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How to Target the Right Social Media Sites

Posted By Darren Rowse 8th of April 2008 Social Media 0 Comments

This is a guest post on targeting Social Media Sites is from Steven Snell. Steven writes about social media marketing at Traffikd.

Social-Media.jpgMost bloggers recognize the incredible potential that exists with social media marketing. Many want to maximize the traffic they receive from social media, so they add a Digg button to their posts or sign up for an account at StumbleUpon. What too many bloggers overlook is that Digg and StumbleUpon are just two of the hundreds of available options, and they may not be the best fit for every blogger.

In order to get the most out of social media traffic you’ll need to put some thought into choosing the social media sites that are the most appropriate for your blog and your audience. Unfortunately, none of us have the time to be an active member on more than just a few social media sites, and trying to target too many of them by adding countless buttons and widgets to your blog will only make it cluttered and ineffective.

Among social media sites there is a huge variety of audiences, types of content that is popular, amount of traffic that is sent to popular links, etc. I think most of us would agree that quality traffic is more important than quantity of traffic. The quality of traffic that you receive from social media will be largely dependent upon finding the right fit for your blog. You’ve probably read that social media traffic is very low quality. From my experience, this is not always the case. Traffic from poorly-targeted social media sites will be low quality.

When you are evaluating social media sites pay attention to these factors. Find 2 or 3 that are a good fit for you and get the most you can out of them.

What type of audience? General or niche?

With so many different social media sites out there, the audience will vary greatly from one to another. Obviously, there are a number of general news sites, like Digg, but there are a growing number of excellent sites that focus on a specific niche. These sites typically will not send as much traffic as the major players, but the traffic will generally be of much higher quality and greater networking opportunities may be possible. If you’re looking for niche social media sites in your industry, check the categorized list of social media sites that I compiled.

What type of content does well?

One of the main things you’re going to want to study is the results of different types of content. Visit the front page every day for several days and look for patterns or habits that you can identify. Most social media sites will have an audience that generally prefers a few specific types of content. Learn whatever you can from the popular items, and try to create your own content that will have some of the same appeal to users. For example, if you see resource lists constantly on the front page, you may want to create your own resource list. Or, if you see controversial articles covering current news topics, try to go that route. Of course, whatever content you create should also appeal to your regular readers and subscribers.

What type of content does not do well?

At the same time you are looking for types of content that routinely draw results, also pay attention to what types of content you are not seeing on the front page, or what is drawing a negative response from readers. Just like each audience has its own likes, each will also have its own dislikes. Trying to promote the wrong type of content at a specific social media site is a waste of time.

Do users submit their own content?

If you are planning to target a specific social media site you will definitely want to know if there are any written or unwritten rules about submitting your own content. If so, you’ll need to rely on your readers to submit it, or ask friends to do so.

How many votes does it take to be popular?

Some sites, like Digg, can take over 100 votes (and more in recent months) to make it to the front page, whereas smaller social media sites may only require a few votes. Obviously, the larger sites also tend to have more users, so in some ways it can be easier to get votes. Still, this is something that you should consider. For my primary blog I target Design Float, a niche site for designers. One of the great things about promoting content at Design Float is that it only takes about 3 votes to get to the front page. Although it takes just 3 votes, popular submissions can easily receive a few hundred visitors in a day.

Are there tools/widgets that you can use on your site

I’m sure you’re familiar with voting buttons and widgets. The Digg button is very popular, and several others are also common. There are some widgets and plugins that allow users to vote at just about any site they want, and there are others that are specific to a particular site. If available, consider whether or not you should use voting buttons on your site. My opinion is that voting buttons can be very effective if you don’t use too many of them and if you choose social media sites that a decent number of your regular readers use themselves.

How much traffic do popular submissions typically receive?

Of course, you will want to have an idea of what type of traffic you can expect if your content becomes popular. There are so many social media sites out there that many of them send next to no traffic at all. Don’t necessarily write off a particular site because it doesn’t send thousands of visitors, but you also don’t want to waste your time chasing after 10 visitors.

Is the profile of the submitter important?

