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Social Bookmarking Icons – Are they Worth It?

37 Signals has a post on a topic I’ve been pondering a lot lately also – those social bookmarking buttons at the bottom of blog posts that so many blogs have. They write:

“Given the Ebola-like spread of these things they must be really effective, right? Not so much. Zero out of Technorati’s top 10 blogs feature those icons. And only two out of the 15 entries in the current crop at Digg’s Top Today page offer “Digg me” icons.

This focus on campaigning over content seems like a classic case of misplaced priorities. The reason posts wind up at Digg, Delicious, or elsewhere isn’t because the authors made it easier to vote for them (it’s already easy). A post winds up at these sites because people respond to its content and quality.”

I’ve been pondering these icons lately too for a couple of reasons – to be honest I’m a bit torn by them.

I’ll come out and admit to having a digg icon on the individual pages of my digital photography school blog. It only appears on individual pages where the item is actually dugg first by a reader – but they do appear (and pretty prominently).

The reason I’ve been pondering them is that on some posts (like this post on polarizing filters) the Digg count is pretty small (15 at the time of writing this). Not many people dugg it and the post didn’t really climb digg’s rankings. I suspect that a few of the 15 diggers dugg it after seeing the icon, but it didn’t really capture people’s attention. I think the post was of a good quality – but obviously it wasn’t viral enough.

On the other hand a post that I wrote last night on how to choose a DSLR did much better with Digg (sitting on 631 at the time of writing this). It made it to the front page of Digg today and brought in 20,000 or so visitors. Now I have no way of telling how many of the readers dugg the item as a result of the icon – but I do know for a fact that when I went to bed it was sitting on 4 diggs and I woke up this morning it was sitting on 25 diggs. However this morning when I linked to the post from my forums and sent some readers to it – within minutes the digg counter went up and the ball started rolling. I suspect that it was a direct result of the icon that tipped the post over onto the popular page of digg.

I guess what I’m saying is that on the majority of my blog posts the icon doesn’t do anything (in fact some would say it might cheapen the look of the site – especially when the counter is low) – however on the occasional post the icon might just give a quality post that doesn’t quite have the legs to go viral a lift that creates a digg-a-lanche.

I guess the question is – is it worth having the icons there for that occasional benefit?

The other thought that comes to mind is that Digital Photography School has a reasonably healthy readership each day that might make the icon’s use worthwhile. On a blog with a smaller readership the numbers of readers who see and click it would probably be too small to have any/much impact.

  • I’m in two thoughts – what do you think?
  • Do you use social bookmarking icons on your blog?
  • What impact have you noticed that they have?
  • What suggestions would you have in using them?

reddit buttons

Redditreddit have released reddit buttons for webmasters and bloggers to put on their sites to help spread the word about their posts.

They come in three styles. Give them a go and let us know how you find them. Do you actively promote social bookmarking options to your readers? Do you find they work or are readers becoming blind to them?

Using Digg to Improve Your Content

I’ve seen (and written) a lot of posts about how to get posts picked up by social bookmarking sites and what to do when it happens, but one of the things that has struck me recently is that another opportunity often presents itself when a site like Digg links links to a post you’ve written.

Let me use a recent example to illustrate.

Yesterday I posted a post in anticipation of 4th of July celebrations on how to photograph fireworks which was fortunate enough to get picked up by LifeHacker and as a result was Dugg heavily (or maybe it was the other way around – update – it then got BoingBoing’d – what a day – even with a large server allowance I almost went over! It might be time to upgrade that if I have any more days like this).

The most obvious benefit of this was the traffic that followed from Digg (7000 visitors in the first hour alone) as well as the secondary linkups that came as digg users blogged about the post also. It was a nice thing to wake up to.

But as I looked over the comments on the digg thread linking to my post I was reminded of another benefit of having a post exposed to tens of thousands of people. While digg users can be pretty harsh when they don’t like a post there is also an incredibly wealth of knowledge among them.

Amidst the 10,000+ people who viewed my post today – a certain percentage of them know a thing or two about photographing fireworks and a certain percentage of those people left comments on the digg post with their own suggestions, often with points that I hadn’t included on my original post.

This happens every time I’ve had a story high on digg and what I’m doing these days is to include the suggestions and tips of digg users as an update to my original posts.

