Online Marketing - A Guide to Social Bookmarking
Social bookmarking (or social networking) is one of the most important elements of online marketing. With the steady growth of the industry, no serious Internet entrepreneur can afford to miss out on this opportunity. The majority of Internet surfers use social networking on a regular basis. Social bookmarking is all about sharing links online. If you like a particular webpage, you may want to share it with your friends and family by posting the link on your Facebook wall or on some other social networking site. Whether you use a social networking site or you simply email the link to one contact in particular, it is all regarded as social bookmarking.
While most social networking sites allow users to easily share links with just a few clicks of the mouse, there are other sites which are dedicated entirely to this purpose. There are also smaller sites which provide social bookmarking for particular niches such as travel, online business or computers.
You may have noticed that a huge number of pages on the web have a row of icons or a button or link saying "Share" or something similar at the bottom of every article. These buttons allow you to easily share the page you're reading, rather than having to copy and paste the link into your favorite social bookmarking site. Amongst the most common social bookmarking sites that every webpage should provide are Facebook and Twitter. Other very popular sites include Delicious, Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon. There may also be other sites particularly targeted towards your niche or website type such as Technorati for blogs.
Dedicated social bookmarking sites such as Digg and StumbleUpon are also great for helping people to find the most popular stories of the moment since they provide all of their latest and most popular tagged websites on the front page. Visitors can more easily find subjects that they're interested in.
How Can Social Bookmarking Help Me?
From a business point of view, social bookmarking is all about increasing the exposure of your website and ultimately driving more traffic to it. The power of social bookmarking is practically unstoppable and the potential is enormous. The reason that social bookmarking is so powerful is that it has the potential to exponentially increase the number of backlinks you get to your site. This increases your exposure and improves your search engine ranking. Best of all, social bookmarking provides a form of targeted advertising.
When you consider that the number of people with Facebook accounts alone is steadily approaching one billion, you should be able to see why this opportunity is too enormous to miss out on. Many other social bookmarking sites also have hundreds of millions of users. Best of all, to take advantage of this extremely lucrative form of marketing, you don't even have to spend a single cent.
It costs nothing to provide social bookmarking links on your website. You don't even need to have an account at any of the actual sites although it does help if you can easily post and share your own pages as well.
From the user's point of view, social bookmarking is a way to easily find the content that they are looking for. While this is not so much the case with regular social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace, it certainly is with link-sharing resources like Digg and StumbleUpon. Web surfers can use sites like this to search for the content they want and then view the ratings for that content. For example, if a web surfer wants to read about building computers, they will search for some relevant keywords and then be provided with a list of results which is typically far more manageable than those provided by the search engines. Best of all, each result will have a rating. One some sites, this is just the number of times it has been shared. On Digg.com, for example, these are referred to as the number of "Diggs." A page with hundreds of "Diggs" is a very popular site and probably one worth checking out.
How to Get Started with Social Bookmarking
The very first thing that you should do is get the social bookmarking buttons on your website if you haven't done so already. You can find the necessary code and icons at various web design and blogging resources. They're generally easy to install, especially on blogs. Once you've added them to a blog, they should appear at the bottom of every post and article.
If you are using WordPress, the world's most popular software for blogs and news sites, you can use the Social Media Widget available from the official plugin directory at Wordpress.org. It is fully customizable and supports dozens of sites (although you won't want to use them all). Icon sizes are available from 16x16 to 64x64 pixels and there are four different sets of icons available.
Although it doesn't necessarily require a registration on most sites, you should also search for sites similar to your own and see which ones are receiving the most hits. This way, you'll be able to find out what people like. Knowing exactly what people want is half of the battle when it comes to providing content that people actually appreciate enough to share.
Things to Avoid
Although social bookmarking is one of the most valuable online marketing tools in the world, it is actually not a place for blatant advertising. Web surfers use social bookmarking sites to find content that they actually want to read. If you cannot provide something of value to your visitors, then don't post it. No one wants to be confronted with a page full of spam when they log in to their favorite social bookmarking site. What's more, it will only end up with your site being blacklisted and losing its reputation altogether.
Opening multiple accounts on the same social bookmarking site is also something which should be avoided. Many first-timers make the mistake of thinking that this will provide free and easy traffic because they can vote their pages up to the top of the ranks. While this may bring a small, temporary boost in traffic, it will only hurt your reputation in the longer term. Most social bookmarking sites do not allow this anyway and, if they find out, you could end up getting your accounts suspended.