How to Leverage Web 2.0 & Social Media Sites to Market Your Brand & Control Your Message
By Jane Copland
Either the term Web 2.0 makes your blood boil, or you've taken to throwing it around like a free Google frisbee. If you're in the camp whose collective feeling is one of seething hatred, you may soon find yourself in the position of the people who didn't like mobile telephones being referred to as "cells." It appears that Web 2.0 - the concept and its controversial name - aren't going away.
Therefore, in the tradition of SEOmoz's Web 2.0 Awards, we've taken a business-minded look at thirty sites whose content fits the Web 2.0 description. We only have one request: please don't be horrified at the number of relevant or high profile sites we haven't included in this report. This is meant to be a comprehensive sample, but a sample nonetheless.The sites are listed in a rough order of usefulness. Everyone's experience will differ, depending on industry, audience and product or service. Some of the sites lower down on our list are our favourites, but we know that they're not going to send anyone to the America's Richest lists any time soon.
Table of Contents:
|1. Digg||16. Flickr|
|2. Del.icio.us||17. WikiHow|
|3. Reddit||18. BlueDot|
|4. Technorati||19. StyleHive|
|5. Squidoo||20. JotSpot|
|6. Netscape||21. Wetpaint|
|7. LinkedIn||22. Shadows|
|8. Newsvine||23. Yahoo! 360|
|9. Wikipedia||24. Furl|
|10. Ma.gnolia||25. Ning|
|11. StumbleUpon||26. Frappr|
|12. Shoutwire||27. The Best Stuff In The World|
|13. Facebook||28. MySpace|
|14. 43 Things||29. Yahoo! Answers|
|15. YourElevatorPitch||30. Rdiculous|
Nearly everyone who reads this article probably knows what most of the following websites do. What we've looked at is:
- The site's "About us" information... or its meta description. Or its littering of randomly placed instructions.
- Whether a user's experience on the site is the same as (similar to... somewhat in the ballpark of...) that which its developers claim it should be.
How useful the site is as a business tool. Can you use any of these sites for your commercial benefit, or are they serving as little more than mindless entertainment?
"Digg is a user driven social content website. Ok, so what the heck does that mean? Well, everything on digg is submitted by the digg user community (that would be you). After you submit content, other digg users read your submission and digg what they like best."
When a website, or any appliance, for that matter, becomes a verb, you know they have done something right. "To digg" has become an important addition to this noun-turned-verb crowd. Do you think it annoys Yahoo! that despite their best efforts, their name as a verb means something like "to make a fool of oneself?"
- You can submit your own content to Digg; however, whether your content is dugg en masse has a lot to do with the status of the person who submits the article. Think of it as Washington DC. You want to get an influential lobbyist to work on your behalf, because even if your initiative is awesome, no one will listen if you have no reputation.
- When someone else diggs your content without your knowledge, you'll probably not be ready for a huge increase in traffic. If your site is strong enough, an untimely digg isn't going to hurt you. In fact, as Guillaume Bouchard mentions in his blog post about being dugg during alpha phase, the traffic served as a free stress test, and the Digg comments were a free usability report.
- If you have digg-worthy content, consider enabling a comments form, or some type of participation, whereby users have to register in order to participate. This way, your Digg referrals should result in more people registering and being more inclined to become regular visitors.
- You cannot have everyone in your office digg what you've submitted. The site's editors will notice that a lot of diggs are coming from the same IP address, and their most likely course of action will be to ban you and your workmates' accounts. Trust me. Of course, having a bunch of different usernames will achieve the same result.
- If you're dugg and your servers can stand the load, the traffic you gain from such an occurrance is priceless.
"del.icio.us is a social bookmarking website -- the primary use of del.icio.us is to store your bookmarks online, which allows you to access the same bookmarks from any computer and add bookmarks from anywhere, too."
- This site is quite a lot like Digg, but it seems to emphasize the community aspect of social media more than Digg does.
- The "network" feature of del.icio.us may well be its most useful tool. Users can identify other people whose content they respect and appreciate, thus becoming privy to the bookmarking actions of those users. It's also possible to view the people others have added, and those who have added them. Confused? All the network does is create a web of people who are linked to each other through common interests and mutual respect.
- You can save links to content in the same way as you do on Digg, thus giving the content a boost in the del.icio.us / popular rankings.
- Hopefully, those people whom you add to your network will browse your content also, and things that you bookmark will become more visible. You can start to develop a community of people who share your interests.
