A few days ago you might have noticed that Skelliewag.org’s uptime was a little patchy. This was because a post I wrote — 110+ Resources for Creative Minds — appeared on the front page of Digg and became popular on del.icio.us and StumbleUpon.
I created the post specifically with social media in mind, primarily as an experiment. I wanted to see if it would be possible for me to reach the front page of Digg with a resource post — something anyone with a bit of spare time can create.
If that was the case, I could return to you and outline a model of social media success. The experiment worked, and the above diagram is an attempt to communicate the results.
Keep reading for an analysis of what I’ve learned about social media success.
Time & Effort
The process for creating the post was time-consuming. It took a few hours to gather the links, a few hours to construct the post, and a little longer to make the thumbnail images. I could have taken less time, but I set myself the target of gathering 110+ resources — mainly to see if I could do it!
One thing you might have noticed if you use Digg regularly is that not every resource post that becomes popular needs to contain so many resources. I’ve seen posts with 37 resources reach the front page, and so on. Higher numbers maximize your chances, but you don’t need to go all out.
The key ingredient in a resource post is time. If you don’t have a big chunk of time, you can set aside a few minutes each day to work on your magnum opus.
From what I’ve observed, who you know is somewhat more important than the content you create when it comes to making the Digg front page.
Unless you have a huge readership, it takes a lot of luck to achieve success on Digg without 1) success on other social bookmarking sites or 2) a network of friends who will give your article a leg-up.
I can confidently say that my article would never have made the front page of Digg without support from my StumbleUpon friends and Skelliewag readers over at Digg.
The first lesson I’ve learned from this is that “you only get out what you put in.” Taking the time to build a network of friends on the social media service you’re targeting — even if it’s only modest — will drastically increase the momentum behind your content.
The second lesson I’ve learned is that, unless you have a large readership, you will need to do much of the beginning leg-work yourself. Send the article to friends, send shouts across Digg, StumbleUpon messages and so on. Once enough people get behind your article things can begin to happen of their own accord.
Unlike StumbleUpon, where content can be democratically recategorized and reviewed as users vote it up, you only get one chance with Digg. Duplicate content is not allowed, so once your article is submitted, that’s it.
If you can, get someone to submit your article who you trust will give it a good headline and description, in addition to submitting in the best-match category (though this is often hard with Digg).
Bad categorizing can hurt your chances of success with a particular piece of content. Returning to StumbleUpon, if I write an article on personal finance and it’s submitted under ‘blogs’ (as is often the case), I will get badly targeted traffic. If someone diggs your personal finance article by submitting it in ‘Video’ it will probably get buried.
What you can do
1. Get active on the social media service you’d like to experience success with. Make friends, share articles, submit good content, and so on.
2. Create a resource post, or other linkbait that relates broadly to the topic of your site.
3. Call in a favor from social media friends and ask them to vote if they like what you’ve created.
4. Before things start heating up, make sure to shore up your site against bursts of traffic. I learned this the hard way. If you can’t afford a good host, WP-Cache is a great alternative. I’ve not had a chance to use it, as it was installed after the rush of traffic, but many people swear by it.