Can you make money from user-generated content?I had a rather bizarre run in with housewives’ favourite Nick Knowles of BBC One fame over the weekend.

As you know I live in Southampton and over the weekend I was in a club called The Orange Rooms for my mate Harry’s birthday. After a few drinks I needed to relieve myself so made my way to the gents, opened the door and then stopped. At the urinal, bizarrely, was Nick Knowles from the TV program DIY SOS.

I stood probably for a good few seconds, looking at him. Just at his face.

It wasn’t that I was star-struck: more that I felt I was in some kind of surreal dream. Or nightmare…

Anyway my staring must have gone on for a tad too long because he nodded at me and I kind of came round and proceeded to go about my business.

Now, my friends think I have a form of joke Tourette’s. I know pointless puns on pretty much any subject known to man and if a situation arises where I can slip it into conversation I can’t help myself and blurt it out. So there I was, standing next to Nick Knowles when it happened.

“I was in B&Q the other day Nick. I asked the assistant for some nails. When he asked me how long I wanted them, I told him I wanted to keep them”.

Nothing. Silence.

I’ve seen corpses move more than he did. Was it the fact that I had broken the unwritten rule of talking in the gents? Or was it because the joke was awful? I don’t know. But he made off sharpish without saying a single word.

This frustrated me. I was tempted to go back after him and keep telling him jokes until I got a laugh but he was too busy swanning around the club having photos taken with women.

I could have told him I was decorating my bedroom. I could have said that I had my old step-ladder out, because I don’t get on with my real ladder. But I didn’t.

I jest of course. That’s just me being bitter that he ignored me. I must stop being so emulsional.

And before you email in – the above is not a spelling mistake but a reference to paint. See, I am an unappreciated genius.

Anyway, on to the more important business of internet marketing tips and tricks…

I’m constantly looking at new ways to create internet businesses and I think, with a few caveats, there could be an absolute fortune to be made from the opportunity created by user-generated content like the phenomenon.

User-generated content: the perfect opportunity?

If you haven’t thought about it before sit back and think just how clever Youtube is. It is a web site created by two former Paypal employees. They put up a web site that enabled other people to upload videos to their server and stream them to friends and family. A couple of years later they sold the web site to Google for one and a half billion. They used the power of user-generated content to create a business. Brilliant.

Can you do the same? Well I think so yes. Now obviously I’m not talking about selling for billions but instead I’m talking about the power of user-generated content. I think the opportunity is a very real one if you harness it properly.

I was thinking about this when I was running a best man’s speech around in my head. Best man speeches are all recorded right? Well, why not offer people ten dollars or so for their best man’s speech. With a bit of savvy advertising you could get tons of people giving you the video of their speech or the speech at the wedding. You could put the videos behind a locked members area and create a kind of virtual best man’s coaching site. Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly. Here’s what rocked the reception and here’s what fell flatter that a stingray off a diving board. That kind of thing.

Let me give you another example. Cooking shows are ever popular. Jamie Oliver (don’t get me started), Gordon Ramsey, Ainsley Harriot and all the rest of the TV chefs’ shows always pull in big audiences. Could there be an idea with user-generated content getting people to video themselves cooking their own recipes for example? I’m not saying there is a market there; I’m just trying to get you to think about the basic idea of user generated content.

The possibilities here are really big for the savvy entrepreneur. Think of a niche market, then put on your thinking cap and try to figure out a way to get other people to give you videos of them “at work”. You’ll need some sort of reward policy. So for example you could pay them or give them access to the members area if they submit a video.

Prison Break, Lost and product launches

You may or may not realise it but TV shows such as Prison Break, Lost and even (dare I mention them in the same breath?) EastEnders can all teach us a thing or two about marketing through the internet. If you haven’t seen them they all rely on cliff-hangers at the end in order to get you tuned in to the next show. Every week I watch Lost or Prison Break and I’m always desperate for the next week to roll around so I can find out where the cliff-hanger at the end of the show are going to end up.

If you watch all of the big product launches all of them use the same kind of concept. They give away tit-bits and then tease you with what’s coming in the next email. Done properly you can get people desperate to receive your emails and hungry for your information. This is most definitely something you can and should incorporate into your business.

There are a few places you can do this. In your autoresponder messages and follow up emails you can end with a little teaser as to what the reader will get in the next email. This will encourage them to look out for your email, or to return to your web site more quickly for more information or to find the answer to your little tease.

Another place you can do this is in your weekly email newsletters. If you have an eletter and want to build up to a product launch follow the Lost and Prison Break format. Quality content that arouses interest and then just stop before the real good stuff. Tell the reader they’ll have to “tune in next week” to find out more.

Trust me this is a really, really powerful concept. I’ve been using it for two years now and it was only watching Prison Break last night that it dawned on me this kind of marketing is everywhere. Who remembers when Orange the phone company first launched and their advertising simply said “It’s Coming”. We all were scratching our heads wondering what was and when!

Use cliff-hangers in your own marketing and ventures. They’re a genius way to maintain interest.