- This community is one of the main things you can get out of del.icio.us that differentiates it from similar sites.
"Reddit is a source for what's new and popular on the web -- personalized for you. Your votes train a filter, so let reddit know what you liked and disliked, because you'll begin to be recommended links filtered to your tastes. All of the content on reddit is submitted and voted on by users like you."
Another social bookmarking site, Reddit lets you save and comment on news stories that you or others submit to the site.
- Reddit will send you more traffic than you may think.
- It seems that Reddit's users are, on the whole, older and smarter than Digg's. This is not to say that Digg is full of idiots; however, the average comment at Digg seems to be less constructive than those on Reddit. Popularity probably plays a part here, as Digg is dealing with a bigger audience than is Reddit.
- While Digg's how-to-get-on-the-homepage question is partly answered, the code to success on the Reddit homepage hasn't yet been cracked.
- There appears to be no bias amongst Reddit users towards technology, current events or anything else. The homepage can contain stories about any subject, as well as cool pictures, science news or anything else.
- This diversity means that all topics have a chance of being voted up, but your topic is just one amongst many.
"Technorati is the recognized authority on what's going on in the world of weblogs. We help people search for, surface, and organize bloggers and their daily posts... Technorati. Who's saying what. Right now."
Without a coherent plan of what one expects to achieve on Technorati, this site seems a little daunting. The most useful tactic is obvious: you must add the blogs you like as favourites in order to take advantage of the site's huge database. Additionally, searching for keywords can be fun, but you will soon be cowering from the scores of MySpace and LiveJournal blogs who have mentioned said keyword in their rants.
- Keep tabs on your online visibility using Technorati.
- Technorati will show you who's linking to your blog, which is a great service.
- Don't be deceived that all Technorati does is chronicle blog posts. The site indexes popular videos, linking to YouTube videos that are enjoying a lot of links.
- The site has some cool features, such as the "Technorati Mini" window that you can display on your desk top, and which updates itself every minute, showing you what's happening on your favourite blogs.
- Technorati should be used in conjunction with other marketing tools. Although your potential for direct marketing on the site is limited, it will show you how much progress you're making, where you're being mentioned and how your competitors are doing.
"Squidoo's goal as a platform is to bring the power of recommendation to search. Squidoo's goal as a co-op is to pay as much money as we can to our lensmasters and to charity. And Squidoo's goal as a community is to have fun along the way, and meet new ideas and the people behind them."
While their attempt at wit and ingenuity in their pitch only confuses Squidoo's purpose, the website itself is a good resource. Letting people create "lenses" about any topic, Squidoo is different to LinkedIn in that people are not limited to promoting themselves. As well as individuals, businesses, services and hobbies are all popular Squidoo lens topics. To clarify, a lens is a page created by a user, and users can create as many lenses as they wish on as many different subjects.
- Squidoo actually promotes the addition of external links to lenses. In fact, in their FAQs, they specifically show off their link lovability, stating that Squidoo lenses have "huge credibility" with search engines, and briefly explaining how this can help the sites you link to rise up Google searches. No nofollowing here, people!
- Squidoo does not restrict you to one lens per topic. Instead, it uses an algorithm to rank lenses.
- You can make money from royalties on Squidoo, and either keep them using PayPal, or donate the money to charity. Do not get too excited, though. There are many thousands of people using Squidoo and you'll spend a lot of time trying to become visible enough to make any money.
- Lenses that make it to the top of the rankings (#1 - 100) are invaribly text, link and picture rich, although because the rank is assigned by a computer, the lenses with the top rankings are not necessarily those with the most useful content. For exmaple, the premier lens when this article was being written was "Funky, Chic and Cool Laptop Bags." Cute, yes. Useful? Not really.
- You can include an RSS feed to your company's blog, as well as as many outbound links as you like.
- Lenses can come with other neat features, such as Google Maps, feeds from sites like BCC News, and previews of your Flickr images.
- Include enough links to your actual website that people will see many opportunities to click through. After all, anyone who is interested enough in what you have to offer that they bother reading your lens is probably also interested enough to see your site.
- The main thing you have to gain out of using Squidoo is increased online visibility from a nicely presented source that is not a wiki.
This is not a wiki and thus, the content is entirely up to you. It is a good idea to have a Squidoo lens to you company's name. Done well, your lens will appear in search results.
