Online communities have been around since the dawn of the Internet, even before the World Wide Web made its appearance. People have used computer to computer communications for the same reason they’d use a telephone or, prior to that, the postal service – to interact with each other across distance. Today, what appears to be an emerging market, social media, is actually not new at all. Sites like Facebook, YouTube, Myspace, Digg, Twitter and others are all actually evolutions of the founding ideas that the Web was based upon. We’re just beginning to get good at connecting people with each other and only now are business people realizing the untapped potential of interacting with their customers on the more personal level that social media provides.
If you run any kind of business venture online you definitely need to have a social media presence. One of the big ways to gain traffic these days is through social bookmarking services. These include sites like Digg where users submit links or stories. Those submissions are then voted on by other Digg members.
The higher the number of votes, the higher that article or site rises in within the Digg ranking system. Links that Digg members love can get massive traffic sent to that particular site so pleasing Digg users is definitely a good thing! But be careful, because there is also a phenomenon known as “the Digg effect” where a site will take so much traffic that it actually crashes. That’s not hard to imagine when you realize Digg gets over 236 million visitors annually.
Reddit is another social bookmarking site that focuses on news, rewarding users who submit particularly popular links with karma points. A site called del.ico.us takes an approach that encourages people to comment on each others links and build a strong sense of community. With this site, a wiki adds a more collective slant to the offerings and it’s become a real source for viral Internet memes and other popular Web items. These are only a handful of the social bookmarking sites available to those who want to dive into the social media sea of opportunities.
The thing you need to remember is that with social media sites, the key word is social. You do not want to leap into these communities and start flinging your links and promotions around. You need to keep in mind that like any community, and social media sites are very much communities, there are those who are obnoxious individuals and there are those who add value. To gain a true level of popularity, you need to add value. Find out what’s hot and offer bookmarks that others in the community will love. Leave valuable comments and feedback for other users. Make friends and use the social angle to your advantage by creating a positive reputation for yourself and your business activities. For those who match their business acumen with polite, constructive social interaction, there are no limits to the success that these social media sites can bring you.
If you find yourself confused, do what you’d be advised to do in an unfamiliar situation offline. That’s right, ask others around you for help. Learn all that you can about each community that you participate in and show that you care about more than simply the next visitor or sale. Positive word of mouth is what you want from social media, you want people to spread your links based on their own desires rather than because you harassed them into it. Pay attention to emotional cues that people give off in online communication and if you sense people are becoming annoyed, immediately back off and try something else or even apologize. You need all the help you can get to keep your site attractive to visitors and the more popular folks in the social media scene can either help or hurt your reputation and the traffic that goes with that reputation.
It’s not that difficult to succeed when it comes to social media and using social bookmarking sites. By letting common sense, fair play and the same politeness you learned in grade school be your guide, you’ll find that it’s an easy, efficient and productive way to do business on the web. And you might just have a lot more fun than you bargained for finding your way towards the success you’ve been wishing for.