Online Marketing Lesson 39: How to Become a Social Media Power User

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The main message of the best-selling book The Cluetrain Manifesto is the fact that markets are conversations. We can go a step further and say that markets are people. If you want to create a company, build a popular website, promote a service or network, you will need to find the place where people are gathering, and today that place is called social media.

In this lesson we will cover some general principles that you need to keep in mind if you want to become a social media power user. After that we will analyze in detail two social bookmarking sites that should be used by any online entrepreneur or marketer.

General Principle 1: You Must Use Social Media to Understand It

To succeed at social media, you have to think like a member of the community. You must understand the community, its explicit and tacit rules.

Becoming a social media power user also takes time. Using each individual network requires patience and dedication. The most powerful users on any social media website spend hours hours a day on the service, day after day. If you are looking for a quick marketing fix, social media is far from it.

Each and every social media community is different. The users behave differently. The types of submissions are different. The comments and reactions are different. You need to understand all these nuances to become a power user.

If you take into consideration large and established social sites, you will realize that even the smallest details matter. For instance, Digg users are more open to list posts, so you often see “Top 10″ or “The 20 best” types of posts making it to the front page. On Reddit, on the other hand, users tend to frown upon lists, so you would need to use a different title for your list posts there.

General Principle 2: Build Relationships With Other People

Studying and understanding the community is only half the battle. Social networks are social for a reason: they are made of people, and as such you need to connect with those people if you want to succeed.

Who are the current power users on the social sites that you want to use? Can you contact them directly? If you genuinely want to become a member of the community, it shouldn’t be too difficult to establish communication with them after you have started interacting with the community and showing your good intentions.

The italicized comment is vital. If you are a newcomer, and the first thing you do is hound power users, your credibility may drop right there. The top digg users get dozens of friend requests every week, for example, and they simply ignore the ones that are coming out of the blue. What is worse, they get a bad impression from those people, and that can last for a long time.

There is no need to worry if you can’t reach the power users initially. Build a network with people like you who are aiming to climb the ladder. If you are starting by submitting a story to a social news or social bookmarking site and want it to get some visibility, ask people who aren’t so much in the spotlight to help. They will be much more likely to, especially if you can communicate that you are willing to reciprocate and that you are serious about the community.

Overall, remember that your aim is to build genuine and rewarding relationships.

General Principle 3: Add Value To The Community

Social media sites usually have communities of users who are interested in a specific niche or type of content. Kirtsy.com, for example, is a social bookmarking site for women. Sphinn.com deals with Internet marketing and search engine industry. Digg and Reddit are larger social bookmarking sites which cover a wider range of topics, though each of them still has some main themes (e.g., Digg’s heart is technology, while Reddit is strong on politics, technology and humor).

If you want to become a power user on any of those sites, you need to add value to the community and serve the needs and wants of the users. Practically speaking, this means that you should be abreast of the news and developments of your niche, and that you will submit interesting and useful stories to the community. If other users benefit from your participation, they will respect and follow you.

Digg and Stumble

Digg.com and StumbleUpon.com are the two most important social bookmarking sites on the Web. They basically allow users to submit and vote on stories and pages from around the web. If those stories receive enough votes, they get promoted to the front page, sending a huge amount of traffic to the website where the story is coming from.

If you want to become a social media power user, you definitely need to have a presence on these two sites.

Digg

Digg is the largest social bookmarking site on the Web, and its top users have a lot of influence and respect. This is so because a submission by a top user can greatly improve the chances of a story reaching the front page, which leads to an avalanche of traffic and backlinks. Becoming a power user on Digg is not easy, though, as there are thousands of people competing with you.

Below you will find five points that you can use for this purpose. Keep in mind that these points are valid for most websites that work in a similar fashion, with the users being able to vote and with stories getting promoted to the front page.

1. Study the front page

There are three reasons to study the front page:

First, you want to know what kinds of stories are well-received on Digg. You can’t just submit any content that you find interesting. Diggers like specific types of content.

Second, you want to know what types of domains are having success on Digg. Some domains (e.g., telegraph.co.uk, gizmodo.com and youtube.com) are very successful, while others (e.g., blogspot blogs) don’t fare as well. You’ll want to look at the popular domains and try to subscribe to the RSS feed to submit relevant stories to Digg as soon as they get published.