"The Netscape portal has evolved from a portal that is programmed by us to a portal that is programmed by you--the audience! All of the stories on Netscape are submitted and voted on by users. With thousands of users submitting interesting stories daily, the news on Netscape.com moves much faster and more interesting stories can make it to the homepage."
Netscape 2.0 is not the site it used to be. In their FAQs, they even link to their sister site AOL, "if you're looking for something a little more produced." Nowadays, Netscape is blending rather serenely into the Web 2.0 background, having diverted users' existing web portal bookmarks to AOL.
- Netscape's user-generated site is somewhat controlled by eight anchors who remove spam, select stories as recommended reading and do "followup journalism.".
- From personal experience, Netscape is like Reddit in that it will send you more traffic than you might imagine. Although users seem to shy away from adding their votes to stories, a story on Netscape can bring you quite a few referrals.
- Ahh, the Digg clone. Submit enough good stories and comment regularly on Netscape, and you get to be listed as a Top Netscape Contributor. It's like winning Fiesta Bowl instead of the national championship.
- Netscape users are more interested in current events than technology, sport or entertainment. Stories that make the homepage are often politically or financially centered.
- What you have to gain out of Netscape is similar to that which you can achieve on Digg, but to a lesser extent. However, if you're promoting current events, your chances of being picked up on Netscape are far higher.
"LinkedIn is an online network of more than 7 million experienced professionals from around the world, representing 130 industries."
A first reaction to LinkedIn's blurb is to wonder just how experiened and how professional the members of this site actually are. After all, LinkedIn's worthiness somewhat depends on the calibre of its seven million users.
- Clicking "People search" and typing in a common last name will provide a good list of people, their industries, companies, positions and locations. And, wow, this site is not filled with spam and idiocy!
- The majority of people on LinkedIn are true professionals. Thus, there are definitely marketing opportunities available here.
- The process of promoting a business on LinkedIn involves getting recommendations from other people (who must have LinkedIn profiles themselves). When you receive a recommendation from someone, the fact that they recommended you appears in your profile. The only odd thing about this is that the recommendations do not come with the names or statements of the people who provided them.
- You can search through professionals in specific areas (and be listed, if you have the adequate recommendations),
- Job searches for job-seekers and a candidate search for employers and recruiters is also available.
- You can also view members who graduated from your school, people with specified skills and people from a particular area of the world. And yes, this site is popular enough to be truly international. Looking for an engineer in Denmark? Look no further.
- Oh, how wonderful it is not to have to provide one's relationship status or a list of "who I'd like to meet!"
- Gain visibility on a site where everyone is there for professional purposes. You can use the site to either find potential business associates, or someone may find you and your services instead.
"At Newsvine, you can read stories from established media organizations like the Associated Press, ESPN, and New Scientist as well as individual contributors from all around the world. Placement of stories is determined by a multitude of factors including freshness, popularity, and reputation. Contribution is open to all, and editorial judgement is in the hands of the community."
- Firstly, Newsvine features both wired news from the AP and ESPN, and stories that are submitted and voted upon à la Digg.
- The home page of Newsvine looks like that of your typical news site, but despite its additional peer-produced content, its layout is actually cleaner and less cluttered than sites that only deal in traditional news reporting.
- Newsvine allows you to write articles of your own. A story that has no appeal, however, will not be voted to the "top of the vine."
- Because this site is very current events-oriented and is not so concerned with peculiarities, a marketing pitch, channeled through Newsvine, may not get very far. An entry will have to contribute something truly newsworthy if the Newsvine community are likely to vote it up the vine.
- Gain both traffic and notoriety with Newsvine. If you write your own content, you could end up being recognized as an influential, quality commentator.
"Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has rapidly grown into the largest reference Web site on the Internet. The content of Wikipedia is free, and is written collaboratively by people from all around the world."
This site is so popular that searching for any kind of keyword will often display a Wikipedia result in Google's top ten.
- Tacky as adding links to your sites can get (see Eric Ward's Linking Commandments, number III in order to be told off for linking to yourself), if your site really does have something to contribute, go ahead and post your link in a Wikipedia article's External Links section.
- The wiki aspect of these online encyclopedias is dangerous because you may find people writing things about you that you don't like.
- Also, if your website is not the strongest page on the net, your entry on Wikipedia could well rate ahead of your own site for your specific keywords. Thus, it is smart to make sure that anything said about your interests on this site has as good of a balance between "true" and "complimentary" as possible.
