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Engagement is the name of the game in today's world of online content, especially if you're trying to keep your trade publication's Internet presence as lively and lucrative as possible. The good news is that you don't have to carry the entire burden yourself -- you can spark the engagement you seek via user-generated content. Here are some ideas for inspiring your readers to help create the very words and pictures they experience on your site.

SEE ALSO: Should You Try User Generated Content?

Use Previous Input

Where to start with user-generated content? You probably have quite a lot of it at your disposal already, in the form of various constructive comments, questions, and thank-you notes from delighted customers. Contact the individuals and ask if they're okay with your posting their comments on your website or social media channels. Chance are that they'll feel honored to have their words put "up in lights" for all the world to see -- after all, what better compliment could they receive from a publisher?

Recycling these golden nuggets can give your online presence an immediate boost in approachability and immediacy as visitors see just how much you value your customers' opinions. But don't just sprinkle random testimonials here and there on your web pages -- consider putting a whole batch of them up in a blog post or a series of tweets, and then asking your online audience to add their own contributions and elaborations.

Encourage Creativity and Interactivity

In addition to using previous content to jump-start new interaction, you can (and should) generate new conversations among your publication's followers from scratch. The easiest way to do this is to ask for comments on your issue's latest articles or any Web-exclusive pieces you publish. But you can also ask readers to submit their own articles for a possible guest post on your publication's blog. You can even build a sort of essay contest around this idea by asking for submissions on a particular theme. Once you've posted the lucky winners, make sure you add a postscript asking for reader comments.

Another variation on the guest blog concept is to announce an upcoming guest post by a leading expert on a subject near and dear to your readers' hearts. Solicit questions from your readers, with the promise that the expert's post will address the best ones. This should inspire a lot of input -- creating a ready-made outline for the blog article in the process!

Don't Forget Video

If a picture is worth a thousand words, online video is worth thousands of responses from today's media-mad public. These days it seems as if just about everyone has access to some sort of digital camera and simple editing software, and the only thing more fun than watching other people's homemade videos is creating your own. So if you're looking to turn user-generated content to your advantage, and your YouTube channel could use a little (or a lot) more activity, ask your readers for video content. You might just be surprised at the blizzard of material you receive.

Special occasions such as holidays are often a great excuse to solicit user-generated video content. For instance, if Labor Day is coming up and your publication covers office tech, you might ask readers to send in videos showing the most amazing gadgets in their workplace. If you cover film makeup and special effects, Halloween is obviously a great time to solicit homemade scary movies from your readers.

You could even ask your readership to vote on the finalists you select, with the winning entry receiving a lifetime subscription or some other fabulous prize. With luck, you'll soon be overflowing with fresh, funny, or just plain conversation-worthy content -- and you didn't have to create any of it.

Make sure you promote your requests for user-generated content using every available avenue, from the text publication's pages to your website, social media channels, email blasts and press releases. Then sit back and watch your publication become the center of conversation!

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