Third, you want to know who already is successful on Digg, so that you can network properly. If you see Member8482 submitting great content on a consistent basis and Member8482 has his contact information in his Digg profile, you should contact him and build a relationship (which goes beyond merely asking for votes on your stories).

2. Be fast

Just like we recommend that you monitor the top rated domains on Digg, virtually all other top users will be doing it too. Which means that if you want to have a chance of getting front pages, you need to act fast.

Subscribing to the RSS feed of those sites is the very minimum you can do. If you want to have an edge, you will need to stalk them. Try to understand the posting schedule, and when new posts are about to be published, go to the website and keep refreshing the page every 10 seconds or so.

It is also a good idea to keep track of events. If you read that a company or news portal is going to reveal something next Monday at 2pm, mark that on your calendar and make sure to be ready at that moment.

3. Discover new sources

If you don’t want to play the “I will beat you to the submission” game, you will need to find alternative sources of material. Basically you want to find blogs and websites that have quality content and yet are not well known by Digg users.

Just keep this in mind while you surf the Web, and whenever you come across a website with interesting content that could do well on Digg, bookmark it or subscribe to its RSS feed. You could also create a folder in your bookmarks or in your RSS reader called “Sites to Monitor.”

4. Continue fostering relationships

If someone diggs your stories, digg him back. He obviously cares about what you’re submitting, and he obviously wants you to acknowledge his submissions (which are probably similar to yours). This builds up strong relationships as well.

And keep in mind that you don’t necessarily only want to be friends with him on Digg.com. Instant messaging and email are valuable and sometimes better alternatives.

5. Use a powerful title and description

Titles and descriptions (to a lesser degree) play a very important role in the attention that your stories will receive. It is important to use strong words in your titles, words that will raise emotions, curiosity, or make readers laugh.

Sometimes the original title of the article will be good, and on those occasions there is no need to reinvent the wheel. But in other situations you will be able to improve the title and make it more appealing to the Digg community. For example, instead of “Kid, 9, Found Murdered” you could use “”Mother Kills 9 Year Old Son Over Xbox 360.” (Just make sure that your title remains honest and descriptive)

StumbleUpon

In many respects StumbleUpon is similar to Digg. You will need to study what kind of content is popular there, you will need to monitor the websites that tend to have a lot of success over time, you will need to be fast in submitting the quality content and so on. The site has some peculiarities, though, and we will list them below.

1. Craft your profile carefully

One key difference is the effect that your profile will have on your submissions. StumbleUpon requires you to associate yourself with a number of interests when you sign up (those range from computers to fitness and science fiction). The selected interests will affect the type of content that you will get from Stumble, as well as the people who will follow you and possibly stumble your stories.

2. Stumble and review

Another important point on StumbleUpon is that voting (or giving a “Thumbs up”), is not enough. If you want to build a powerful account, you need use the “Review” feature that is available and write a personal and useful review about the page that you are voting for.

An extra benefit of writing many reviews is the fact that people will read them, and if the like what you wrote, they might decide to follow you and to thumb your submissions up on a regular basis.

3. Diversity

While with Digg you want to focus on top quality content and stories that have good chances of making it to the front page, on StumbleUpon you can be less strict. This is because the service does not have a “front page” in the strict sense of the word. All the stories float around the system, and the ones with the highest number of votes will be displayed to more stumblers. Even if your stories don’t become popular, therefore, they will still be seen by some people, possibly adding value to the community.

Many people also believe that submitting stories from a wide range of sources can strengthen your profile in the eyes of the algorithm.

4. Use the social functionalities

Make sure to explore the social features that are available inside StumbleUpon. Those include the “Send to” button, which enables you to recommend stories to friends, and the possibility to follow friends and exchange messages with them.

Most power stumblers use these features regularly, and they are a good way to build relationships and expand your network.

Action Points

  1. Review the three principles that you need to become a power user on social media websites.
  2. Create an account on Digg and follow the points highlighted in this lesson to grow your profile.
  3. Create an account on StumbleUpon and follow the points highlighted in this lesson to grow your profile.

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