If you want to get started in the world of social media, there are plenty of ways to go about it. I'm going to show you what I did and tell you what is working and what isn't.
The social media sites that I will cover include Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Delicious, Yahoo Buzz, Kirtsy, Twitter, and Facebook.
In a nutshell, the best way to get started is to be exceedingly kind and participate in the communities. Offer your help to people and see who returns the favors. People who reciprocate will be your long-term social media friends and those who are selfish and demanding may need to be ignored so that you can continue to work with your mutually beneficial friends.
Create your Social Media Identity
Your friends in social media may be demanding or overwhelming at times with their requests and you will want to separate your social media inquiries from your personal inbox.
The essential sites to sign up for are Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Delicious, Yahoo Buzz, Twitter (see below), and Facebook. I will address each of these in more detail and also talk about the advantages of other sites like Kirtsy.
Try to use the same username across all your social sites. It is not absolutely necessary, but it will help people to recognize you across various sources. My Digg username was ccpearce5, but I quit using it so that I could use cc5alive because my StumbleUpon and Reddit usernames are cc5alive.
Download a Chat Client
Chatting and Twitter are my two main ways of communicating a need for votes in social media spheres. Chatting is important for building relationships with influencers in the social media world. Chat has a couple advantages over Twitter in communicating because you usually have more of a sense if someone is online or not and it’s easier to send multiple links to someone via chat than via tweet. You're also more likely to confirm that you voted for someone else's links which can help build trust in your mutually beneficial relationships.
You’ll have to build your chat list in a similar way to building your Twitter list - explore those curated lists and see who publically shares their chat information. Some people put their screen names in their profile description, and some put it in the background of their Twitter page.
Another way to find people to share links with on chat clients is through Digg. When you click on links to individual profiles, there is an “about” section on the right-hand side (as of Digg v4) that often includes a screen name, usually for the purpose of mutual link exchange.
If you’re on a Mac, I recommend Adium because you can manage multiple chat clients in one window. If you’re on Windows, download Digsby. I’ve never used it, but that’s what people say is the best. These clients works with MSN, AOL, Yahoo, GTalk, and many more, but pretty much everyone in the world is on one of those first four.
Again, don’t bombard people with links to all your stuff. Meet the individuals, tell them that you’re involved with social media, and see if they have anything for you to vote for. THEN, after you’ve established a relationship, see if they wouldn’t mind giving you a quick Digg on your link. Not everyone will be nice, but there are enough kind people in social media where you will likely have a good experience if you initiate a conversation respectfully.
One thing that I like to do with Adium is set an auto-reply away message to something like this: “Leave me your links and I’ll get to it when I’m back at my computer. If you’ve got a second, mind grabbing this link? http://SomeRandomLink.com”
This method isn’t particularly effective, but people who you have an established relationship will usually vote for the link when they leave their request for you.
Make a Twitter Account for Social Media
I have a primary account that I use (@cc5alive), but I keep it separate from my social media account (Social_CC). Create a name for it that suggests what your Twitter account is about (like DiggMaster or Sarah_Stumbler) and be sure to clarify in your profile description.
I first created the account @Diggccpearce5 but I realized that I use many more services than Digg alone, so I have recently replaced it with @Social_CC.
Some people make fancy backgrounds for their Twitter profiles, but I think most people are using clients like TweetDeck and mobile apps, so I've just skipped that part for now.
You need to start building up a list of Twitter friends. Go ahead and search for people using hashtags like #StumbleUpon #Reddit or #Digg to find people in those communities.
If you tweet directly from the Digg page, it will look something like this:
Is Gay Marriage in Every State Simply Inevitable? http://t.co/ESQwVLP via @Digg
So another search you could do is for people sending @replies to Digg.
Curated lists are another great source to find active users of different sites. Social media mavens tend to group people in lists so that they can be sorted and contacted easily.
You can go through different people's public lists and add Digg users to your Digg list and StumbleUpon users to your StumbleUpon list, etc. This should be used as a STARTING POINT to meet some people and make connections. DO NOT START SENDING @REPLIES TO EVERYONE because people hate that and they will block you immediately. Instead, follow the people that look interesting, retweet some of their links, vote for some of the articles on different sites, and leave comments. People read the comments and appreciate them (when ththe comments are relevant). Once you've been doing that for a little while, try sending an @reply telling them that you've been reading their tweets and voting for their and see if they are interested in connecting.
Everybody uses URL shorteners for Twitter because 1) they are shorter so you can include more text in a tweet and 2) you can use them to track the amount of clicks on the link. My favorite is goo.gl but the biggest and most popular is bit.ly. If you need help deciding on which URL shortener to use,
Click to Tweet
Another place to send your friends (via email, IM, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) is to ClickToTweet.com. Here you can compose a tweet to say whatever you want and then generate a link. When your friend clicks the link, if they are logged into twitter, your tweet is appears as you wrote it and your friend simply has to click "tweet."
Here’s an example that will let you tweet how much you’re enjoying this article!