Some social media sites, especially Digg, will be impacted by who submits the link. Certain “power users” have hundreds or thousands of friends that follow their submissions and vote them up. On other sites the profile of the submitter has very little or no impact. This is important for a few reasons. First, if the profile of the submitter does play a large role in the success of the submission, you’ll need to either find influential users to submit your content or build a strong profile yourself to submit your own content (which can be frowned upon). Second, sites that don’t favor particular users will place more value on the quality of the content rather than the network of the user.

What are the demographics of the users?

Ideally, you’ll want to find a social media site that has similar demographics to your target audience. For obvious reasons this will improve the quality of traffic that you receive. Some social media sites tend to have users that are in a particular age bracket, a specific sex, or from a specific geographical location. To determine these items you may have to spend some time on the site and visit the profiles of a lot of users. See what you can find out about them.

What views prevail?

The audience of different social media sites tend to have varying views on different issues, and some audiences can be very passionate about certain things. This can either help or hurt you. Cater your content to fit in with popular opinions and you could see impressive results. Write a post that goes against the majority view and you could see some backlash, depending on the site. This really can apply to just about any topic. For example, Apple vs. Microsoft, or conservative vs. liberal views.

What formats are accepted?

Many of the major social media sites are accepting pictures and video in addition to just standard links. Some social media sites even have specific sections or categories for different types of content (Mixx does this very well). As video continues to become more and more common, more social media sites will add specific elements to accommodate video submissions. For now, you’ll want to take this into consideration to determine if your content would be a good fit for a specific site.

How can you network with other users?

One of the basic elements of social media is networking with other users. Regardless of what site you are targeting, having a strong network of other active users will be extremely valuable. Not only will it improve your chances of getting traffic, but you can also make some great connections and help others along the way. Some social media sites offer much better networking opportunities than others. StumbleUpon is one of my favorites for networking. Being able to send messages, share links, and review other users all right from the toolbar make the networking on StumbleUpon hard to beat. If one of your goals is to improve your network through social media, make sure that you spend your time on sites that will make networking easy.

Are there specific sub-groups?

Social media sites that allow you to start your own group can improve your ability to meet others that share your interests. Again, this is something that Mixx does very well. Users can start a group or join and existing one, and group members can invite other users to join. If you’re looking to do some networking with others that fit into a specific niche, this may be something to consider.

Are the users connected to other social media sites?

Almost all social media users are active at more than just one social media site. If you can identify the relationships between various social media sites you may be able to use this to your advantage. For example, many popular submissions at Digg wind up on the front page of Delicious after a bunch of Digg users have bookmarked the page. Maybe you would like to target Delicious, but only a small percentage of your readers use Delicious. If it’s easier for you to get to the Digg front page, you may be able to create something worth bookmarking and transfer that Digg traffic into a spot on the Delicious front page.

Another effective approach is to use smaller, niche sites to send a smaller rush of traffic and try to convert that traffic into Diggs, Stumbles or Delicious bookmarks. Making the front page of a niche site is typically easier than hitting the front page of the major sites. Maybe you can take a small step towards a popular submission at a niche site that will allow you to take a bigger step towards success at a major social media site. Several months ago I wrote a more detailed explanation of this approach, How to Set Up a Domino Effect of Traffic.

How long does the traffic last?

Social media sites are notorious for sending a quick rush of traffic, and then nothing at all. With most social media sites, popularity doesn’t last long. StumbleUpon is one of the few exceptions. With SU you can still be getting trickles of traffic for several months or longer. You should consider whether or not sustained traffic to your submissions is important to you. In order to get a consistently high level of traffic from most social media sites you’ll need to be hitting the front page every couple of days, which in most cases isn’t realistic.

How many links can be generated?

Link building is a priority for many social media marketers. If you fall into this category, take some time to research how many links popular items are getting from different social media sites. You can do this by going back through items that were popular a few days ago and do a Technorati search for the specific URL of the page. This will allow you to see all of the links that Technorati is tracking to that page. One thing to remember here is that not all of the links you see will have been a result of popularity on a specific social media site. If an item was popular in one place, chances are it was popular somewhere else too. Still, if you check several different items you can get a good idea of the link building power this way.

Is there a feature/option to share submissions with friends?

