Using Social Media to Find Quality Information

There are plenty of articles, including some of my own, that focus on techniques for drawing traffic from social media websites like Digg, StumbleUpon and del.icio.us, but there is very little written about using these social media sites to find quality information.

The point may seem illogical since social media sites supposedly show the best, or at least the most popular content, on the front page. However, finding the right content that you can benefit from, the hidden gems, requires more than just visiting the front page to see what is popular at the moment.

Social media sites are a great place to find content on a wide variety of sources, but you’ll get the most out of your efforts if you have a plan.

Keys to Finding Quality Content with StumbleUpon

1 – Choose your interests wisely. Many other StumbleUpon users will come across your profile when you Stumble pages, and some may even seek you out. When others see your profile they will also see interests that they have in common with you. Having common interests is a great way to encourage others to add you as a friend. Your interests also determine what types of content you see when you are Stumbling, so if you don’t choose them wisely you are not likely to find what you like.

2 – Choose friends that have common interests. Your friends will partially determine what content you see. Find friends that have common interests so that you are likely to appreciate the content that they send your way.

3 – Choose friends that are active. When looking at a users profile you can see what they have given the thumbs up to, and when they did it. Find users that have been active frequently so that you will benefit from their recommendations.

4 – See who has stumbled pages that you like. One way of finding friends with similar interests is to pick a specific page or blog post that you like and see who else has given it a thumbs up. To do this go to http://www.stumbleupon.com/url/ and enter the URL of the page at the end of the address, directly after url/. For example, to see who has Stumbled my blog front page, go to http://www.stumbleupon.com/url/www.vandelaydesign.com/blog/.

5 – Check the Buzz section. With the StumbleUpon toolbar so easy to use as you’re surfing, users can easily overlook the fact that it lists the tops submissions similar to Digg and other social media sites. From the StumbleUpon homepage click on “websites” and here you’ll see what’s currently popular. Use the tag cloud on the right to find content on particular topics.

6 – Share recommendations with your friends. If you want to actively find the best content on StumbleUpon, share what you like with your friends and they’ll be more likely to share great content with you as well. Stumble Upon allows you to easily share content that you like with your friends, Maki provides a good explanation of how to do this in a recent article.

Keys to Finding Quality Content with Del.icio.us

1 – Add the right people to your network. Others in your network can be very beneficial if you’re interested in using del.icio.us to find great content. When you add someone to your network you’ll be able to see their bookmarks (unless they have them set to be private). When you login you can click on “your network” and you’ll see the recent bookmarks of people who you have added to your network. Find users that actively bookmark pages that you like and you’ll always have great content waiting for you in your network’s bookmarks.

2 – Check frequently to see your network’s activity. If you build a large network of active users you’ll need to check their bookmarks regularly to see what is being added.

3 – Use tags to browse for related content. When you’re looking through the bookmarks from your network and you find something on a topic that peaks your interest, click on one of the tags to see more related bookmarks from that user.

4 – Encourage others to join your network. Another way to find users with similar interests is to offer your visitors the option to be a part of your network. You can see on my sidebar that I have a del.icio.us badge that encourages readers to become part of my network (You can get this badge at https://delicious.com/help/networkbadges). Once other users add you to their network you can see what types of content they bookmark and add them to your network as well.

Keys to Finding Quality Content with Digg

1 – Choose friends who have similar interests, not just someone who got a story to the front page. With Digg there is always so much emphasis on friends that many users overlook the fact that having friends is useless if they don’t like the same types of content as you. Stories submitted by your friends, as well as those dugg by your friends, can be a great source of new information. But if you friends list is watered down with users who share nothing in common with you, these methods are ineffective.

2 – Don’t add people who only digg there own submissions. You’ll probably run across these people pretty frequently, and they’re obviously only using Digg for their own interests. They’re unlikely to ever do anything that will benefit you and they’re unlikely to remain active because they probably won’t get anywhere with this approach.

3 – Set your homepage for a specific topic. In your settings under “customize topic” you can set a specific topic to show on your homepage. This way when you visit Digg you’ll only be seeing content that belongs to your topic of interest.

4 – Subscribe to the popular feed from a category. You can subscribe by RSS to be notified when new items become popular in a specific category. I am subscribed to the “programming” subcategory of “technology” and now I receive a message in my feed reader whenever something becomes popular in programming.

I hope these tips have given you some good ideas for using social media to find great content in addition to just driving traffic to your own site. If you have any other tips that you would like to add, please leave a comment.

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