Should you start a community writing program?

Oh the things we do for climbing the SEO ladder!
Producing a steady stream of high-quality, long-form content is a challenge for any startups or company’s marketing team.

At Dashcam we just started writing regularly content on our blog that matches what we believe is useful to share with others! While doing it full-time in-house is one solution, it can be expensive to maintain a content team. Especially if you want to scale fast. Another approach is to spin up a community writing program where users create content featuring your product.

What is a Community Writing Program?

A community writing program allows users of your product to pitch article ideas to your marketing team. If an idea is accepted, the user will work with your team to research and write a complete piece of content (in some scenario the user who pitched, does all the work, after being given a thumbs up).

The finished article is typically published on your company’s website, blog, or documentation portal. In some cases, the writer may get to publish on their own blog or medium as well.

In recent times, a lot of companies have been doing this! Some notable examples include DigitalOcean and LogRocket. Both companies pay writers a few hundred dollars to submit tutorials featuring their products. The articles go through editorial and technical review before being published to ensure a certain quality standard.

To write or not to write

Leveraging your users to create content has several advantages:

  • Cost-effective: Paying a few hundred dollars per article is much cheaper than hiring full-time writers to produce the same amount of content.
  • Diverse perspectives: Drawing from a pool of users creates more diverse perspectives than just relying on an internal team.
  • Authenticity: Content directly from users who love your product feels more authentic, because it’s written from the perspective of a person who uses the product.
  • Scales creation: A community of writers can produce far more content than even a large team of in-house writers. The bottle neck becomes the review process!

However, there are some inherent challenges to consider, here are the top 3:

  • Topic validation – Just because a user pitches an idea doesn’t mean it will resonate with your audience or rank well in search. You’ll need to vet ideas, do keyword research and make sure that the topic fits in your overall SEO strategy
  • Writer management – Most community writers have day jobs. It’s difficult to hold them to deadlines or ensure they follow best practices. Getting a consistent influx of new content isn’t immediate like when you hire an agency or do it yourself.
  • Production consistency – It’s hard to maintain a steady publishing calendar when relying on external writers, especially when they’re new to writing for your platform.
  • Payments – Figuring out a way to pay your writers can become a challenge, since online payment processors might be limited in some countries and/or bank transfers aren’t always possible! (i.e. Stripe only supports 46 countries worldwide)

Overall, a community writing program can be a highly effective way to scale content production – if you have the staff to manage it or an extremely well defined process. It works best if you can quickly validate proposed topics, if you have a large pool of reliable writers (not always easy to find at the desired level), and if you have editorial resources to polish submissions.

When done right, leveraging your community for content can take your content strategy and SEO to the next level!

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