Social news sites first became popular when Digg.com launched on the Web in 2004. A social news site enables its users to submit news stories and vote on them. The most popular articles percolate to the top of the list and are rewarded with a huge surge in Web traffic. A candid discussion of each article often appears. The most popular social news sites are Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon, which recently hit 2 million registered users. DotNetKicks is an excellent social news site for .NET programming.
As described by TechCrunch, the theory behind social news sites is that the world can do a better job than a handful of editors to determine which news stories people want to read. The problem is that voting by mass consensus often results in the lowest common denominator. Also, many of these sites use super-moderators, which like super-delegates in the Democratic primary, can result in a few key votes overwhelming the will of the majority. On Digg, this means that the most popular stories are usually about Apple, Linux, and Ron Paul.
But social news sites are becoming an increasingly important marketing and public relations tool for companies and especially bloggers. Even a mild Digg can send ten thousand or more fresh viewers per day to your blog and significantly increase your ad revenue. Though these traffic spikes tend to be short-lived, there is often a residual effect of viewers that enjoy your site and return for future visits. Most bloggers will see a persistent traffic increase with each Digg surge. Hence, it’s important to understand how to use social news sites to your blog’s advantage.
Following are 7 tips for bloggers on how to work with social news sites like Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon:
1. Pick topics that will interest the masses
Of course it’s important to select topics that interest you, are appropriate for your blog, and for which you have some expertise. But you have to remember that Digg is essentially a popularity contest for digital content, so you need to pick topics that are broadly appealing. This may mean that you won’t necessarily be popular on Digg itself, but there are many other sites, and some might be more amenable to your topic.
It’s like the Hollywood movies, “The Pianist” and “Armageddon.” One was art and one was popular. There’s a place in this world for both, but if you really want to be Digged, you have to blow up an asteroid occasionally (or the equivalent in your blog’s genre).
2. Write in a way that will appeal to the masses
Most Web surfers have short attention spans, given how easy it is to “change the channel” on the Web. So keep your articles short and direct. People will not Digg a muddled mess of an article, unless they are poking fun at your muddled mess.
The masses also love lists and twists and judicious use of headings so we can find things quickly. Bite size portions, less is more: this is the recipe for our increasingly ADD-addled brains.
3. Add buttons so readers can easily Digg your articles
Of course you want to make it easy for people to Digg your articles, so include buttons at the end of each article for the social news sites you target. ShareThis is a good service to cover all the major sites.
4. Ensure your web host can handle the traffic surge
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The Web throws you a party, and you don’t even show up. This is what happens when a surge of Digg traffic swamps your blog. If you’re not paying attention and restore your blog quickly, you could miss the Digg wave completely.
Be sure your Web hosting package has enough bandwidth to handle a Digg surge. Some hosts now offer “traffic surge protection” that will automatically upgrade your plan in the event of a traffic spike.
5. Don’t Digg yourself
Admit it, we’ve all done it, me too. We think that Digging ourselves will “grease the pump” and get things going. But one vote, even the first one, really doesn’t matter. If people love an article, they will Digg it, hopefully en masse.
Contrary to the urban myth, you will not go blind if you Digg yourself. But self-promotion looks desperate, Diggers hate a marketing pitch, and the experience of self-Digging and then waiting to be Digged can be discouraging. A much better use of time is to generate terrific content. And it really helps to develop a network of friends and fans who will Digg your stuff often.
6. Grow a thick skin
The “h8ers” thrive on the Web, protected by the cloak of cyber-anonymity (cybernymity?). With the exception of the occasional human interest story that warms even the coldest heart, most blog articles need to be at least somewhat controversial to be interesting and attract Digg attention. Basically, you’re not doing your job as a blogger if you’re not pissing someone off.
The comments on social news sites are much more brutal than any comment you’ll find on your blog (and not delete). Precisely because you cannot delete the comments on social news sites, that’s where the h8ers will tear you down. So you have to accept or ignore the negative and destructive feedback, learn from the good feedback, try not to take it personally or get personal, and always take the high road.
7. Watch but don’t worry
It’s important to pay attention to what happens to your articles and submissions on Digg, and to monitor feedback so you can improve your writing and marketing. But a large part of the Digg experience is beyond our control. The mob will do what the mob wants, and that’s what’s both scary and exciting about Digg and other social news sites.
More to Digg
- 10 Secrets to Marketing with Social News Sites
- TechCrunch: Toward a Better Digg
- Social News Sites: Digg, Diggers, and Dugg
Article published on June 11, 2008
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