Isaac Marion was a Seattle-based blogger and writer who was largely unknown in 2008, until his short story I Am a Zombie Filled With Love was distributed on his website and purchased by about 100 readers. The story was also reviewed by a lot of users on the StumbleUpon network, and it was so highly rated that Cori Stern, a Hollywood screenwriter and producer, literally stumbled upon the story and instantly thought it would make for a great movie.
Stern reached out to Marion and told him he should convert the short story into a longer novel, which turned into the recently published "Warm Bodies." From there, Stern introduced Marion's work to her colleagues Laurie Webb and Bruna Papandrea (whose past projects include movies with Sydney Pollack and Milk) and the story was so good that it turned into a movie deal with Summit Entertainment, the same production company behind The Hurt Locker and the Twilight films.
Had Stern not stumbled upon the story, none of this would have been possible. The story speaks to how powerful social bookmarking and crowd-sourcing sites can be. But what is it? Social bookmarking, at its most basic form, is a simple way to organize all of the best content from around the web based off your interests, all in one place. While the Internet created an unprecedented level of access to all content, many users found it difficult to sort the relevant from the irrelevant, according to their interests and the value of the information provided. And perhaps most importantly, the bookmarks are transferable between computers and locations.
Which social bookmarking site you use is all a matter of preference, and partially based on your usage patterns and interests. Some of the most popular social bookmarking sites are Delicious, Digg, Reddit, Technorati, Google Bookmarks and to a certain degree Twitter and Facebook. According to Delicious, probably the most popular site of all-time in the space, social bookmarking "means you can save all your bookmarks online, share them with other people, and see what other people are bookmarking. It also means that we can show you the most popular bookmarks being saved right now across many areas of interest."
"No matter what computer you're on, at your place of business or at home, you have your bookmarks stored," notes Justin Levy, the director of marketing, business development and corporate strategy at New Marketing Labs, a new media marketing agency outside of Boston. "The social side of it is that these bookmarks are hooked into a directory of other bookmarks that are being saved by other users, so you can filter the content based off your interests, whether that's for personal or business purposes."
In this guide, we will explore the different social bookmarking options and which you should use and also explore how social bookmarking sites can help your business.
How to Use Social Bookmarking for Business: A Look at the Competition
The ten most popular social bookmarking sites, in terms of inbound links or in other cases monthly visitors (though not listed in any particular order) are: Twitter, Digg, Yahoo! Buzz, Tweetmeme, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Technorati, Delicious, Google Bookmarks and Mixx. Here is a quick overview of each:
Twitter, while known more as a social networking site, also is the most-used social bookmarking site on the Internet. If you consider how many people retweet and share links, it's a great place to find content.
Digg, despite recent struggles due in large part to a recent site redesign, allows users to give content a thumbs up or thumbs down (though their "bury" feature was recently taken away). Based on those opinions, news can be pushed to the top or bottom of a newsfeed, making popular pieces more popular and less read pieces floating more into obscurity, or becoming "buried" if you will.
Yahoo! Buzz allows editorial control for users to link to sites, stories, and more by therefore raising their "buzz," and unlike many of the other sites actually allows the user to edit the content. Tweetmeme is the most popular retweet website, and is the simplest way to share a story once you've found it on a website. Many users of popular news sites are already using the Tweetmeme button when they recommend an article, and many without even knowing it.
StumbleUpon is a self-billed "intelligent search engine" that sorts news based on your community and your interests, so you can literally stumble upon news that is relevant to you. It has a free toolbar that is integrated into your web browser, so when you're on a website you literally can give it a thumbs up or down. Reddit, the only site owned by a major news corporation (Condé Nast), puts all of the power in the user's hands. Everyone rates up or down what they find, so it's all about each individual user submitting quality content. The most successful links will gain prominence by reaching the front page.
Technorati is an open source software services that originally contained mainly blog content. Today, it measures a site's standing and influence within the blogosphere. Google Bookmarks utilizes Google's existing reach to let you access data wherever you are with your existing Google accounts. Mixx is quite similar to Digg, asking users to submit their favorite URL's while rating the recommendations of other users. The more in-depth you're reviews and recommendations, the better results you get.
Delicious, the preferred form of social bookmarking for Levy, uses a non-heirarchal classification system where users can tag their bookmarks with index terms and sort them into folders. Websites can tag their own content to improve their search engine optimization, as can users. Additionally, stories are arranged according to the tags posted on your entries as opposed to the topics they cover.
