I answered and wanted to share my thoughts here too:
Hey Steve and Zadi,
When I started a site for my book, Get Seen: Online Video Secrets to Building Your Business, last year, I had to decide what it would be. Would it be a SPLASH PAGE to show people where to buy the book, or would it be a community where people could interact with me and other readers?
I put the question out to twitter and posted two examples, one was a standard splash page, the other was a NING community site. People liked the community site because they could instantly see that the site wasn't static. The new content was being posted AND that they could interact.
Get Seen NING Site
So I went with NING. On all may blog posts, tweets and emails I published "http://stevegarfield.com/getseen" as the site for my book. That redirected to http://getseen.ning.com. I did it that way so I could change the redirect at any time and keep the same URL.
Last was SO last year. Now NING has decided to charge everyone.
That made me take a look at NING again. I would have been happy to pay for their service, but I took the opportunity to look at some options. At the same time I was running the NING site, I also had a FACEBOOK Get SEEN PAGE up.
I didn't have it as my main site, just as a a place for people who were already on Facebook to go to see content. Without any promotion, I had more fans on Facebook for the book than I had on NING.
So I made the decision to switch from NING to FACEBOOK. To make the change I just changed the redirect from NING to FACEBOOK.
Get Seen Community Site on Facebook
All of a sudden I had people commenting, posting questions, uploading videos and interacting like I never had on NING.
I think I saw all the increased activity because Facebook is where people are. It's a familiar user interface and EASY to participate.
The best way to encourage user submissions is to let people use the tools that they know, and tag the content so you'll see it. Post videos to YouTube, upload photos to Flickr, tweet on twitter with the #EpicFu hashtag. Remove the barriers to sharing.
One more thing I did was use Facebook Markup Language (FBML) to create a Facebook landing page. What this does is serve as a splash page for people new to the book site and encourages them to click the LIKE button to join the community.
Facebook Landing Page
Once you've visited the splash page and clicked LIKE the first time, you never see the splash page again and are sent to the main Facebook wall.
It's the solution I didn't have last year when I was designing the site. It's so easy.
One more thing. I think that there are too many community sites. Back in the early days of the internet, we had a handful of commercial communities like Prodigy, Compuserve and Delphi.
You'd log into these sites and were presented with a number of groups that you could join. Then when you'd revisit the site, you's see new messages and be able to participate in groups that you were interested in.
These sites were huge bulletin board systems.
I liked knowing where the conversation was. Everything is so disjointed now with many new sites requiring you to join yet another community.
For EpicFu, you've already built a robust community here, so the barrier to joining might not be an issue, but I think being where the people are and lowering the bar to entry is something to consider.
In fact, I saw that you had posted here, not via email or the EpicFu site, but via twitter.
Join the Community:
Visit Get Seen on Facebook
Buy the book: