As you learned if you read the first part of this series, the blanket term “social media marketing” incorporates a whole host of ways to creatively promote your business, beyond the social media tent-poles like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. By branching out into different niche areas of social media marketing, you can target specific audiences, get wider exposure, and give your content a greater chance of going viral.
This week I’m going to talk about social bookmarking sites such as Reddit, Digg, and StumbleUpon. If you aren’t familiar with these sites yet, don’t worry—I’ll walk you through what they’re all about and how to make the most of them in your marketing campaign.
What Social Bookmarking Sites Are About
Social bookmark sites, at their most basic, are sites that allow users to share links to websites they like. The idea for this type of site comes from the concept of people bookmarking web pages on their computers. If you visit a website frequently, you’ve likely saved it as a favorite, so that every time you open your Internet browser, you can easily access it. However, if you start bookmarking too many sites, it can get overwhelming to scroll through your bookmark tab, and you won’t even have access to the tab if you’re not using the computer you originally saved it on.
Enter social bookmarking sites, which save your favorite sites and web pages to the cloud, so that you can easily access them no matter what computer (or phone, or iPad) you’re using. But here’s the ‘social’ part: these sites have the additional benefit of allowing their users to share their bookmarks with other people, see what other people are bookmarking, and see what pages are the most bookmarked on any given day.
Because of these features, social bookmark sites can drive massive amounts of traffic and help web content go viral. This is the so-called ‘Digg Effect’, named after one of the social bookmark pioneers. During the height of Digg’s popularity, a single mention on their home page would typically lead to hundreds of thousands of page views. Today Digg doesn’t have quite as many loyal users, but the social bookmarking world has exploded, including many, many more sites where users can find your content.
What Businesses They Can Benefit
This type of site isn’t going to be the best point of focus for every company, but there are certain businesses that can make good use of social bookmarking. Here are a few types of businesses and websites that would do well to look into this form of social media marketing.
Websites that regularly produce compelling content. Some sites produce engaging and eye-catching content that isn’t directly related to their market or product in order to gain more attention and get more people to link back to their site (this is a practice known as link-baiting). If your site produces this kind of content, bookmark sites are a great way to get that content out to a wider audience (and to target niche audiences). Top 10 lists, infographics, tests and quizzes, tip lists, humorous content, and controversial pieces are a few examples of content that tends to make good link-bait.
Businesses that thrive on traffic. Conversion rates are typically low from the traffic produced by bookmark sites, so if your business hinges on making sales, this might not be the best venue for you. However, if the goal of your business is to have more traffic (perhaps to help gain more ad views or sponsors for your site), then bookmark sites can help you do that.
Businesses that are seeking a boost to their search rank. The more people who link to your site through bookmarks (and the more views you get from people following those links), the higher you’ll be in the search engine rankings. This is just one of many strategies you can employ to help with search engine optimization.
Businesses that want to showcase their expertise. Because bookmark sites encourage people to group links by specific interests, they can be great for organizations that want to prove their expertise and experience in a particular arena. If you find a social bookmarking site that is a strong match for your target audience, then it can be an effective part of your marketing plan.
How to Use Social Bookmarking Sites
- Consider the audience of the site. Different things go viral on different sites, so it’s important to know what the audiences for the different sites are looking for. For example, politics and offbeat or humorous stories tend to do well on sites like Reddit or Digg, while StumbleUpon’s most popular categories include technology and the environment.
- Craft a great headline. You’ll be competing with plenty of other bookmarked pages, so make sure that your headline is something that will compel your viewers to click through. Consider saying something controversial or posing a question to entice people to find out what you’ve written about.
- Include bookmark buttons on your site. Make it as easy as possible for site visitors to share your site or specific content with friends and followers.
- Make use of tagging, categories, and keywords to get found. On many social bookmarking sites, people will search for different types of content, so just like you have a keyword strategy for your website, you should have one for your social bookmarks. Make use of all the ways that the site allows you to organize your bookmark to make it as easy as possible to find.
- Engage with followers. This goes for any form of social media marketing—it’s called social for a reason. By responding to viewer comments or posting comments on another user’s links, you’ll show that you’re an active part of the community, which will make your brand seem more trustworthy.
