How to Skyrocket User-Generated Content on Your WordPress Site with Quick Sidebar Posting

How to Skyrocket User-Generated Content on Your WordPress Site with Quick Sidebar Posting

sidebarpostingI recently stumbled across this useful plugin that offers a widget for quick sidebar posting. The Sidebar Posting plugin works with WordPress and WPMU and has lot of potential to enhance content contribution on your social network when used with BuddyPress. It is very similar to the BuddyPress Quickpress plugin. Quickpress is quite a bit better-looking out of the box, but it has the drawback of being located in a sub-menu.

The Sidebar Posting plugin is different in that it resides in the sidebar of the page and submits posts to the main blog for approval before publication. The user also has the option to select a category from a drop down menu. You can see how this might come in handy for a site that is always soliciting user submitted content without requiring users to have their own blog. It saves you the trouble of having to aggregate content from multiple blogs if your site is not intended for long-form blogging. This form is only available to logged-in users. A visitor will see a button that says “Login to Post.” This helps in reducing spam posts sent to your account as drafts. The screenshot you see to your left is a quick cleaned up version of the plugin. Here’s how to use it:

1. Install the Sidebar Posting Plugin.

2. Add the Widget to Your Sidebar or Widgetized Area.

Appearance >> Widgets >> New Post. Alternatively, you can put it directly in your theme’s template by using the template tag: sidebar_post_widget()

3. Customize the Widget.

As much as I love this widget, it has the most unfortunate-looking design out of the box and presently comes with no customization options. You will need to use Firebug to grab its CSS and style it up so that it will be irresistible to your users for content submission. An attractive interface is one of the most important keys to increasing user-generated content. If it’s ugly, people don’t want to use it, no matter how well it functions. Though many of you may be proudly utilitarian when it comes to GUI, the majority of your users are not, especially the younger demographic. Your user has a natural appetite for beauty and it directly affects his affiliation with your site, as well as his participation level. So if you decide to employ this widget, don’t forget to make it pretty.

You can use this for a lightning fast way to collect testimonials, news tips, project updates, scavenger hunts, or any other category of content that would lend itself to short posts. It allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of your community and easily filter and display the content they are producing, without requiring them to have their own blogs to participate. Because you have the ability to tag them or re-categorize them, you can assign all the user submissions the same tag or category upon approval and call them in your template with a custom loop. Imagine only having to click “Publish” to post to your testimonials page. There’s no need to write a manual for how to post when you include it this way.

If someone wanted to extend this plugin, my suggestions for some excellent features are auto-notification upon publication of the post, extra customizable input field options, and image upload. The most important addition would be for the post to also display which user submitted the content, along with his avatar and a link to his profile, if using BuddyPress. I can confirm that it works perfectly with WordPress 2.9.1 and BuddyPress 1.2.