As a business owner, there are dozens of social networks that can benefit you, and they change all the time, along with the value of your participation.

Whether you’re Digging, Stumbling, or just Twittering around, understanding why you should participate can be a challenge in itself, but if you’re new to all this, and you’ve simply been hearing that “you have to get into Web 2.0” then you can consider this a primer.

Other than using just a limited few of the networks, I never dug into “social marketing” much until the summer of 2007, and after just a few months, I began to understand more clearly about the difference between social networking participation and exploitation.

Why Participate?
The benefit comes in several different forms, and every one of these networks could hold some potential value if you’re willing to play the game.

For the Traffic
The traffic driven to your website from these social networks is typically of lower quality, and it doesn’t convert well.

Most of the visitors that come to your site won’t buy your product or your service, they won’t sign up for your mailing list, and they’re only going to put their eyeballs on your page for a few brief seconds. The vast majority will probably never come back.

If this sounds unappealing, you have to remember that links drive rankings. Your ultimate goal is to create content that WILL peak the interest of these people and will cause them to not only vote and comment, but perhaps even write about your piece of content elsewhere, which gets you a link.

A good piece of content can garner dozens, hundreds or even thousands of permanent inbound links, which appear on sites and blogs all over the web, that they never would have seen if they had not found you through that community.

For the Visibility & Branding
Appearing frequently as a participant in these networks adds to your name recognition and company branding. The more you participate, the more your name, your comments, and your profile get viewed and looked at, and the more others are made aware of your presence.

As you become more visible in these networks, people will check out what you’ve got to say, and they’ll look at your profiles and web properties more often, increasing your credibility and visibility.

You could Digg and Stumble all day for a month, and very few people would probably know your name, but a small commitment to certain other communities could have a big payback. In some communities, it really doesn’t take that all that much effort to become a big fish in a small pond.

For the Link Juice
Most of the larger communities have “no followed” their links, meaning that they don’t pass any actual ranking value beyond the traffic they might bring.

The nofollow tag was put into place primarily for comments on blogs, but in an attempt to curb the exploitation, it carried over to these Web 2.0 networks, so today the vast majority do not pass link juice.

However, some of the smaller communities have not bought into the whole “nofollow” thing, and some have even removed the nofollow tag it in an attempt to gain more participation and more users.

Many of these services do quietly pass their share of link juice, and some are even following links in the comments too. No, I’m not going to name them here, and instead will subscribe to the school of STFU.

How to begin:
In order to build you a good foundation for your future, you should…

  • Join the networks – Yes, join as many as you can stand – If you don’t pon’t poke around wasting time in them and you can get this over with methodically, in just a couple of hours.
  • Devote less than five minutes to each network you joined to explore and determine how much value there might be in each network. Just because it appears useless doesn’t mean it is.
  • Participate in the networks DAILY for a week – spend less than three minutes per network – Set a timer, and stick to a routine
  • When evaluating, see what’s on the front page and at the top of the category and hot topic pages.
  • How many votes does it take to get to the front page, or to other “hot” cection pages, and how can you appleal to the users of this community to help you get there?
  • Try to estimate the demographic / guess the maturity level of the average participant by what’s popular. Is stuff blowing up, are you surrounded by lots of drug references and pornography? If so, then keep in mind that this alone doesn’t mean you can’t participate, it just means you’re going to have to be more creative.
  • To “participate” means to vote up headlines of interest, and even leave occasional comments when you’re so moved. Do NOT submit your own content. that is exploitation, not participation.
  • Being the first commentor on something that’s getting hot can often be a good thing, and commenting is absolutely necessary in order to establish you as a real person. You’re a real person, that really has an opinion, and is actually appearing to take an interest in these people’s stuff. You’re becoming a part of the community.
  • Total time invested per network should be under five minutes per week per network – HOWEVER – Time spent reading stuff that you’re actually interested in is not included, so be warned 😉
  • Besides voting, ADD new content to the networks, which is not your own. As you view the content of others, find things on their sites that have not been submitted before and submit them. The golden rule applies here, and if you treat others the way you wish to be treated – i.e. submit their content and write something nice. You will find that it comes back to you in spades.
  • Take advantage of automation tools to help you with the task of voting, and even submitting new content of others. Some can take the 20 second manual task of voting on an item and replicate it to dozens of networks that you choose, under your own account. This turns a 20 – 30 minute job into a simple button push, and there’s nothing “evil” about efficiency. OnlyWire is pretty good for this, and the Social Submitter inside Blogger Apps even allows you to vary your comments from network to network.
  • After you establish yourself in a community, and you’ve established some relationships, and you’ve commented on the submissions and articles of others, and you’ve had seen others comment on yours, then, and only then, should you consider introducing your own content to the network, and I believe the the proper way to do that is to get someone else to submit it in the first place.

Join, Vote, Comment to Participate, and THEN Submit
The best way to trick the social networking sites , trick the search engines, and trick the world into believing that you’re a real person, is to actually BE ONE. Any company or “social network marketing service” that tells you otherwise, really does not have your best long term interest at heart.

7 thoughts on “Web 2.0 101 – A Primer

  1. WOW you’re still going on about web2.0 thats so old hat dude. things have moved way beyond what was traditionally called web2.0 back in the early 2000’s i think theres enough evolution for this monica to be dropped.

    goot to see that the web is moving towards tim bernard lees original view of a user generated web!

  2. Well Mark, it may be “old hat” to you and I, but to tens of thousands of small business owners that don’t even know what “Linked In” is, or don’t even have a Facebook account, it’s still practically rocket science. This article was written for THEM, and not for you.

    Scotts last blog post..Affordable SEO Reviews

  3. I’m not sure how you can call this old school. To me its still all a work in progress. Even the most popular social media sites are still trying to figure out how to profit from the large amount of traffic they generate. And most businesses are still trying to figure out how they can benefit from social sites. Great post Scott as it gave me some ideas.

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