- Learn the lingo. Each social bookmarking site will have different norms in terms of posting content. For example, some sites may make use of hashtags while others may never use them. Before you post content, take the time to learn about the language used by community you are posting to.
- Don’t spam. Most bookmarking sites have strict spamming policies, so make sure that the content your posting is actually offering useful and entertaining information, not just blatantly advertising. Also, sharing content from sites other than your own can be a way to avoid seeming like a spammer.
- Be topical and relevant. The content that tends to do the best is the content that comments on something that’s currently going on or being talked about by a wide audience. Posting about JLo’s baby when the royal baby has just been born isn’t a good strategy.
- Research and scope out competitors. Bookmark sites aren’t only good for boosting your social media presence—they can make it easy for you to research and scope out links related to your competitors since they’re already easily organized for you.
Specific Networks in This Category
Reddit refers to itself as “the front page of the Internet” and is a collection of photos, articles, and videos shared by its users. It also has a ton of sub-reddits (aka subcategories) for just about every interest you could think of, so placing content in one of these sections is a good way to start attracting viewers who may be interested in your industry. In 2012, the site had 37 billion page views, making it a great way to get noticed if you have attention-grabbing content to share.
The site’s audience is mostly male (70%), between the age of 18 and 34 (61%), and earns more than 60k a year (62%). Funny and interesting images, cutting-edge commentary on your area of expertise, as well as opinion pieces about current events tend to do well. It is especially important to be active in this social network since strong comments and follow-ups make a big difference in engaging users. You can also use it as a resource for requesting product feedback, something Microsoft does on the site successfully.
A procrastinator’s favorite, StumbleUpon lets users quickly click through random web pages based on a specified set of interests and to bookmark the content they like best. Because of its seemingly random nature, StumbleUpon tends to favor entertainment-based or artistic content. Heavy topics and long-form content usually doesn’t do well. The site’s audience is predominantly male (60%), between 18 and 34 (60%), and earns over $60k a year (58%). If you think it would be a good fit with your business, you can use their ‘Paid Discovery’ service to increase traffic.
Delicious is one of the most popular sites for sharing, saving, and managing web pages. As with many other social bookmarking sites, it shares a feed of popular links on its front page. One feature that makes Delicious stand out is that users can create customized portfolios, so if your business involves a lot of blogging or guest posting on various sites, you can use this site to centralize all your content.
I talked about Pinterest more in depth in the first part of this series, because it’s a picture social networking site but it’s also falls into the category of social bookmarking. Users can “pin” any image from the Internet that they like on their board, and other users can view these boards and share their own content. If your business benefits from visual advertising, you may do well on Pinterest. It’s audience is overwhelmingly female (82%), and you can learn more about how to best target them in my blog here.
As the name implies, Fotopedia aims to be an encyclopedia of online photos. Users can post photo albums and photo-driven articles, ranging in content from popular travel destinations to concerts (and everything in between). As with Pinterest, this site might work best for you if your company has a visual component.
One of the original social bookmarking sites, Digg functions as a news aggregator, collecting articles, videos, and pictures in a number of different categories, including Business, Entertainment, and Technology. Anyone can post content, and users can “Digg” posts by giving them either an up or down vote. Users can also comment on previously Dugg articles, follow other users, and receive post recommendations based on who they follow. The site isn’t as popular as it once was, but it’s still worth considering.
Google Bookmarks is the tool on this list that perhaps most closely resembles bookmarking web pages on your computer. You can star or bookmark pages, maps, pictures, and videos, which will be saved to your Google Bookmarks homepage. You can organize your bookmarks into lists, share them with other people, and have Google suggest related content, making this a potentially good business tool if you share a lot of web content within your company. Additionally, if a lot of users add one of your company’s web pages to their list, it may help you climb in the search engine rankings.
In addition to the usual social bookmark feature of allowing users to save and tag web pages, Diigo lets users highlight and post sticky notes on content, creating a more tactile experience. The tagging system on Diigo makes it easy to organize content, so this is a good site to use if you want to research your competitors.
Mister Wong originated in Germany but launched its social bookmarking site in the US in 2007. The site allows users to join groups, share content with others, and see who has bookmarked links. Within groups, members can vote for submitted links that they like, helping the links that a lot of people vote for get more exposure.