You’ll see now on my fireworks post that I’ve got an ‘update’ on it with a series of quotes from digg users and a link back to the thread so that people can see who wrote them.

In doing this I not only enjoy the traffic from digg but improve the quality of the posts that I’ve written – which after-all is the ultimate goal of my blog.

Digg CEO responds to Netscape challenge

Richard MacManus has posted a response to the launch of Netscape from Digg’s CEO, Jay Adelson. In it Jay questions the scalability of Netscape and the level that users will actually be involved in it (both as a result of the editing processes that are built into Netscape).

Read the full post at Digg CEO Jay Adelson responds to Netscape challenge

PS: I’ve now been able to sign up as a member of Netscape an in addition to my earlier first impressions I have to say that I’m not that impressed.

Sure it’s nicely designed and there are a few interesting features – but the internal links really bug me as do the ‘visit this site’ links which take you to the source of the news but with an annoying netscape frame on the side and still with a netscape URL. I’m not a fan of this type of strategy to keep users on a site and doubt I’ll be a regular at Netscape as a result.

How to Surf Blog Traffic Tsunamis

Surf-1Sometimes it’s the simplest posts that you do that seem to get the best reactions from readers.

Yesterday on my Digital Photography School blog I posted a ‘beginner’ tip that I almost considered not publishing because it was pitched at such a basic level. The post was titled How to Hold a Digital Camera.

What the post contained was nothing that anyone would consider ‘Rocket Science’ by any means but was on a topic that I see many people getting wrong.

I set the post to publish and then went to bed.

This morning I wake up to find that it’s one of the most popular posts on delicious, digg and has been linked to from lifehacker and gizmodo (among others). An hour ago it had 7000 visitors (peak) and now as the US heads towards sleep its tracking at around half of that per hour (and still rising on delicious and digg).

Some of the comments on those sites are not particularly flattering of the post (many of them don’t seem to have read it) saying that it’s too basic – but the way people are hitting the page and linking up to it I’d say that there are plenty of people who do appreciate a ‘basic’ tip.

A few take home lessons from the experience:

  • Sometimes it’s worth stepping back from ‘advanced’ or ‘technical’ posts and remember that many potential readers are not at that level
  • People love a ‘how to’ article – so do social bookmarking sites
  • When your posts get popular they’ll also attract criticism – it comes with the territory – get over it and move on
  • When you get an influx of visitors to a post like this consider how you might leverage the traffic (I added two links inviting people to subscribe to my RSS feed and email newsletter to the post as soon as I saw what was going on – it’s paying off with a new subscription to my newsletter being added every 2-3 minutes at the moment). Another option is to increase the prominence of ads if you’re more interested in monetizing the wave of traffic – I’m not as interested in that – I’d rather build readership.
  • When you get a spike in traffic like this make sure you have something else ready to post as soon as possible for readers to look at (I posted an article on ‘how to photograph pets‘ while there is still a lot of traffic on the site). Keep the momentum going.
  • Enjoy the traffic while it lasts – tomorrow things will be a little higher than normal but the spike in traffic will soon become a distant memory

Update – for more information on capturing traffic from sources like Digg and StumbleUpon and converting them to loyal readers read:

Stickify Your Blog
How to Keep First Time Readers to Your Blog

My Space at MySpace

I’ve been meaning to check out Myspace for myself for the last few months and this weekend I actually took the 10 minutes necessary to set myself up an account at www.myspace.com/darrenrowse.

I’m not sure what I was expecting from it but it all seems a little underwhelming so far.

I know I’m not the target audience really and haven’t given it a chance but coming at it after blogging for 3 years on other services leaves me feeling like it’s such a substandard service. I guess the key of it is the masses of people and the social interaction they are apparently having – but in terms of it’s features – I’m surprised how simple and featureless it is (unless there is some section I’m not seeing with all the cool stuff).

Anyway – I’ll play around with it over the next few days and see what I can see. I guess it’s just good to get a feel for what people are using.

Social Networking Video

I just watched this very amusing video on Social Networking (particularly MySpace).

Found via Small Business Trends

Shoutwire

ShoutwireThe Zero Boss has a mini review of Shoutwire – a social bookmarking site that is similar to Digg but that covers a wider array of topics (Digg is just technology related).

It could be a useful tool if it takes off.