August 25, 2008
Most bloggers recognize the incredible potential that exists with social media marketing. Many want to maximize the traffic they receive from social media, so they add a Digg button to their posts or sign up for an account at StumbleUpon. What too many bloggers overlook is that Digg and StumbleUpon are just two of the hundreds of available options, and they may not be the best fit for every blogger.
In order to get the most out of social media traffic you’ll need to put some thought into choosing the social media sites that are the most appropriate for your blog and your audience. Unfortunately, none of us have the time to be an active member on more than just a few social media sites, and trying to target too many of them by adding countless buttons and widgets to your blog will only make it cluttered and ineffective.
Among social media sites there is a huge variety of audiences, types of content that is popular, amount of traffic that is sent to popular links, etc. I think most of us would agree that quality traffic is more important than quantity of traffic. The quality of traffic that you receive from social media will be largely dependent upon finding the right fit for your blog. You’ve probably read that social media traffic is very low quality. From my experience, this is not always the case. Traffic from poorly-targeted social media sites will be low quality.
When you are evaluating social media sites pay attention to these factors. Find 2 or 3 that are a good fit for you and get the most you can out of them.
What type of audience? General or niche?
With so many different social media sites out there, the audience will vary greatly from one to another. Obviously, there are a number of general news sites, like Digg, but there are a growing number of excellent sites that focus on a specific niche. These sites typically will not send as much traffic as the major players, but the traffic will generally be of much higher quality and greater networking opportunities may be possible. If you’re looking for niche social media sites in your industry, check the categorized list of social media sites that I compiled.
What type of content does well?
One of the main things you’re going to want to study is the results of different types of content. Visit the front page every day for several days and look for patterns or habits that you can identify. Most social media sites will have an audience that generally prefers a few specific types of content. Learn whatever you can from the popular items, and try to create your own content that will have some of the same appeal to users. For example, if you see resource lists constantly on the front page, you may want to create your own resource list. Or, if you see controversial articles covering current news topics, try to go that route. Of course, whatever content you create should also appeal to your regular readers and subscribers.
What type of content does not do well?
At the same time you are looking for types of content that routinely draw results, also pay attention to what types of content you are not seeing on the front page, or what is drawing a negative response from readers. Just like each audience has its own likes, each will also have its own dislikes. Trying to promote the wrong type of content at a specific social media site is a waste of time.
Do users submit their own content?
If you are planning to target a specific social media site you will definitely want to know if there are any written or unwritten rules about submitting your own content. If so, you’ll need to rely on your readers to submit it, or ask friends to do so.
How many votes does it take to be popular?
Some sites, like Digg, can take over 100 votes (and more in recent months) to make it to the front page, whereas smaller social media sites may only require a few votes. Obviously, the larger sites also tend to have more users, so in some ways it can be easier to get votes. Still, this is something that you should consider. For my primary blog I target Design Float, a niche site for designers. One of the great things about promoting content at Design Float is that it only takes about 3 votes to get to the front page. Although it takes just 3 votes, popular submissions can easily receive a few hundred visitors in a day.
Are there tools/widgets that you can use on your site
I’m sure you’re familiar with voting buttons and widgets. The Digg button is very popular, and several others are also common. There are some widgets and plugins that allow users to vote at just about any site they want, and there are others that are specific to a particular site. If available, consider whether or not you should use voting buttons on your site. My opinion is that voting buttons can be very effective if you don’t use too many of them and if you choose social media sites that a decent number of your regular readers use themselves.
How much traffic do popular submissions typically receive?
Of course, you will want to have an idea of what type of traffic you can expect if your content becomes popular. There are so many social media sites out there that many of them send next to no traffic at all. Don’t necessarily write off a particular site because it doesn’t send thousands of visitors, but you also don’t want to waste your time chasing after 10 visitors.
Is the profile of the submitter important?
Some social media sites, especially Digg, will be impacted by who submits the link. Certain “power users” have hundreds or thousands of friends that follow their submissions and vote them up. On other sites the profile of the submitter has very little or no impact. This is important for a few reasons. First, if the profile of the submitter does play a large role in the success of the submission, you’ll need to either find influential users to submit your content or build a strong profile yourself to submit your own content (which can be frowned upon). Second, sites that don’t favor particular users will place more value on the quality of the content rather than the network of the user.
What are the demographics of the users?
Ideally, you’ll want to find a social media site that has similar demographics to your target audience. For obvious reasons this will improve the quality of traffic that you receive. Some social media sites tend to have users that are in a particular age bracket, a specific sex, or from a specific geographical location. To determine these items you may have to spend some time on the site and visit the profiles of a lot of users. See what you can find out about them.
