"User-generated content" is much more than today's most tossed-around-the-tongue buzzword. It's the difference between having a flood of site traffic or just a trickle. Empower your users to create information that their peers want to see, and your site becomes a living, breathing place to be. Profiles, photos, and blogs still have currency in this post-and-share world—but video blogging is the hot now thing that's taking off fast.

Savvy.com, for which I'm marketing director, recently rolled out video blogging. The site is ranked as the No. 2 men's online lifestyle site by Alexa and others. With our complementary magazine and social network sections, plus streaming video and web TV, we've been called a "Yahoo for Men."

Our male-oriented news, sports, and entertainment content attracts heavy traffic from a mostly young and male demographic, but that content is not solely what brings them back to Savvy day after day. Audience retention is enhanced substantially by our "Friends" social-networking community, where most of our regular users drop in to update profiles, browse, blog, join model's fan clubs or other groups, and message other members.

In February, we launched video blogging to our regulars and new visitors—and learned three important tips.

Tip 1: Don't wait for "critical mass" to formulate your vlog strategy

Video blogs—or "vlogs"—are not yet entrenched in the mass consciousness. But that doesn't mean you should wait for the hordes to catch on before you start figuring out how to fit vlogs into your site and business model.

Without a doubt, streaming video has come of age now that more than 4 in 10 Americans reach the Web via high-speed broadband connections. A study by the Online Publishers Association found that 46% of Internet users watch online video at least once a month, and the success of YouTube bears this out. The site, which allows users to share their home-made videos, has seen its unique daily users double since December, from 3 million to 6 million. Likewise, Apple has sold more than 10 million iPods, the newest of which can play 75 hours of video.

But watching videos is only half the story. The vlogging party will really get pumping as webcam hardware is more widely adopted, steadily enabling mainstream subscribers to shoot their own images. Peripherals manufacturer Logitech's retail video sales have risen 36% year over year, driven by demand for its webcams. And Microsoft recently announced plans to offer mass-market webcams for as low as $50 by August.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Teri Sawers is marketing director for Savvy.com.