If you have an established network of friends, you may want to ocassionally share some of your links with them. Each social media site has its own way of allowing this. StumbleUpon’s can be done straight from the toolbar without ever leaving the page. Digg uses the shout system to send email notifications, and many other sites have their own versions. If you want to be able to share your links and ask your friends for votes, this is important to consider. If you don’t want to share your links and you don’t want to be bothered by other users sharing links with you, these features may be more of a negative (although you can turn them off on many networks).

Is having friends important?

Social networking obviously involves being social. Most social media sites have a system that allows you to add other users as your friends, and for other users to add you as a friend. At some social media sites this is more critical than at others. The number and quality of friends can sometimes have a significant effect on the traffic that you receive. This is important to know before targeting a specific site, because it may mean that you’ll need to spend a lot of time networking and gaining friends.


My opinion is that the ideal strategy will involve targeting 2 or 3 different social media sites. That is enough to get some results, but not too many to spread yourself thin. If possible, be an active user of at least one major social media site and at least one niche site, although not every niche will have an effective social media site. If you have other things that you look for, please leave a comment.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Agree. We only have limited time and we can’t spread ourselves too thinly.

  2. It would be interesting to hear what the readers think about these new services that promote submissions on top social sites?

    Some have members that they ‘pay’ to vote for a given submission

    There are promoters for Digg, Reddit, YouTube and Stumbleupon etc

    They openly brag about their prowess.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on them, their productivity or the ethics of doing this?????

  3. I really think that this is something that gets undervalued by people. I will see forum posts where people complain about certain social media sites and that their posts don’t do well there but don’t take to learn the site or the community around it.

  4. Steven, terrific article. You’re doing a great job branding yourself as a social media expert. I hope other readers start following you on Traffikd, they definitely should.

  5. The problem I seem to have for my main blog (http://www.flightsimx.co.uk) is that it’s so niche, there only appear to be a very limited number of visitors to social networking sites that are interested in the subject. Either that, or I’m doing a lousy job of getting their attention!

    I’ve even created my own Social Networking site as a companion to the blog over on Ning. It’s having some success, but it’s taking a long time.

  6. I am still trying to see how these work. My experience in digg and SU is not that good, but still those few visitors are OK. There is a lot of potential, I just need to learn some more

  7. Thanks, this is exactly what I have been wondering about the last few days. I found out that digg is helping my blog quite a bit, but how to get the most out of them…

  8. Sweet post, see I also started to advertise on facebook, the only thing I hate they don’t have much categories to target social networking people ;)

    Well there are others. :)

  9. great article steven! definitely bookmarking your site as it sounds like you know what you’re talking about when it comes to social media!

    thanks for the insight!


  10. I need to find a good general commentary site.

  11. There’s a great new hobby (knitting and crochet) site you might like to add to your list: Ravelry.com. It’s still in beta, but has over 100,000 members already.

  12. Good post. I think a good social media plan is definitely important to building a long-lasting brand.

  13. Good advice, too many can be overwhelming, I settled on AR and twitter. See ya there.

  14. Great write up. This has been a great reminder to rethink my approach. I’ll have to revisit my social media plan/strategy on a more regular basis to keep it relevant and on target.

  15. Digg might have a huge audience and landing on their front page will likely send you so much traffic your site will go down but is that traffic going to stick around?

    I’ve found that if your blog isn’t regularly pumping out topics around Apple, Microsoft bashing or anti Bush/Government you will be hard pressed to reach the front page of Digg unless you have a large enough “Digg Buddies” to help you get there.

    Curious to see who’s made it to the front page of Digg and what were the results?

  16. Thanks for the fantastic article. Looking into Social Networking sites is on my “to do” list, and this was a great introduction. Your list broken into categories is especially helpful. I’m planning on returning to your site in the future for more great advice.

    All the best,

    – Dave

  17. This piece is a nice general introduction to the topic but I’ve read articles like this before. What is needed now is a more specific, detailed piece comparing the top 5 or 6 social media sites with the pros and cons of each, a description of the type of content that thrives on that site, and profile of user that does well on that site, etc. Please consider doing a follow-up with that angle. Thanks.

  18. Part of the problem is just how niche some of us are – I took a look at the ones that seemed like the best fit, for instance, and still found that my work was a little bit off their radar.

    I’m going to try to seek out a site that’s more interested in my sort of content, but in the meantime, Search Engines are still the bread and butter of my traffic flow.

