How to Use Social Networking to Promote Your Site

As far as promoting your website online, I recommend against leaning too hard on that until your website is ready for its grand opening. As soon as it is beautiful, however, I use three basic ways of going about promoting websites online:

Commenting on popular blogs and leaving a link back to a specific page on your website. For example:

  1. Go to Digg.com and look at the top stories. Since they are near the top of Digg, you can assume they are getting mad traffic at this very moment. Now is the time to strike.
  2. Note the domain of the website being promoted (abc.com and treehugger.com are listed as I type this) and ask yourself if it relates at all to your website. The answer is usually YES if your audience is very general. But if the site is Slashdot, for example, which primarily focuses on tech issues, and you are all about fashion, it’s not our audience. Leave it alone and don’t waste your time. You’ll get the hang of this with practice.
  3. Now, click on one of those top entries on Digg. You will be taken to the website the Digg entry refers to.
  4. Scroll down to the bottom of the article. Is there a comment box? If so, note what kind of fields it contains. It will almost always have fields for Name and Comment. Many articles also have an email field for verification purposes (your email won’t show up in the comment once you’ve posted). Finally–and here’s the one you’re looking for–it might have a website field. Here people usually put their homepage or blog URL. Users fill out that form (name, email, website, comment), and when the comment appears (sometimes after a moderator has approved it) your displayed name becomes a link to the website you specified. This is an opportunity for you to promote your website.
  5. Enter your homepage in the website field, or better yet: enter specific URLs that you want to promote on your site. Homepage promotion is nice, but it’s good to be specific, especially if there is a chance your item will ever get posted to Digg.
  6. Make your comment interesting. Take a stand, say something controversial or witty, whatever. Be an individual. Be interesting. This will make some people click on your name. They will be taken to your site. Boom, new visitor.

Being active in your own social networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Plaxo, wherever you are. You only have to pick three or four networks and dig deep into them. Search for old friends and colleagues and “friend” them. Share articles that you find interesting, comment on other people’s profiles, just be active and friendly with everyone. Then, when it comes time to pimp something of your own, your friends will trust you enough to click.

Encouraging social bookmarking on your site. Each article or page on your site should have its own unique set of social bookmarking buttons, so that readers can share exactly what they want to share. That is standard across the Web. Most popular social bookmarking services that are appropriate to a general website:

  • Digg – Primarily for news but also widely used for general interest
  • Yahoo Buzz – Same as Digg in essence but slightly different user base and one-third as popular
  • Delicious – Social bookmarking site. General interest.
  • StumbleUpon – Social bookmarking site that suggests web pages it thinks are relevant to the user based on past thumbs-ups. All users have installed a StumbleUpon tool bar by which they can randomly surf the Internet. The program has an uncanny ability to give readers great content they will care about. I love this service both as a user and as a developer.
  • Mixx – The up-and-coming Digg replacement. More and more people are becoming dissatisfied with Digg’s stringent posting rules and crowding. Digg’s success was, well, too successful. Mixx, being smaller, allows users and developers alike to have more of an impact in that sphere. It’s growing though. Its user base doubled this year when CNN made Mixx its primary social bookmarking button for all its articles.

Display too many more buttons than that and you’re going to get what’s known as “social bookmarking button clutter”. This reduces valuable web page real estate, overwhelms the more timid social bookmark users, and makes your site look desperate for attention. Less is more, to use a bad cliche. Some examples of deft use of social bookmarking buttons are this New York Times article and this article about social bookmarking.

Hope this helps!


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