"Besides using Delicious to solely save bookmarks that I find interesting or use often, I use the tool to create libraries of information that I then can share with others," Levy says. "Personally, I can consume hundreds of articles every day, so sorting and organizing the ones I think are the most useful in a carefully chosen set of tags is great. I own a restaurant as well, so I have tags all around recipes, but those tags wouldn't be relevant for my other work, so that works really well."
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Social Bookmarking for Business: Using Social Bookmarking in Marketing and PR Campaigns
From an individual consumption perspective for Internet readers, social bookmarking can make great sense to filter your news and information all into one place. But it also makes great sense for businesses to utilize these tools. There are a few different ways that businesses can do that to increase site traffic and grow brand recognition. The best ways are by curating information, sharing of testimonials, tracking for individual projects, and as an add-on for your public relations campaigns.
Many consider content curators the gatekeepers to information for businesses and individuals. As a company, curating, or aggregating the best content from around the web, can make you an industry leader through your marketing campaigns. And for companies you already work with, showing that you are on top of the news in your industry gives a certain level of credibility.
"I'd agree that curating content is a good way to utilize these sites as a business," Levy says. "I think serving as a resource to your community and keeping that trust is a very simple way to show customers and clients that you care about not only them, but their time."
Similarly, if you think of it from the perspective of businesses who you don't already do business with, you're going to be seen as a resource for information. Making it more likely for that client or company to be attracted to working with you. In both cases, this relevancy can show real concern for customer service and retention.
Another way to utilize these tools is by pulling together all of your best testimonials from customers. Every business has heard the question from potential business partners and clients that asks, "What have others said about your work?" Rather than directing them to a Yelp page or sending an email, how much easier would it be to direct that potential partner to a site that has all of the testimonials for your company organized in one place, in a simple format?
Lastly, for individual projects and campaigns, the creation of folders and tags within social bookmarking sites can make it very easy to track success. If you've recently launched a campaign and want to see what stories, blog posts, Twitter notes and more have been written about it, you can very easily refer to your social bookmarks, where again all of the information is gathered in one place.
If you're just starting out, there are a few steps you can take as a business to get the most out of these sites:
1. Start by creating accounts on the sites you want to be on, and by filling out a complete profile about you that includes a company profile and a link back to your webpage.
2. Download the different tools and buttons and add them to your website and/or blog so users can utilize them within your community.
3. Create lists and categories to arrange specific information, whether that is for different types of clients or different types of content altogether.
4. Submit URL links to the site and write reviews, rate other stories, etc. The more active you are in the communities, the better your reputation will get and the more trusted you will become.
5. Start networking with other people in the community who share similar interests. You'd be surprised how easy it is to find some of the other users who are recommending many of the same stories you may be.
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Social Bookmarking for Business: What Social Bookmarking Sites Should You Be On
If you've decided that social bookmarking can help your business, there are plenty of aforementioned options out there. But breaking it up by client or project is a good reason to test out different networks. There are plenty of competitors trying to dominate the social bookmarking marketplace. As a company, its best to just experiment with different services and see what resonates best with your community and customers.
"You never know who will win this battle, but it might make sense to create different accounts on different sites and then utilize them differently," says Levy. "You need to fish where the fish are, so if the users you're trying to reach are on a particular network, that's where you need to be. The biggest site traffic-wise is Delicious, so that wouldn't be a bad place to start."
While some networks have taken criticism and struggled in recent months, Su.pr, a part of the StumbleUpon network, has had substantial success in 2010. According to Internet marketing company BlueGlass, StumbleUpon has had a 118% increase in users since 2009 and ranks first among social media traffic sources in the United States. Part of that success may be due to struggles for other competitors, but as described internally, they consider themselves more of a Pandora-like service for users than a crowd-sourcing site.
"We do see Digg and some of the other sites as more crowd-sourcing sites while we've always focused more on individual recommendations by your peers and not as a popularity contest," says Katie Gray, a spokesperson for the StumbleUpon and Su.Pr networks. "In terms of why we've grown, I think we've seen great success with the Stumble bar. So you don't have to download something or go to a site to recommend something, you can just recommend a page while you're on it."
Whatever service you ultimately decide upon is up to you and your company, but it's also all about how you utilize it. Do your research, figure out where your community exists and do some experimentation. Regardless the size of your company or the type of business you are in, social bookmarking can be a useful tool for just about anyone.
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LOU DUBOIS is a Philadelphia-based Social Media Editor for NBC Universal's local news affiliate (WCAU-TV). He is an experienced writer, editor and marketer who has worked with and written about Fortune 500 companies and small businesses, focusing on social media, emerging technologies, small business success, entrepreneurship, sports business and corporate policy. Previously he worked for Social Media Today, Sports Illustrated, the Associated Press and SOBeFit Magazine, along with various newspapers.