    And finally, on the topic of making friends, whether it’s on one of these sites, Facebook, MySpace, or elsewhere, making REAL connections with people can still be a good boost. The people you add just to promote yourself become a glorified listserv, but the people you really meet and know stay readers for a long time, and pass your work along.

  19. I agree that two or three social media outlets is probably the ideal approach. With that few, you can both produce content that appeals to those different outlets, and, equally as important, be actively involved in those communities. Active involvement generally translates into more altruistic linking and submissions, which benefits you as a blogger and the community. It’s a win-win.

  20. Super, great post! Most people miss this, I see it over and over with my clients!

    Especially this:
    “Do users submit their own content?
    If you are planning to target a specific social media site you will definitely want to know if there are any written or unwritten rules about submitting your own content. If so, you’ll need to rely on your readers to submit it, or ask friends to do so.”

    Definite must-have read for anyone looking to Social Media marketing as a key component to their online marketing!

    Maria Reyes-McDavis

  21. I always place my blog posts at Blogbookmark.com and have found it a good place to get visitors. It is specifically for blog posts and is a good place to search for by blog subject matter. The retention rate for visitors from here is high… I think because they are looking for my kind of blog when they search the category in which I have posted.

  22. Darren,
    Thanks for posting the article. I appreciate it.

    Thanks for the compliment.

    Miss Universe,
    I don’t have experience with those services, but personally I don’t think I would use them. My opinion is that a blogger who wants to get involved with social media could do a better job naturally. If you take the time to build a strong network and learn about writing content that draws attention you’ll be able to re-create success with social media again and again. If you’re buying it you’ll have to pay every time you want that traffic.

    That can definitely be an issue. Some niches are just more fortunate than others in terms of available social media sites.

  23. Out of the main sites I find Digg to be almost entirely useless. On the other hand, I get thousands of hits from Reddit, which accounts for the vast majority of the traffic to all of my blogs/sites.

    Your categorised list is most useful though. Thanks Steve.

  24. I realized the tremendous value of social media sites lately when I started updating submitting my world top 100 blogs report. This prompted me to revisit my old posts, improve the titles and bullets, and had them submitted. I’ve also been active in submitting other pages and gained new online connections in the process.

    Traffic has been continuous so far. I’m still on the experiment stage and will see how far this content improvement and submission to social media site affect my blogs in the long run.

  25. I was late to the party when it comes to social media sites. I’ve secretly wondered if I could have seen faster growth in readership had I fully embraced social media sites earlier on. Now my biggest challenge is keeping an active profile at all the various sites.

  26. Frugal Dad,
    That is a challenge. My advice is to pick a few that are best for you and don’t worry about the rest.

  27. This was a wonderful, in-depth look at social media targeting. Great post! I am lucky to have started marketing using social media early on in the game. I believe it is a wonderful tool start-ups gaining momentum.

  28. I have never really been successful doing social media marketing, I run a local business and social media does not really work well for me.

  29. Interesting article, thanks. I have found Digg to be useless, but then again given the subject matter on my blog, this is hardly a surprise…

  30. Great tips!

    The first social media site I signed up with was Digg, but after seeing how difficult it can be to make the front page of Digg, I’ve explored other social media sites. Personally, I like Stumble Upon best.

    Thanks for the excellent advice! You’ve been stumbled. ;)

  31. I see that there is a growing number of social websites which specialize in targeting particular area. Some of them work better for bloggers or just as a reference libraries than general social networks.

  32. A well detailed post regarding social media and the list of social book marks category is really useful.
    How to know they are do follow or not ?

  33. I also think that these sites that disallow self submission are full of nonsense. We are all here for traffic so why can’t we be honest about it?

  34. Great article. Alot of people may bitch about the effort required to get on the front page of various social networking sites – but it’s worth remembering that is also what may keep them relatively abuse free. After all – as soon as someone figures out a fool proof cheat for enough of them that will be the beginning of the end… (step up web3.0)

  35. Finally, I understood why I am not doing well with SU, Digg and other big social sites.

    But surprisingly, I am doing a bit good at some of the low profile ones like Blogsvine. That is why I am focus on it.

    In fact, I will submit this post to them. I know it will be a big hit.

    Nice guest post. I love it.

