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Del.icio.us and StumbleUpon: A Social Media Primer

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These days, it seems that social media marketing is on the minds of every search engine marketer. With the importance of links in the algorithms of all the major search engines, along with the benefits of putting your pages in front of a broad, targeted audience, getting your articles popular on major social media sites like del.icio.us and StumbleUpon is an important part of any search marketing strategy.

I recently discussed the importance of smaller, vertically targeted micro communities in social media marketing. Today, I'll focus on social bookmarking service del.icio.us and social discovery service StumbleUpon, including the nature of the two sites, how they differ, and how they can fit into your social media marketing strategy.

del.icio.us

Del.icio.us, which was acquired by Yahoo nearly two years ago, is a social bookmarking site. It has more than 3 million users and 100 million tagged items. Its number one use is tagging your own stuff, and its number two use is finding stuff that other people have tagged.

Once you have created a del.icio.us account for yourself, you can start using it as your bookmarking service. Tagging a page is as simple as clicking on a link in your browser toolbar.

The beauty of this system is that it is Web-based, so you can recover your bookmarks from anywhere where you have a web connection. Just using this to track content that you find valuable is by itself very cool. The social element comes in when you make your bookmarks public, so that other users can see them and follow the links.

Better still, if lots of people start tagging your content, it can get moved to the del.icio.us popular page, where it can receive a lot of traffic. This is a page that is updated every 4 hours with the content that has been receiving the most tags.

According to panelists at the recent SMX Social Media conference in New York, the best time to tag something for del.icio.us for the first time is immediately after an update, so you maximize the time for it to become popular. They suggested that submitting something first thing in the morning is not the best idea either, since it gets lost in the high volume of submissions.

You can subscribe to a tag, either from a single user, or by anyone who uses that tag. As with other social media services, it helps to have friends. You do this by adding people to “your network.” You can then share content with them simply by clicking on their names.

It's best to try people out and see if they are going to be responsive to your suggestions, panelists said. Similarly, you should be prepared to look at and tag the content that they send back your way. This is not a one-way street. You need to give to get. Having a strong network provides you with the best chance of making it to the popular page when you have new content that you submit.

Timeless resources do best on del.icio.us. You can get 500 to 2,000 visitors in the short term by making the popular page.

StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon has about 4 million users, and more than 13 million sites have been "stumbled." While there are similarities between del.icio.us and StumbleUpon, the two sites do not see themselves as competitors. StumbleUpon founder Garret Camp said at SMX Social Media that StumbleUpon is really a "channel surfing" model for the web.

StumbleUpon can provide interesting amounts of traffic because of this model. The way it works is that users indicate what types of tags they want to subscribe to. You can do this by visiting any tag page on StumbleUpon and clicking on the green “I like pages about [tagname”” link on the top right of the page.

Once you have set up subscriptions, the “Stumble!” button on your browser toolbar will let you cruise through a random sampling of sites that have been tagged with your subscribed tag. This is the mechanism which produces the most traffic from StumbleUpon – people “channel surfing” the web.

As with del.icio.us, it pays to have friends. You want to find people with similar interests and then see what they are tagging. You can subscribe to their content and see what they are stumbling, and they can subscribe to yours. It becomes a very effective method for letting your network know quickly about new stuff that you have found.

Another difference is that StumbleUpon also offers an ad system, where your sites can be integrated into the stumbling system simply by paying for it. One key thing to note here is that the stumbles you receive while paying for the campaign still carry the same weight once the campaign is over. The paid campaign might be an effective tool for jumpstarting your page's presence on the site.

There is also a StumbleUpon Buzz page that can send some decent traffic to your site, should some of your content become popular.

Reaching Influencers

Ultimately, both sites can send you traffic, and help you build links. However, the most important use of the two sites is to reach top influencers in your niche. There are many methods for building a network on the web, and both of these sites offer opportunities to build your network quickly and effectively.

The total number of links you may receive through being successful may not compare to Digg, but the relationships built, and the quality of the traffic and the links you may eventually receive are very valuable indeed.

Eric Enge is the president of Stone Temple Consulting, an SEO consultancy outside of Boston. Eric is also co-founder of Moving Traffic Inc., the publisher of City Town Info and Custom Search Guide.

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