Social Media Optimization: Reaching Out through the Social News Networks

By Ric Shreves, Michelle Krasniak

Don’t forget the social news networks when developing your social media optimization strategy. Several years ago, social news was a significant trend in online content. That trend hasn’t played out as many people thought it would. Instead of there being several high‐profile news‐oriented sites, there’s. . . Facebook. Almost one third of U.S. adults get their news through Facebook.

The way that news is consumed on Facebook is also worth noting. The Pew Research Center refers to it as “drive‐by news,” meaning that most people who get news via Facebook get it as a byproduct of their other activities there.

For SMO practitioners, the popularity of Facebook as a news channel is good news; they have one fewer class of websites to worry about in promotional strategies. Social news sites aren’t dead just yet, however. Several sites should still be part of your SMO strategy.

Reddit

Reddit is a social news platform that lets people post and vote on content. Reddit calls itself “The Front Page of the Internet,” and there’s some truth in that motto. The service can pay handsome rewards in traffic for the right content.

There are three keys to Reddit success:

  • Self‐promotion is strictly against the rules — and the service polices it. That limitation greatly affects how you approach Reddit, but it shouldn’t scare you away. Reddit can push huge amounts of traffic to your website.

  • Reddit’s audience is predominantly young and socially active. Make sure that the Reddit audience matches your demographic needs. If it does, don’t skip it.

    A typical Reddit user is male, between the ages of 35 and 44, with an average income between $25,000 and $50,000 a year.

  • The site is organized into categories called subreddits. Each subreddit is essentially its own little community. Find the right subreddit(s) for your posts; otherwise, your efforts will be wasted.

Given the prohibition against self‐promotion on Reddit, you have to post in a different fashion from the way you do with other social networks. You need to share news and engage the community, not broadcast to it. To get an idea of how strong the community aspect can be, take a look at the subreddit for the University of Texas Longhorns.

The Longhorn Nation subreddit.

The Longhorn Nation subreddit.

The moderators of the LonghornNation subreddit post game schedules, past scores, threads for each game, and links to related communities. The people who visit come for the community. Although this topic is admittedly noncommercial topic, the sense of community is typical of many subreddits, and you must harness that sense of community to prosper in this environment. Sharing news and articles is fine as long as doing so is useful to the community.

Given the rather narrow demographics of Reddit, some types of content tend to do better than others. Among the winners are

  • Technology‐oriented posts (computers, Internet, gaming)

  • Politics and society, particularly controversial topics

  • Music

  • Comics

  • Food

  • Adult content

You have to register and log in to post to Reddit. After you post, your content can be voted up or down, and as voting occurs, you gather karma points. Users with high positive karma points become trusted and valued by the community, and their contributions tend to attract more attention; those users becomes trusted sources. Therein lies the key to Reddit strategy: Invest in the community and become a trusted source.

Reddit offers paid advertising, sold on a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) basis. You can target by interest, by subreddit, and by location. The ads are affordable and can be quite effective.

Other social news sites

Several other social news sites are worth a look, though these channels should be a lower priority for you than Reddit because they have much smaller and less active user bases. Sites to investigate include the following:

  • Digg: Digg is a social bookmarking site with content voting. Digg can generate a fair amount of traffic if your link is voted up and makes the front page of the site.

  • StumbleUpon: Content on StumbleUpon is grouped by category, and users follow or browse categories to find articles of interest. Make sure that you join and find friends before you start adding lots of content; otherwise, your content will just sit there.

  • Delicious: This site offers social bookmarking with tagging and keywords. You can create bookmarks that you can use for reference, and other users can follow or subscribe to a feed.

  • Pearltrees: This social bookmarking site is easy to set up and use. It requires a bit of dedication, in that you really need to build a portfolio of links before Pearltrees starts to leverage your listings.

Of these services, Digg and StumbleUpon have the greatest potential to generate traffic. That said, this entire space has been fading away as Facebook and Twitter have grabbed social news traffic.