Digg and Reddit get all the props in the social news world because they are big, flashy, and can give you huge traffic. But the big boys might not always be right for your business or a particular piece of content that you want exposure for. That’s why it’s important to zero in on the niche social news sites that are right for your business, the ones that your potential customers or partners are reading right now. Here’s how to identify these sites and make sure that you won’t just be wasting your time.
Get narrow. Don’t get bogged down with overwhelming lists like this or this. Instead, start with a list like this one from Andy Hagans—which is a great starting point to help you find a site or two that fits into at least one of your categories.
Badges of honor. Check the badges (buttons that make it easier to submit or vote) on your competitors’ blogs to see which ones they have adopted. Look beyond the usual suspects (Digg, Reddit, del.ico.us, etc) and look for one you don’t immediately recognize. For example, MyItThings’ use of the sk-rt badge tells you that sk*rt’s primarily female audience is important to them. Or Search Marketing Guru’s adoption and promotion of the Sphinn button shows you that the Sphinn audience is important to an SEM blog.
Check the stories. Once you have narrowed in on a few sites that seem like they might service your target market, check the stories that are currently on the homepage. Are they spammy? Would you feel comfortable being associated with them? Are they on target?
Check the Activity. It’s important to make sure that the community is active so that you can be sure your story will get attention and the cost (your time) will justify the means. A couple of things to check are: 1) How old are the stories on the homepage? If they are more than a few days old, there probably isn’t a lot of activity on the site. 2) Are there comments on the stories? Commenting is usually a good indicator of a strong and active community. On the flip-side, spam commenting (link drops, bot comments, etc) are a pretty good indicator of a community that has no moderation and lower quality.
Get involved. Once you have found a few sites that you feel are a good fit for your content, get involved. Becoming a power user on Digg or Reddit can be really time-consuming, but on a niche social media site it’s much easier because there is a lot less competition. By commenting and submitting stories, you could be establishing yourself to potential customers/readers as an expert in your field. It will also make it much easier and natural to promote your own stories.
Test the waters. It’s important to test the waters early and see what type of return you will get from a niche social network. Once you have a good piece of content ready to go, submit it and promote it (for help in building up your network check this previous article). Be sure to define your success metrics ahead of time and see how the results stack up to them. Are you looking for a) traffic b) links c) RSS subscribers d) buyers? Determine this ahead of time and then measure the results at specific times (personally, I prefer to measure them at the following times after something has hit the homepage: 1) 24 hours 2) 1 week 3) 1 month).
There are so many choices and opportunities in the social media world, so it’s important to focus your precious time (or money) on the ones that are going to give you results. A targeted niche social media strategy can be a great complement to Digg, Reddit, del.ico.us, and larger sites. Just be sure to choose the right sites and measure their effectiveness towards your bottom-line.
Chris Winfield is the President and Co-Founder of 10e20, an Internet marketing company that specializes in social media & search marketing services and is based in New York & Florida. The Let’s Get Social column appears Tuesdays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.