    Thanks for the tips.

  36. I’ve recently joined http://www.onlywire.com which is basically one bookmark you need to post to a list of about 20 social marketing sites. This is only last week, so I haven’t noticed much traffic gain from it just yet.

    I was wondering what the general consensus is on onlywire?
    Has anyone else used it? Speaking from my limited experience:

    The advantages of using onlywire
    A single bookmark that you can use to publish to as many available social marketing sites as are available. If I recall, delicious is included in the list.

    Onlywire does not need a new widget.This is really convenient.

    A disadvantage of using onlywire
    The more recent, more well-known social bookmarking sites like StumpleUpon, digg, facebook and entrecard are not featured. Big drawback, since most of my referral traffic comes from StumbleUpon.

  37. Nice article but little bit too general. You should have included some concrete recommendations and tips… Just my 2 cents…

  38. I’ve definitely seen traffic spikes through StumbleUpon, but I’ve barely scratched the surface of figuring out how all of this works, and if it’s worth it. It doesn’t seem like very qualified traffic, though it’s hard to figure out where to find qualified traffic with a kind of quirky set of content.

    I think with any blog it boils down to the right people finding it and then spreading it around to their friends/coworkers/whoever. If you’re not blogging about making money or about blogging itself, I’d imagine it’s hard to push through to that top spot in StumbleUpon unless you go psychotically viral like ICanhasCheezBurger. (love that, btw)

  39. Suresh,
    To see if it’s do follow you can either check the source code of the page (if you see rel=”nofollow” in the link code it is no follow) or you can install a firefox add on like this one.

    Is there something specifically that you would like more detailed information on?

  40. Great Article Steve!

    A couple of my thoughts

    1. Even though you compete with fewer submissions in a Niche site, the quality and depth of your articles should be really good to become popular. Participants of Niche sites already know a lot on the subject matter; therefore to get popular you have to submit really good in-depth content.

    2. In my view catchy (which make readers curious) and controversial articles seems to be dominating social media sites.

  41. Very informative point of view. Funny, I wrote a post on the same topic, but it focused on Automating your content delivery to the social networking websites and then benefiting from the traffic.

    Are you automating your content distribution to maximize traffic?

  42. I had no idea there were so many different social media sites. Nor that there were some specifically catered to my audience!

    I have been getting some success with Digg, del.icio.us and Stumble Upon but you are 100% correct about quantity vs. quality traffic as most of those visits are brief.

    I’ve signed up to the 4 car/auto sites you have listed. Hopefully I’ll see a new breed of viewer.


  43. It is funny to run across your blog, because i have been trying to enter the world of social networks, to help find my niche
    audience to promote my website and all of the great features
    available. Thanks for your advice and ideas with solutions
    this will really help me get the word out , so i can share with others the great opportunities to make money online from home.

  44. Great Article!

    Does anyone have a recommendation for a sports social bookmarking site?

    And this is probably a dumb question -but when you guys talk about a ‘lot’ of hits – what is a ‘lot’? more than a thousand? more than ten thousand?

  45. I will spend half hour on stumble upon,facebook&friendster each.Won’t spend much time on it.Contents is more important,it determines the long term traffics instead of short term.

  46. Thanks Steve, Great Article.

    I have done a shotgun approach to this but have found it eats up quite a bit of time. I definitely need to use more focus and will take your advice to limit the sites I get work with.

  47. Lee,
    “a lot” totally depends on what social media sites you’re targeting. Digg and StumbleUpon can send thousands, but smaller niche sites will generally send less. In my opinion, a few hundred visitors from one submission on a niche site is pretty good. Digg will send the most in a short period of time, maybe 5,000 – 20,000 in one day, but StumbeUpon will spread it out a bit more. I had a page that got 70,000 page views from StumbleUpon last month. But I think that is the most I’ve had to one page.


    Great article, with so many of these sites now its hard to know which ones to use.

    I personally prefer StumbleUpon.

    VOTED for you at:

  49. Thanks for a great article. (We are linking to it to share with our readers!)

    We at MyPharmaNote.com are working hard to provide many of the features you discuss specifically for the pharma industry.

  50. I Really Love Your website! Thanks for all the great tips and techniques that You share!

    David I. Braybrooke. :-)

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