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I am working on a website that will be community driven by user generated content. I need people to write reviews and their experiences in similar way as Yelp.

What's the best way to offer them value to get and how did Yelp get their initial user base when they started out?

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YELP did a lot of advertising when they first launched, I would advise following suit and getting a budget together for a large campaign.

Hooking into social networks would be a good way to make it easy for early users to share with their network of friends and colleagues.

Finally, I agree with @itpian.com - % of earnings and gamifying everything with a reputation system couldn't hurt!

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The best would be, offer them some % of your earning and give them reputation.

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Basically it's a combination of promotion/advertising in old media, promotion in social networks, SEO and other marketing magic (aka What Would Don Draper Do). The downside is that this requires a lot of money to do so you either need to have the money on hand or know somebody who'll provide it as venture investment or a business loan.

Now, you can go smaller and grow. Basically, you have to find something you can rank for in terms of SEO and/or isn't too expensive for PPC ads. If it's a topic people like to talk about and are passionate about, you'll get regular visitors, readers and commenters/posters (aka free content providers) in most cases. It can grow quite big over time. Consider how well StackExchange has done from essentially a small beginning.

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