The social bookmarking system (Digg, Stumbleupon, Reddit, etc.) is broken, and it has become so top heavy that “gaming” the system and unfair advantages given to “power users” have become the only real way to achieve success, a.k.a. a lot of traffic to your website.
For my regular Today is that Day readers, this post is not going to be about personal development or self improvement. However, it IS going to be about achieving success via your website, so if that is of interest to you, then please keep reading.
A quick Primer on Social Bookmarking
For anyone who doesn’t understand why people are spelling “Digg” like that, or anyone who doesn’t understand why Stumbling is a good thing, this section is for you.
In short, social bookmarking is a system where you find a blog post or a web page that you like, and you cast a “vote” on sites like Digg, Stumbleupon, etc., which lets other people know that you think they should also check it out.
If someone else likes that content, then they also vote on it, someone else joins in and does the same, yet another person casts a vote, and the process continues like that over and over again. The more “votes” that page gets, the more traffic that it gets as a result.
Traffic is the key to success on the Internet. There are other factors, to be sure, but even if you have the best website in the world, if no one ever finds it, you are just spinning your wheels.
So, the general idea is that by voting for content, you help the creator of that content to get more traffic to their website. In return, often the creator of that content will vote for your content as well, and a nice reciprocal stream of traffic is created. That stream of traffic grows larger and larger the more times that people vote for your content.
Sounds great, right? So what’s the problem?
1) There is too much voting going on
People have a tendency to think that if something is good, then MORE of it must be better. Sometimes that is the case, but often it is not. When it comes to social bookmarking, more is NOT better, and in fact, the entire process can backfire on you.
Social bookmarking sites are looking for extraordinary content, not just run of the mill stuff. It doesn’t matter how great of a writer you are, every single thing that ends up on your blog or your web page is not “vote-worthy”. Social bookmarking has become so competitive that people are asking for votes for every single thing that they put up on the Internet, which entirely defeats the purpose of the entire social bookmarking industry.
How you can fix it:
Only vote for content that is TRULY outstanding or useful, and only ASK FOR votes on content that is truly outstanding or useful. Just because you have a fleet of “voting buddies” doesn’t mean that every single thing that any of you write is worth sharing with the world at large.
Yes, put up all of the content that you want on your blog or your website, but don’t clog up the social bookmarking system by voting for everything that comes your way, or asking for votes on every single thing that you write.
p.s. – Practice what you preach in this regard. Don’t sweep other people’s content under the rug while only being partial to your own.
2) There are too many social bookmarking sites
Digg is the most heavily-trafficked social bookmarking site (at the moment), followed closely by Stumbeupon. Both of those sites have a lot to offer, yet both also have short-comings. I won’t get into the details of that since that is a discussion all by itself.
The same “more is better” mentality that I mentioned above has permeated the social bookmarking website creation sector. Although there are several large(ish) sites such as Reddit, Del.icio.us., and Propeller (to name a few), there are dozens of smaller sites that have popped up as well.
Since most people with websites or blogs want as much traffic as possible, everyone is scattering to get votes at as many of these sites as possible. Again, that seems logical, but it’s really not.
Each of these sites has their own unique communities and ways of doing business, and it is simply not possible to be an active member in twelve different social bookmarking communities – not if you have a job and/or a life, that is.
People who are trying to become popular on all of these different websites are just compounding the problem by once again “clogging up” the social bookmarking system, not to mention annoying their social bookmarking friends by asking for votes on so many different websites all the time.
How you can fix it:
Stick to a small number of websites where you are building up your community involvement, and ONLY interact on those websites (for the record, check out the Digg, Stumbleupon, and Mixx buttons below to see me practicing what I preach).
Become an active member in those communities by providing OUTSTANDING content for those communities to vote on, and also vote on other OUTSTANDING stories that you find there. Keep your chosen communities “clean” by not muddying the waters by voting for a bunch of crap content that no one really cares about, and certainly don’t provide that type of content yourself.
If you really want to try out more than just 3 or 4 social bookmarking sites, then simply build up your presence in one community, and then move on to other communities later.
3) The contact systems for these websites are broken
Most Digg users have hundreds (if not thousands) of “friends” on Digg, yet the Digg system will only let you send “shouts” out to 15 people at a time letting them know about the content that you want them to check out.
Stumbleupon will only let you send a message to ONE person at a time.
Some of the other sites don’t have a messaging system at all.
The entire idea behind social bookmarking is to share outstanding content, yet these websites make it very difficult for you to do that. The reasoning behind that is probably so that hundreds (or thousands) of people don’t start spamming each other every day.
The solution to sharing content with people who may be interested enough in your content to vote for it is to make sure that they are interested to begin with!
Adding friends on social bookmarking sites is nothing more than a “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” arrangement, and often that leads to seriously one-sided efforts. One person votes for their “friend’s” content all the time, while those alleged friends rarely return the favor.
How you can fix it:
Get involved in social bookmarking groups where all members agree to give due diligence to each other’s vote requests, and then manage the entire process via email. Using email requires each person to actually make an effort (what a concept!), rather than just blindly using some broken contact system that includes zero accountability on either end of the equation.
Yes, I can hear you now: I already get too much email!
I am involved with several of these email-only groups right now, and with the exception of Digg (where until today I was using their broken “shout” system) I spend approximately 1 hour per day reading and voting on my friend’s requests. When I send emails to those same people asking them to check out my stories, it results in an absolute flood of traffic, because my email partners reciprocate my efforts by voting for my content that is worth voting for.
If you aren’t willing to take the time to open a
n email, click a link, and then cast a vote once you get to the site, then you aren’t going to have time to do the same thing using any of the site-specific content sharing functionalities, either.
By doing the entire process via email, you can ensure that your social bookmarking partners are reciprocating your efforts, because it is easy to keep track of who is active and who is not. Even if you have an extremely active email network of social bookmarking partners, it is not difficult to keep track of who is voting for your content.
WHAT TO DO NEXT:
If you want more information about this entire process, or if you already understand and want to start getting the best possible return on your time investment when it comes to social bookmarking, then do the following:
1) Join my personal social bookmarking network. My email address is [email protected] Send me an email and let me know that you want to exchange content for social bookmarking purposes, and I’ll add you to my distribution list. In return, I will look at every piece of content that you send me, and any content worth sharing will get voted on.
2) Instead of (or in addition to) joining my personal network, start one of your own. Contact other bloggers or website owners and tell them that you want to exchange social bookmarking efforts. Most will be more than happy to. Social bookmarking is a free and easy way to get loads of traffic to your website.
3) Take the information from this post back to Digg, Stumbleupon, or any of the other sites, and use it to be a better community member. Vote for outstanding content, share outstanding content, and leave the crap content behind.
p.s. – To my present social bookmarking partners: I WILL NOT BE USING any of the shout/share/messaging features on any of the social bookmarking sites anymore. If you want to share your content for vote consideration, send me an email and I WILL check it out, and vote for it if it provides value!