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The Secret to Social Media Success

A couple of times this week I have seen great stories get buried on Digg. It happens and it sucks.

The thing is we all tend to think our own story is worthy of getting votes. But in many cases I think the people who complain about getting buried the most secretly know they were trying to game the system. If you have to ask every person online you know for a vote that is probably a good sign that you are pushing quite hard.

Digg is actually a lot fairer than people might believe, lousy stories get the same treatment but the authors still complain about the bury-brigade or auto-bury or whatever.

Ask yourself this; if you had never seen the article before, would you voluntarily vote for it?

If the answer to that question is a firm “no” then why should anyone else Digg it, stumble it or del.icio.us it?

Here is the secret to Social Media success …

… Social Media is a popularity contest. It’s a lot like high school really. Being nice is great, but being popular and having lots of friends is far more important.Β 

I know some of you will disagree with me but I see “evidence”, or what I regard as evidence, might be just a misfiring of neurons, all the time.

To even get a story seen you need votes. Hardly anyone looks in the dark and hidden corners of social media sites where new and unnoticed stories live. The popular pages get all the attention, followed by “about to become popular with a little push”. Who hangs out with the “brand new and unlikely to become popular unless a miracle happens” pages?

So you need a bunch of friends to give you a kick start. The more the better.

That’s ok because Digg and such give you tools to allow you to send a story to your friends to get them to vote on it.

Even better if some of your friends are really popular and successful. If you hang out with the cool crowd your stuff will get far more attention.

So through your friends and adoring fans you get your stuff noticed. Most of the work is done. In fact that can be all that is required. Sometimes though people see through the charade and point out that the Emperor has no clothes and buries it.

The thing is we really shouldn’t be at all surprised when that happens if the article really doesn’t have any substance.

Unfortunately, just like high school, there is a ruling class clique with their own likes, dislikes and prejudices. Being popular is not enough if you break the unwritten rules. Β 

When you are looking to use Social Media, hang out and observe. Look at what gets popular, what hangs around long term and what gets to the front page then disappears just as fast.

Most people will tell you what works on Digg tends to have some relationship with Apple, Linux, Ron Paul, etc. Things that probably won’t do well are anything that seems to be third hand (submit the original not a livejournal writeup of a copy and pasted story), overly commercial or overly self promotional.

Basically, unlike high school, it is the young male geeks who rule the roost. Remember the AV club? Yup, they control what gets to the front page, and they have a lifetime of bitterness to get out of their system.

The same old advice applies here as much as anyone else; consider the audience first over what you want. What will they enjoy and get value from? How best to deliver it? What do you need to do to appeal?

If getting on Digg is so important to you and it means sexing up your story and making Star Wars references, so be it. Personally, I am still happy when I get the ego boost from a front page digg story but now I focus on my actual audience rather than trying to please everyone.

Probably why I was never that popular in school πŸ˜‰

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Comments

  1. I was never popular in school too πŸ™

  2. I was never popular in school too πŸ™

  3. I think there’s “gaming the system” vs. “playing the game.” What you’re talking about sounds like the latter and you’re right, we do have to play along if we want to be their kind of popular. But I like what you said at the end, is it more important to get Dugg (really a very limited train of topics to choose from) or do you want to please your target audience? I choose my audience. Digg has a tendancy to crash servers anyway πŸ˜›

  4. I think there’s “gaming the system” vs. “playing the game.” What you’re talking about sounds like the latter and you’re right, we do have to play along if we want to be their kind of popular. But I like what you said at the end, is it more important to get Dugg (really a very limited train of topics to choose from) or do you want to please your target audience? I choose my audience. Digg has a tendancy to crash servers anyway πŸ˜›

  5. In my experience, the most well written articles that you (the author) are proud of, will only attract a few dedicated readers.

    In opposite, lazy Top 10 lists and flame posts get more attention on Digg or SU.

