can also submit posts and links. That really is having it all!

16 Comments

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Sharon Hurley Hall

Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional freelance writer and blogger. Her career has spanned more than 20 years, including stints as a journalist, academic writer, university lecturer and ghost writer. Connect with Sharon on her website.

16 COMMENTS

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  1. Anonymous says:
    February 12, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    I am truly grateful to the holder of this web site who has
    shared this impressive article at at this time.

  2. Anonymous says:
    January 23, 2016 at 8:22 am

    This is a very good tip especially to thoswe new to the blogosphere.

    Short but very precise information… Appreciate your
    sharing this one.A must read post!

  3. Dennis says:
    May 29, 2014 at 1:45 am

    Thank you for this article Sharon. I’m very comfortable with wordpress and I was wondering if it was ever possible to create a forum with it. And there you are talking about bbpress! I’ll definitely check that out.

    With user-generated content (UGC) comes the prickly issue of moderation. Forums are conflict hotspots, especially if it’s a topic that users get very passionate about. While I’d like to build one in my spare time, I find myself hesitating because the legal climate isn’t favorable. (I’m based in the UK). I’m curious to know what your thoughts are on this Forbes article:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericgoldman/2013/05/09/uks-new-defamation-law-may-accelerate-the-death-of-anonymous-user-generated-content-internationally/

    • May 29, 2014 at 11:20 am

      Thanks for sharing the article, Dennis. It certainly seems to make using UGC much trickier if you’re based in the UK.

  4. nick says:
    April 29, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    Try this. Worked for me. How to Allow Users to Submit Posts to WordPress.

    • April 29, 2014 at 2:17 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Nick. That’s a great solution.

    • April 29, 2014 at 2:22 pm

      Thanks, Nick; that’s pretty neat! Love the detailed settings graphic. 🙂

  5. wpdil says:
    February 25, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    User Submitted Posts plugin is very useful plugin.

  6. CH says:
    June 7, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Sharon,

    Very helpful info – thank you.

  7. Moda says:
    January 9, 2013 at 8:01 am

    Thank you for the tips. I am planning to add some features related to UGC and if I can do it with WordPress I will love it.

  8. KSingh says:
    October 6, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    I have just installed the gues post plugin a couple of days ago. I have to tweak it slightly as there were a couple of small bugs. But all in all it looks great. Managing guest posts manually by email can be a very tedious task.

    • October 8, 2012 at 8:28 am

      Yes, if you use a lot of guest posts, this plugin can be a timesaver.

  9. HazMatt says:
    September 26, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Thanks, I am going to try a couple of them. I did try the User Submitted Posts and found it did not give you an error if the image was too big. I am hoping to find something for my website which I would like to turn into a photo sharing site.

  10. Andrew Woo says:
    September 9, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    I’m not that familiar with user-generated content, so I’m happy to see a post dedicated solely to it.

    When you mentioned CNN, I instantly thought about how they ask people to submit pics of stuff. Are there any wordpress plugins that let visitors submit pics?

    Also, is there a Twitter widget that pulls in people’s tweets related to your hashtag? I know I’ve seen MTV do this on the VMA’s before. Do you think that would be cool on a blog, or conference website or something?

    • September 10, 2012 at 5:45 am

      Looks like there are a couple of options, Andrew. There’s a plugin called Photosmash which lets you create galleries that users can upload to, and this tutorial from WPTuts+ shows you how to write your own plugin for the same purpose.

      Tweet Blender allows you to display Twitter hashtag searches in a widget. It hasn’t been updated for a while, though, and I’m sure there must be others.

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