Stumbleupon and Digg are two of the largest “social voting” or “social bookmarking” websites, and there are many others. Members submit links to web pages that they find of interest, categorizing them by keywords called “tags.” Other members choose topic areas, view pages submitted, and vote and comment on them. The system learns a individual’s preferences and serves up more web pages of potential interest. By participating, members discover interesting web pages related to their passions, both personal and business. They also can connect with others who share their interests around the world.
Here’s an overview in StumbleUpon’s short video.
Aside from being called “entertaining” or even “addictive”, you will hear that these sites can drive “massive traffic” to your website. According to Maki over at Dosh Dosh blog, Stumbleupon allows you to
1. Generate rapid exposure for a specific website, brand or concept
2. Establish a reader base for your blog very quickly, and
3. Gain numerous backlinks from StumbleUpon visitors with websites
You might wonder if you should join. So the question I set out to answer today is this: “If your primary interest is promoting your business, should you invest time to join and become active in a social voting website?”
I’ll briefly consider paid promotion on StumbleUpon and then identify three criteria to help you decide if your business might benefit from participation in such a social voting site.
I Choose StumbleUpon
Each voting site has its own system of handling submissions and evaluating member votes. Digg, the larger site, has a reputation for being driven by high-volume users. From what I read, Stumbleupon’s algorithm is more impartial. I decided to join, participate and use it to promote both this blog and my nonprofit’s website, SCORE Chicago.org.
StumbleUpon’s focus is “helping people discover interesting web content,” according to founder Garrett Camp, who just bought the website back from Ebay. He also called it “channel surfing for the web.”
While I mainly want to talk about unpaid use of StumbleUpon for business, let me briefly cover the paid option first.
Paid Promotion on StumbleUpon
StumbleUpon is designed to entertain users, and only secondarily to market to them. That said, if you want to promote your business directly to a targeted demographic, location or niche, the site allows you to purchase StumbleUpon Ads to drive traffic to specific website pages. The ad prices start at $.05 per targeted visitor. You can also get feedback on your pages, because members rate them with a thumbs up or down, or write comments in reviews.
The site itself says: “StumbleUpon works best for businesses with something valuable to offer, presented in an informative or entertaining way.” This is a link to StumbleUpon Content Guidelines for the types of web pages you can pay to promote.
Who should advertising on Stumbleupon? In the opinion of Garrett Camp, “You can target by category, age, gender and location. So for product launches, distributing audio/visual content or just getting feedback on your blog, StumbleUpon often works better than PPC approaches since targeting is precise and no click through is required.”
At this big link list, scroll down to Advertising on StumbleUpon to see 10 posts on the advertising experiences of others.
Indirect Promotion on StumbleUpon: Listening, Learning, Indirect Marketing
If you don’t want to buy ads (and I am not suggesting that you do), should you still join to listen and promote informally? In my opinion, your decision should be based on three criteria: 1) the topic of your niche, 2) whether in the course of business you write useful, interesting copy on your topic, and 3) whether you have time to build the relationships that give you votes. (Even if you don’t meet these criteria, you may want to use StumbleUpon to learn more about your niche and network with those in it.)
1. Your Niche Topic
Let’s consider whether there is a match between your niche and active topics on StumbleUpon. Here are the most popular topics on the site:
If your business niche is in top tags, you have marketing potential. Cooking, cats, cars, graphic design, internet tools, movies, online games, self improvement, and video games are hot. Here’s a link to active StumbleUpon Groups, to give you another cut on concentrations of enthusiastic users. You can always join and “Stumble” through two or three of your top keywords (the “All” tab from the Toolbar, and then the “Search” option) to explore content in your niche.
Within the topic of Commerce, for example, here are sub-categories.
The site provides no details on the volume of activity in individual categories. I wonder how many people are entertaining themselves by viewing petroleum sites, for example. Maybe the global warming activists and environmentalists?
2. Your Content
To get lots of traffic from StumbleUpon, Garrett French of Search Engine Journal says, “you must inform and entertain with laser targeting and a high WOW factor.” In the course of business, do you write helpful and informative copy that is beneficial to your target market — blogs, white papers, PowerPoints, Ebooks, helpful e-newletters? If you already have this interesting content, you can probably get increased visibility for it by participating in a voting website like StumbleUpon. You may also grow your RSS feeds and newsletter signups.
