How do Social News and Bookmarking Sites Work?
Social News Sites are websites that allow users to submit and vote on content from around the Web. This voting activity helps isolate the most interesting links. Marketers have found these sites to be very useful for generating buzz and traffic around specific campaigns or articles, but direct marketing on social news sites is typically frowned upon.
Social bookmarking sites are similar to social news sites, but the value presented to users is focused onallowing them to collect and store interesting links they’ve found and may wish to revisit. Most bookmarking sites count the number of times a piece of content has been stored and interpret these as votes to highlight the most valuable links.
Elements of Social Media Useful for Marketers
Social news sites focus on delivering the latest news based on votes. Bookmarking sites allow users to save links for later reading; the number of saves counts as votes and the most popular links are displayed.
These sites all have certain elements that are useful to marketers:
- Your Profile. Social news and bookmarking sites each have slight variations regarding user profiles. For those that allow you to upload an avatar image (and most do), you should use the same image across all sites; this should also be consistent across social networks and any other sites where you have a profile. Fill out as much profile information as you can. The more active and consistent you are in contributing to a site, the more valuable your account will become.
- Submitting. To get your content listed on a social news site, you have to submit it. During the submission process, you’ll be asked to provide a headline, a short description of the content of the page, the category it should be listed in, and some tags to describe it. Most communities frown on people who submit their own content, so avoid doing this. Instead, cultivate a community of active social news users on your site, and display links for them to submit your content. Making friends with power users is also a great idea.
- Voters. The central action of interest to marketers on social news sites is voting. Different sites call it different things, and some don’t even specifically label it, but the idea is the same: a piece of content is submitted to a site, and other users vote on it, either up or down. Many social news sites offer badges that you can copy and paste onto your site. Once your content has been submitted to one of these bookmarking sites, add a badge to your page so that your readers can vote it up or down without leaving your site. These buttons are great for promoting your content. You should place them as prominently on your content as you can when you think that a specific page has a good chance of doing well on a certain social site.
- Linkerati. Coined by Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz, the term linkerati refers to a class of individuals on the Web who are more likely than other users to have their own blogs or websites where they can link to content they find interesting. When marketing to social news sites, the linkerati are your target, as many of them frequent these sites and will blog about content they find there.
- Going Pop. The ultimate goal of marketing on social news sites is to get your content listed as “popular.” Voting sites have sections, typically on their home page, where they display the content that has been voted as most popular. Once a page has enough votes and is exposed to a larger audience, it will often start an avalanche of increasing vote counts; stories that have gone popular often have many more votes than those that have not.
Content Types That Work On Social Voting Sites
- Lists. Top 10 types of lists give off the scent of easy-to-read content, and people love to rank things. Write a list of the 10 best, the 7 worst, the 9 geekiest, or the 5 most expensive things in your industry.
- Breaking News. When big news breaks, it appears in the popular lists on most voting sites quickly. If you can be the first to write about something big happening, you’ll have a good shot at going popular.
- Games. Casual games that can be played in a browser window do well on these types of sites. Simple,addictive games can be developed with minimal investment by most coders.
- Controversy. Social media users love to argue; if you can present a well-constructed argument against a commonly held belief, you can get lots of votes. This works well when used against corporations, groups, or people perceived as “bad.”
- Videos and Photos. Short videos and surprising photographs (especially in collections) are easy and quick for viewers to consume, and are well received by social news and voting sites.
Popular Social News and Bookmarking Sites
- Digg is the most popular social news site and the standard by which all others are measured. It is the most well-known site of its kind, and although it has made great strides to include nongeeky news, its core users are now and always have been twentysomething male techies.
- Reddit. Perennially in second place in the social voting race, Reddit still drives substantial amounts of traffic. And, as opposed to the all-or-nothing nature of Digg, Reddit sends some traffic to stories that don’t quite go pop.
- StumbleUpon. Perhaps the most mainstream social bookmarking site, StumbleUpon also differs from the standard voting site interface. Rather than a front page with a list of popular links, StumbleUpon lets users interact with it through a browser plug-in that allows them to “stumble” from page to page across the Web with the click of a button. When you see a page you like anywhere on the Internet, you click on a thumbs-up
icon—as opposed to the thumbs-down icon for bad content.
- Delicious focuses on storing your bookmarked links, and its social functionality takes a bit of a back seat. Bookmarking a page counts as a vote, and there is no down-voting mechanism. Stories that are saved enough times in a day or two (the exact threshold varies, but it is a bit more than 100) are shown on the Delicious front page and get a few thousand hits.
Each of the most well-known popular social news sites has its own audience likes and dislikes; and as a site gains notoriety, it becomes increasingly difficult for content to go popular. If your site does not fit neatly into the profile of one of the big sites, you can try to create content that serves those niches while being only obliquely related to your business, or you can target one of the smaller, niche social news and voting sites.
The following list is in no way exhaustive, but is meant to demonstrate the wide range of social news and bookmarking sites on the Web:
- Kirtsy Referred to by some as “Digg for girls,” Kirtsy has categories for crafts, parenting, fashion, and food. If your target audience is women, Kirtsy is a good place to start.
- Tip’d focuses on finance, investing, and business. Check it out if want to get your content in front of investors.
- Sphinn. This search and social media marketer’s voting site, Sphinn includes
stories about SEO, PPC, domaining, and affiliate marketing.
- Hacker News Grown out of the funding firm Y Combinator, Hacker News carries technical content and “anything that a hacker might find interesting.”
- Care2 This sites goal is to make the world a better place through green living. The site has news about a variety of causes, including animal welfare and environmental policy.