Although more controversial, you can also experiment with automated Twitter software. I'm not going to endorse any of them in this post, but there are a lot out there that will automatically follow and unfollow people according to a number of criteria (what they tweet about, their profile, who they follow, etc.) and can automate the process of sending out updates, @replies, and direct messages.
I don’t send out a lot of links on Facebook. To me, this is a more personal space. You can basically use 1) your real Facebook account, 2) fake Facebook accounts, or 3) a Facebook page designed to share links. If you have a second Facebook account for social media or a Facebook Page for your brand, I think that is the best way to send updates. Only use your personal account for the best of the best that you want to share. This is just my personal point of view.
I have experimented and created alternate accounts on Facebook as well, but these have gotten much more difficult to create successfully since Facebook has gotten wise to the fact that this happens. If you decide to go this route, I recommend creating the account and friending a few of your real friends and then using Facebook’s suggestions to add mutual friends. Continue to add mutual friends of your friends at a slow pace (maybe 10 a day). If you do it this way, people are more likely to accept your friendship because they see a number of mutual friends even if they don’t know you. Make sure the person seems like a real person early on, and you can be more experimental with the account once you have some friend connections.
In my experience, engagement with real friends is very high and engagement with fake friends on alternate accounts is very low. It took me several months to create a Facebook account and acquire 2,000 friends in an organic way. It is nice to have an account to go ahead and get your FShare counter ticking up, but it's really probably not worth the effort to build up a following on a fake account.
Let me just suggest that you don’t try to play any games with Reddit. This is a well-curated, smart community that will figure out if you’re sending spam links. They will vote your articles down if they are bad and they will ban your account if you violate the rules.
To do well on Reddit, you need to spend time actively looking through their site, familiarizing yourself with the way things works (i.e. the style of posts in categories like “AMA” or “TIL”), and commenting with thoughtful, relevant ideas. Basically, you can become an active member of the community or you can leave.
Only submit things that are actually cool or interesting or whatever the category is, and submit them to the correct section. Then let the community decide how good it is. It’s fine to share the link with a few friends, but it’s a bad idea to try to collect votes for your Reddit link.
Log in and start stumbling! Add the toolbar for whatever browser you’re on -- you’ll find it very helpful. Vote things up and down as you stumble on to them and just enjoy it for a little while. If you find something really interesting, see who submitted it and consider following them. You need to have a little street cred on the site before you can really be effective, so spend some time gathering favorites, leaving reviews, and following some interesting people.
Once you’ve spent some time on the site, sign up for Su.pr. It is essentially a URL shortener that tracks how many clicks you’re getting, organic stumble traffic, retweets, and reviews. You can post to Twitter or Facebook from the page and you’ll get an idea for what things you’re submitting are appreciated by the StumbleUpon community.
It is also recommended to leave reviews for popular articles and to submit sites from popular sources that have a good chance of going viral before you start submitting links to your own sites.
To find out more of the in’s and out’s of how to get a lot of traffic through StumbleUpon, check this link out. Here's a good link about how to become a "power stumbler."
In general you pretty much want to write good headlines and descriptions for the bookmarks, then choose some relevant keywords for your tags (think of search terms), and then make friends with Delicious users and share your bookmarks with them.
I like to see which bookmarks are on the homepage and then save some from there. Then I look to see who submitted it and sometimes add those people to my network.
I could definitely use some more advice on how to do Delicious right.
EDIT: Yahoo Buzz is no longer active.
I still haven’t figure out very much about Yahoo Buzz. I recommend using your chat client and Twitter to send out links to get votes and comments from other Yahoo Buzz users, but I haven’t found this to be a particularly effective source of traffic. I have heard that it can help with SEO, but I have yet to find strong evidence of this.
I have also experimented with paying people who have IM'ed me. It should be obvious that this is a bad idea. Even when I have used them to successfully garner 150+ votes, I see almost no traffic because the tactics these people use are largely only to create the image of something being popular, and the algorithms are smart enough to see the exploitation and prevent it from popping on the front page.
I know Yahoo Buzz has a purpose, but I have not been able to harness any benefits from it.
Kirsy is a relatively new player in the social media game, but it has a key advantage over many of the others: you don’t have to log in to vote. Since people don’t have to create an account or log in, it is easier to send the link to people and just tell them to click the headline. Kirtsy keeps track of how many people are clicking through the links and uses that as its voting metric.
Again, I think Kirtsy may be more helpful in the SEO game than it is in garnering direct traffic.
Plenty of other spaces are out there that are great for social media promotion --
Mixx, eBaumsWorld, Google Buzz, and Tumblr are some of the best ones that were not covered in this story. They all have quirks to learn about the communities, but no matter which route you go, if you spend time to learn how the communities work and build friends in it, you’ll be able to use social media effectively.
If you found this to be helpful, please submit it to any of the social media sources that you use! Also, feel free to send @replies to my Twitter account whenever you would like to share links! If you have any other insights, please let me know and I will amend this article.