What views prevail?
The audience of different social media sites tend to have varying views on different issues, and some audiences can be very passionate about certain things. This can either help or hurt you. Cater your content to fit in with popular opinions and you could see impressive results. Write a post that goes against the majority view and you could see some backlash, depending on the site. This really can apply to just about any topic. For example, Apple vs. Microsoft, or conservative vs. liberal views.
What formats are accepted?
Many of the major social media sites are accepting pictures and video in addition to just standard links. Some social media sites even have specific sections or categories for different types of content (Mixx does this very well). As video continues to become more and more common, more social media sites will add specific elements to accommodate video submissions. For now, you’ll want to take this into consideration to determine if your content would be a good fit for a specific site.
How can you network with other users?
One of the basic elements of social media is networking with other users. Regardless of what site you are targeting, having a strong network of other active users will be extremely valuable. Not only will it improve your chances of getting traffic, but you can also make some great connections and help others along the way. Some social media sites offer much better networking opportunities than others. StumbleUpon is one of my favorites for networking. Being able to send messages, share links, and review other users all right from the toolbar make the networking on StumbleUpon hard to beat. If one of your goals is to improve your network through social media, make sure that you spend your time on sites that will make networking easy.
Are there specific sub-groups?
Social media sites that allow you to start your own group can improve your ability to meet others that share your interests. Again, this is something that Mixx does very well. Users can start a group or join and existing one, and group members can invite other users to join. If you’re looking to do some networking with others that fit into a specific niche, this may be something to consider.
Are the users connected to other social media sites?
Almost all social media users are active at more than just one social media site. If you can identify the relationships between various social media sites you may be able to use this to your advantage. For example, many popular submissions at Digg wind up on the front page of Delicious after a bunch of Digg users have bookmarked the page. Maybe you would like to target Delicious, but only a small percentage of your readers use Delicious. If it’s easier for you to get to the Digg front page, you may be able to create something worth bookmarking and transfer that Digg traffic into a spot on the Delicious front page.
Another effective approach is to use smaller, niche sites to send a smaller rush of traffic and try to convert that traffic into Diggs, Stumbles or Delicious bookmarks. Making the front page of a niche site is typically easier than hitting the front page of the major sites. Maybe you can take a small step towards a popular submission at a niche site that will allow you to take a bigger step towards success at a major social media site. Several months ago I wrote a more detailed explanation of this approach, How to Set Up a Domino Effect of Traffic.
How long does the traffic last?
Social media sites are notorious for sending a quick rush of traffic, and then nothing at all. With most social media sites, popularity doesn’t last long. StumbleUpon is one of the few exceptions. With SU you can still be getting trickles of traffic for several months or longer. You should consider whether or not sustained traffic to your submissions is important to you. In order to get a consistently high level of traffic from most social media sites you’ll need to be hitting the front page every couple of days, which in most cases isn’t realistic.
How many links can be generated?
Link building is a priority for many social media marketers. If you fall into this category, take some time to research how many links popular items are getting from different social media sites. You can do this by going back through items that were popular a few days ago and do a Technorati search for the specific URL of the page. This will allow you to see all of the links that Technorati is tracking to that page. One thing to remember here is that not all of the links you see will have been a result of popularity on a specific social media site. If an item was popular in one place, chances are it was popular somewhere else too. Still, if you check several different items you can get a good idea of the link building power this way.
Is there a feature/option to share submissions with friends?
If you have an established network of friends, you may want to ocassionally share some of your links with them. Each social media site has its own way of allowing this. StumbleUpon’s can be done straight from the toolbar without ever leaving the page. Digg uses the shout system to send email notifications, and many other sites have their own versions. If you want to be able to share your links and ask your friends for votes, this is important to consider. If you don’t want to share your links and you don’t want to be bothered by other users sharing links with you, these features may be more of a negative (although you can turn them off on many networks).
Is having friends important?
Social networking obviously involves being social. Most social media sites have a system that allows you to add other users as your friends, and for other users to add you as a friend. At some social media sites this is more critical than at others. The number and quality of friends can sometimes have a significant effect on the traffic that you receive. This is important to know before targeting a specific site, because it may mean that you’ll need to spend a lot of time networking and gaining friends.
My opinion is that the ideal strategy will involve targeting 2 or 3 different social media sites. That is enough to get some results, but not too many to spread yourself thin. If possible, be an active user of at least one major social media site and at least one niche site, although not every niche will have an effective social media site. If you have other things that you look for, please leave a comment.
My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the guy behind ProBlogger. You can read a little more about my journey of blogging on the About ProBlogger page – but let me take a moment to give you a bit of glimpse at who I am.