    I am calling this the ‘Dan Brown’ affect. It seems few people have the stomach to read great literary authors like Dostoevsky, but Dan Brown well…a crappy book, 50 million copies, and a movie…

    Blogs are a lot like HS, but they are also meant to be enjoyed by the author not just the readers. Don’t be somebody you don’t want to be just to be popular.

  6. In my experience, the most well written articles that you (the author) are proud of, will only attract a few dedicated readers.

    In opposite, lazy Top 10 lists and flame posts get more attention on Digg or SU.

    I am calling this the ‘Dan Brown’ affect. It seems few people have the stomach to read great literary authors like Dostoevsky, but Dan Brown well…a crappy book, 50 million copies, and a movie…

    Blogs are a lot like HS, but they are also meant to be enjoyed by the author not just the readers. Don’t be somebody you don’t want to be just to be popular.

  7. @pelf – That’s ok, you are popular and hang with the cool kids now πŸ™‚

    @LaurenMarie – Good point about gaming the system or playing the game, and there is likely a fine line between the two πŸ™‚

    @Max Pool – Heh, yeah a friend of mine calls the lazy stuff “brain candy” πŸ™‚ I guess we all like that every now and then but sometimes you need something more substantial otherwise you get scurvy πŸ˜‰

  8. @pelf – That’s ok, you are popular and hang with the cool kids now πŸ™‚

    @LaurenMarie – Good point about gaming the system or playing the game, and there is likely a fine line between the two πŸ™‚

    @Max Pool – Heh, yeah a friend of mine calls the lazy stuff “brain candy” πŸ™‚ I guess we all like that every now and then but sometimes you need something more substantial otherwise you get scurvy πŸ˜‰

  9. I just started getting familiar with the digg type add ons. I added 3 to my site and started seeing many errors. I have since removed the bugger that was causing the problem.

    I was half popular and half original in school. I think popularity can lie on either side of the spectrum. Totally original or totally playing the game.

  10. I just started getting familiar with the digg type add ons. I added 3 to my site and started seeing many errors. I have since removed the bugger that was causing the problem.

    I was half popular and half original in school. I think popularity can lie on either side of the spectrum. Totally original or totally playing the game.

  11. Yes, I think there is, which is what I noticed in your article. The people who try to game are the ones that end up whining about how they didn’t get on the front page and the people who play are the ones that diligently contact top Diggers and make friends with the cool kids by saying (writing) the right stuff, just like you said.

  12. Yes, I think there is, which is what I noticed in your article. The people who try to game are the ones that end up whining about how they didn’t get on the front page and the people who play are the ones that diligently contact top Diggers and make friends with the cool kids by saying (writing) the right stuff, just like you said.

  13. As one of the early adopters (if not coiner) of the “Auto-bury” word let me make something clear. Autobury refers to the fact where a story gets buried on digg (regardless of its popularity) shortly after a referrer appears in the server logs to a “digg3.crawl.internal”.

    Anything other than that is not auto-bury.

  14. As one of the early adopters (if not coiner) of the “Auto-bury” word let me make something clear. Autobury refers to the fact where a story gets buried on digg (regardless of its popularity) shortly after a referrer appears in the server logs to a “digg3.crawl.internal”.

    Anything other than that is not auto-bury.

  15. @Colbs – Original, I like that description πŸ™‚

    @LaurenMarie – There are people who complain rightly about their good stuff getting buried but yeah it is often like that πŸ™‚

    @HMTKSteve –

    referrer appears in the server logs to a “digg3.crawl.internal”

    So people are misusing the term, right? Can you explain more? Looks interesting but I don’t know what that about the server logs refers to?

  16. @Colbs – Original, I like that description πŸ™‚

    @LaurenMarie – There are people who complain rightly about their good stuff getting buried but yeah it is often like that πŸ™‚

    @HMTKSteve –

    referrer appears in the server logs to a “digg3.crawl.internal”

    So people are misusing the term, right? Can you explain more? Looks interesting but I don’t know what that about the server logs refers to?

  17. I hate how true this post is. But, it’s true πŸ™

  18. I hate how true this post is. But, it’s true πŸ™

  19. Did you read my article on how to get any story buried on Digg? The bury brigade does not even read the article which gets buried!