Web pages that are unlikely to gain you StumbleUpon traffic are your home page (an early mistake of mine), e-commerce pages, advertising pages or squeeze pages. Substantive, original content and graphics are key. For details, see ProBlogger’s recommendation on How to Write Posts That Sets StumbleUpon on Fire and CopyBlogger’s Writing for Stumbleupon: High Impact Content Above the Scroll in 4 Easy Steps.
3. Your Available Time
It takes time to learn what content to submit and how to shape it for maximum impact. It takes more time to find people who share your interests, and even more time still to develop a relationship with them. To network, you need to subscribe to other members’ favorites, read what they submit, maybe comment on their own blogs. (See the StumbleUpon and social media expert Caroline Middlebrook’s excellent post on How to Connect with People In Your Niche on Stumbleupon.) These people might be potential clients, or they might be influencers in your niche.
The power of Web 2.o marketing is in these kinds of connections. But the frustration of Web 2.0 marketing is that real connections blossom slowly. Do you have the time over weeks and months to make StumbleUpon worthwhile?
What Types of Businesses Should Join Stumbleupon To Market and Promote?
I’m thinking this through for small business by reflecting on recent clients of my own.
In my opinion, consultants and bloggers are likely to find the site the most useful for marketing. First, they both seek to build national awareness. And second, they both typically write to showcase their expertise. Thus I might recommend StumbleUpon to clients of mine like a web designer, the sales trainer, and the market researcher.
Photography and graphics are popular in StumbleUpon. My band photographer client may be able to build awareness for her service beyond bands if she wished. Ditto my client who creates high-resolution logos and graphics for printers. By the way, you don’t need a blog to link to, and get traffic from, images.
There is potential for product businesses in certain niches if that business already has a good blog. StumbleUpon members are interested in home and food, so clients like my caramel manufacturer, silicone bakeware creator and jewelry designers might do well because they already provide targeted content on their blogs. (I was quite surprised to see several StumbleUpon groups devoted solely to jewelery.)
I would not recommend StumbleUpon for personal service businesses, such as a baby ultrasound business or a secretarial service. These owners don’t write in the course of their work and they focus locally. Likewise certain b2b firms — like my clients managing custom phone installations or manufacturing network cables — don’t write and should choose other Web 2.0 techniques over this one.
To get another opinion, I asked Caroline Middlebrook for her recommendation on which types of businesses do best on StumbleUpon. She said “StumbleUpon (SU) works better for topics where the readers are tech savvy so anything techy and internet-related seems to do well. Those people are the ones who know about and use SU. Not many motorbike enthusiasts would even know what SU was, for instance.”
My own experience is mixed. In 2009, Stumbleupon was the 5th highest referrer to this blog. The site continues to bring drips and drabs of traffic to various posts. But I have not invested enough time in relationships to make it really productive. Aside from that, I have learned much and made friends in the area of social media. Thus I will continue to be a member more to learn and listen that for traffic. I invite you to subscribe to my favorites and share yours with me — Citylady505.
Bottom line: unless you meet the niche, content and time criteria above, focus first on online marketing techniques like targeted email marketing, SEO, blogging and pay per click ads. But even as a secondary marketing activity, StumbleUpon can help you dig deeper into your niche and connect you with like-minded people.
Do you agree with this analysis? Who do you think can benefit most, business-wise, from social voting sites? Please leave me a comment. If you like this post, how about a Stumble or a Digg?
Business-Oriented StumbleUpon Links
A Comprehensive Guide to StumbleUpon: How to Build Massive Traffic to Your Website A thorough how-to post from an internet marketing pro. Dosh Dosh
The Why, How and Who of Marketing in StumbleUpon Covers 5 reasons marketers should be interested, principles for unpaid marketing, tips for paid ads and links to the marketing experiences of others. Search Engine Journal
Going Local On StumbleUpon Find members in your area, check their profiles to see who is in your niche, then network with them. 10e20 blog
How to Convert StumbleUpon Users to Regular Visitors There are 9 steps you can take. Social Media Trader
Caroline Middlebrook’s Stumble Rush Home Study Course. Sign up for 10 free beginner lessons and then pay $49 to get the next 10. I loved the course, which is taught with text, short videos and tasks to put the lesson into practice. I have used and recommend it, so this is an affiliate link.
See all my Delicious links on StumbleUpon
Online Marketing Series. This post is the 18th and last in my series. Whew.