Social networking is constantly evolving. In many cases, what was cool two years ago is now next to worthless. For example ‘the Digg effect‘ used to be massive and could really make a big difference to the visitors to a website.
That was then, this is now. The Digg effect is now nearly nonexistent, paling in significance to the other social networks. Digg, like Stumbleupon and Reddit, is just a bookmarking system with some added kudos. Where as things like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin are far more robust systems which offer a heck of a lot more interactivity and functionality.
So what is vogue at the moment?
The current vogue, is Pinterest. Pinterest is a nice looking jQuery Masonry implementation with a bunch of images that promote comments and link clicks. All very nice, but is it useful?
In a word YES. I used to think it was a flash in the pan, but the more I see how people and businesses are using it, the more I see it’s potential as a massive traffic driver. Apparently 9% of US based major online stores are already using Pinterest, as well as many magazines that are choosing to have specific Pinterest editors that keep their community feed with many new images added every day.
The main winners seem to be companies that post women’s products like fashion and accessories. Companies that share menus and recipes, magazines (again women’s magazines) and photographers. As for main stream media, it should be noted that Mashable chose to add Pinterest to its interactive floating sidebar links, suggesting that Pinterest is a real winner.
The main problem for implementation is getting the right image shared. When sharing a page with the interactive share button of Pinterest, the author chooses what the image will be that is shared rather than the viewer. This is a bit of a shame as we are not all the same and see different things of interest.
Other new entrants to the market
Klout is another new entrant to the market worthy of note. Although immature, and really not perfectly accurate, it is a nice bit of fun to be able to gauge your social network presence against others.
By hooking into the social networks you’re a member of, Klout tries to gauge a number of factors, including reach (total people who view your stuff), amplification (how many people share what you have made/shared), and impact (how much what you say influences others).
While this is a set of noble ideals to have information on, it’s really not implemented fully. For example it only details a single Facebook and Twitter account. Should you be a marketeer, the system breaks down automatically as your alter-egos will not be accounted for.
Also it really is immature at the moment as it doesn’t cover all social networks, doesn’t cover what you blog, doesn’t cover what you guest blog and the perks system has been implemented with limited perks that don’t relate personally to most.
So what is it good for? It’s good for Friday night down at the pub when you try to prove that you’re more important that your buddies in a web popularity contest. It’s also slightly better in my opinion than kred which only deals with your twitter account.
In the future both Kred and Klout will probably improve and may grow to maturity in a year or two.
If you think you might have the influence, then you might want to hook up with lockerz.
Made by a former Amazon Exec, this tool allows you to try to influence your social network friends and followers into buying products you recommend. In return, you get points that can be traded for prizes.
I can see this website growing into a system of home shopping queens trying to influence their friends so that they can get that dress for free. There has been some rumors though that the prizes are often gone too quickly to actually use your points.
Interestingly, to try to market their platform, Lockerz have brought in AddToAny as a method of disseminating their products. Not a bad idea, but it appears the average person now doesn’t want to use thier social networking tool due to the number of tracking cookies it has.
Incidentally this will soon be illegal in the UK without first asking the viewer if they agree to having tracking cookies used (see UK PCER).
What you really need to know and use for sharing
It’s all about the big four. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Google+.
In truth these are the only social networks that you need to have on your site, no matter where you are in the world. On top of those you need to consider local differences, such as Hyves in Holland or vkontakte in Russia and so on.
There is nearly always a local social network in the local language that is worth adding for sharing. When I say worth adding, you have to look at the number of users and see if it’s less than 5 million. If it is, then forget it. In the case of larger countries if there is less than 1/4 of the population using it, forget about it.
Some will argue that networks that relate to the website business are also relevant, like Slashdot on a site that deals with code. To them I say, why bother when Linkedin has 150million users, of which approx 40% are in IT/Web positions?
Rather than wasting that valuable screen space (real estate as some like to call it) on secondary networks, focus on what will bring in the mass numbers.
It’s not just about sharing, it’s also SEO
Last year Google changed their SEO rules to include factors that pertain to social networking shares as a measure of popularity. On the whole, this was done because of Google+. As you can guess, Google wants to do everything in it’s power to make Google+ a success.
To enable this, it made +1’ing a page a factor in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) rankings. As they could not count only their own network without massive outcry, they included the major social networking sites as well. Put simply, pages that have been liked, +1’ed, tweeted or shared will get a higher position than other pages.
To like or +1 is not to share
When you like or +1 a site, you are not sharing it. You’re giving it your stamp of approval.
In truth, this isn’t what you want. You want your pages/site to be shared so that it appears in news feeds, and not end up on a secondary page where people have to search to find out what it is you approved.
If you’re really into getting the most reach from your site, don’t offer the like/+1 button. Offer the share button instead. Some systems cloak a share button in the form of a like button to give people the feeling that they’re using interactive buttons.
Do bookmarking sites have a place anymore?
Even the big ones like Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon are loosing ground.
In fact, if you look at those sites that do use many interactive buttons, you’ll see share counts like the following again and again:
- Twitter : 1000
- Facebook : 250
- Linkedin : 125
- Google+ : 7
- Digg : 1
- Stumble : 2
- Reddit : 1
You can be sure that most of the share count for the last three was mainly created by the site owner. Of course you can feel free to use these bookmarking sites if you want to, just know that most others aren’t.
Sites and API’s often die
Even with unlimited budget and countless staff, social networks die every day. The greatest example of this is Google Buzz. It closed its books for the last time back in December 2011. Yet on many sites it still exists as a method of sharing.
There are sites that sit in the top 500 that still display the icon for sharing on Google Buzz but they just don’t work.
A classic example of this is Business Insider. They still offer a Google Buzz button. It would be much more clever and show the knowledge to be inside a business if they’d swapped that share option out for Google+.
The other thing that happens is evolution. For example, last year Twitter stopped supporting some of its earlier API integration techniques in favor of their new API. This meant that some sites no longer had a working Twitter share button. Even if you think you have your social networking situation sorted out, you really have to review it every month or so by either checking which share API’s have changed or what sites are now defunct.
What about Following?
If you want to use any social network or website to host your information, go for it. If you’re an artist, consider Deviantart or Dribbble. If you’re busy helping others, show it off on stackoverflow. They’re all good in one way or another. Don’t be shy to give them a go.
Just don’t expect your site to do better because of it. Expect your reputation to do better because of it. The same can be said of Youtube, Vimeo or any other video sharing site. They should be on your site as a place to follow you or your channel. It’s up to you to put links in the description back to your site to add value.
Also due to the DMCA, SOPA, PIPA and ACTA actions of late, music sites/blogs are now under intense scrutiny from the law. My advice to you if you’re a DJ or musician is not to host your own music or mixes any more. Instead, put it on a site like Sound Cloud. They’ll deal with the royalties and other issues without you needing to worry.They want to stay online and safe.
You can still use sites like Mininova (hosted self made torrents) as a distribution method, but don’t rely on file sharing sites such as Mediafire, as that kinda thing has the eyes of the law all over it.
Why should you listen to the Author of this post?
I deal with social networking on a daily basis.
Not just sharing and following, but setting the strategy for companies from Global Corporations down to local businesses. On top of that I’ve created one of the most popular social networking tools for WordPress (Share and Follow) and many social network applications and site integrations.
I’ve only scratched the surface of social networking, but I trust you can see sense in my advice and will apply it with your customers.
Agree? Disagree? Please comment and tell me why!
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