  20. Did you read my article on how to get any story buried on Digg? The bury brigade does not even read the article which gets buried!

  21. The Bully, The Nerd and the Prom Queen

    Chris, you have written a great essay, here.
    I think that each of us has tried different tactics to get attention to our articles:

    E-mail: “Hi mom! Read my article!”
    Google: “a href = yada-yada.com/blog”
    Social: Hey, everyone, look at what I found on yada-yada.com!

    In each case, as in high school, there is a widening circle of influence. Bullies are shunned (except by their mothers). Nerds are ignored, except by teachers and other nerds. Prom queens are loved by all (well, you know what I mean.)

    Only in the case of the Prom Queen do we see the lack of self-promotion. (Obviously, that the Prom Queen voted for herself is not common knowledge!)

    Cheers,

    Mitch

  22. The Bully, The Nerd and the Prom Queen

    Chris, you have written a great essay, here.
    I think that each of us has tried different tactics to get attention to our articles:

    E-mail: “Hi mom! Read my article!”
    Google: “a href = yada-yada.com/blog”
    Social: Hey, everyone, look at what I found on yada-yada.com!

    In each case, as in high school, there is a widening circle of influence. Bullies are shunned (except by their mothers). Nerds are ignored, except by teachers and other nerds. Prom queens are loved by all (well, you know what I mean.)

    Only in the case of the Prom Queen do we see the lack of self-promotion. (Obviously, that the Prom Queen voted for herself is not common knowledge!)

    Cheers,

    Mitch

  23. @Nathania – Knowing a situation is half of dealing with it πŸ™‚

    @Tad – No but I will πŸ™‚

    @Mitchell – At my school the bullies would have big gangs, kind of enforced popularity πŸ™‚

  24. @Nathania – Knowing a situation is half of dealing with it πŸ™‚

    @Tad – No but I will πŸ™‚

    @Mitchell – At my school the bullies would have big gangs, kind of enforced popularity πŸ™‚

  25. LaurenMarie hit is right on the head, and I completely agree with her.

  26. LaurenMarie hit is right on the head, and I completely agree with her.

  27. Personally, I don’t get social media in a sense that something I thought would be popular on social media sites usually turn out to be a flop. But something I thought people would care about occasionally becomes super popular.

    I had several posts on my blog that turned super popular. Usually, (1) I spent very little time writing them, and (2) I didn’t even try to promote them.

    Go figure.

  28. Personally, I don’t get social media in a sense that something I thought would be popular on social media sites usually turn out to be a flop. But something I thought people would care about occasionally becomes super popular.

    I had several posts on my blog that turned super popular. Usually, (1) I spent very little time writing them, and (2) I didn’t even try to promote them.

    Go figure.

  29. Heh, thanks Adam!

    Pinyo, I’ve experienced that same thing with an article I think is no big deal turning out to be fairly popular (though not so far as to get anywhere on Digg). Sure is a curious thing!

  30. Heh, thanks Adam!

    Pinyo, I’ve experienced that same thing with an article I think is no big deal turning out to be fairly popular (though not so far as to get anywhere on Digg). Sure is a curious thing!

  31. @Adam @LaurenMarie – It’s a good point well made πŸ™‚

    @Pinyo – There is no accounting for taste, posts have got on Digg that I had no clue people would consider earth-shattering, friends posts have failed to go anywhere that I thought were certain to do well, I have lost subscribers on posts I thought would rock and gained tons of links for posts I thought were pretty niche … all we can do is our best and hope people like it πŸ™‚

  32. @Adam @LaurenMarie – It’s a good point well made πŸ™‚

    @Pinyo – There is no accounting for taste, posts have got on Digg that I had no clue people would consider earth-shattering, friends posts have failed to go anywhere that I thought were certain to do well, I have lost subscribers on posts I thought would rock and gained tons of links for posts I thought were pretty niche … all we can do is our best and hope people like it πŸ™‚