- A surprising number of internet users don't fully understand the concept of a wiki and many have no idea that anybody can edit one, let alone write for one.
- Posting an advertisement that is posing as an article is pointless. It will be deleted. When you're writing unique content about your business, try to write it from the perspective of an outsider who has nothing to gain from the article appearing on Wikipedia.
- Your main professional aim on Wikipedia should be controlling what is said about you. Their links are far too influential for you to ignore Wikipedia's content, especially given the public's misunderstanding of its liberal editorial policies.
"At Ma.gnolia, members save websites as bookmarks, just like in their browser. Except with a twist: they also “tag” them, assigning labels that make them easy to find again. So when you search for something, you use words that people choose and look only at websites that people think are worth saving. Suddenly you have access to a human-organized bookmark collection that numbers in the millions, but is as easy to use as a search engine."
Just incase you hadn't bookmarked everything on the internet yet, Ma.gnolia gives you another chance to index sites that you like.
Les Web 2.0 Awards de SEOmoz sont populaires en France!
- There are only a couple of features that set Ma.gnolia apart from the crowd.
- When visiting a webpage, clicking on the "Roots" button on the browser's toolbar will show what users have said about it.
- Join Ma.gnolia groups that relate to your business (e.g. Macintosh Apps). Bookmark content that you potential clients would be interested in.
- Although Ma.gnolia isn't the powerhouse of social bookmarking, keeping an eye on what others have said about you via the Roots application is a good idea. Also, if your page has never been submitted to Ma.gnolia before, you get to write the first Roots description.
"StumbleUpon helps you discover and share great websites. As you click Stumble!, we deliver high-quality pages matched to your personal preferences. These pages have been explicitly recommended by your friends or one of 1,284,477 other websurfers with interests similar to you. Rating these sites you like automatically shares them with like-minded people – and helps you discover great sites your friends recommend."
Anyone remember eTour? The site whose tagline was "Surf the Web Without Searching" didn't survive 2001's dotcom crash. StumbleUpon is Web 2.0's eTour and it's an absolutely fantastic way to wander through websites that potentially interest you. There's no typing, there's no "links" pages to seek out. There's not much effort on a user's behalf at all.
- To use StumbleUpon, you must download an add-on to your toolbar that lets you give sites a thumbs-up, thumbs-down and click "Stumble!"
- Submit your site to StumbleUpon by clicking the thumbs-up button when you're viewing your homepage. If you are the first person to bookmark your site, you'll be prompted to give it a title, briefly review it and fill out some other information about its content.
- If you've said your site is about technology, users who have specified technology as one of their interests will potentially be directed to your site when they click "Stumble!" You may only pick one topic.
- The tags you give your site will also influence traffic. Unlike topics, you may include multiple tags.
- There is also an automated system whereby StumbleUpon reads a page's text and decided what it's probably about.
- The system sometimes gets it wrong (pages containing mainly graphics are obviously hard for the categorizer). Users, however, can report mistakes if they feel a site has been categorized inaccurately.
- Getting noticed on StumbleUpon depends on whether users identify your page as one they enjoy by using the thumbs-up button. The more people who identify your page as thumbs-up-able, the more traffic StumbleUpon will send you.
- Also, if a user comes across your site and really doesn't like it, they can click a little thumbs-down button on their tool bar before leaving, demoting your site's status on the StumbleUpon network.
- Members can join StumbleUpon Groups and contact others on the site, although these social features aren't nearly as interesting as StumbleUpon's addictive ability to store and present websites that people like.
- Additionally, although it is a free service, members can upgrade their accounts to the status of "sponsor" by paying twenty U.S. dollars per year. Sponsors have access to extra features, such as the ability create new groups and to keep messages in their inboxes for longer.
- One could argue that there's a psychological advantage to having your site discovered by a Stumbler. After all, they've told a program what they like, and the program has presented them with your site. Hence, people are somewhat programmed to believe that they're going to like what they see.
- StumbleUpon is linkbait's tool of choice. When stumbling, you'll often find yourself arriving at pages well within a site. Rarely are you directed to a homepage.
"Shoutwire is the latest community based internet news website. It allows the community rather than a news editor to submit and review news content on the site. Every story on the site that makes it to the front page is due to the users of the site promoting the stories. Shoutwire incorporates a system of self-moderation and management which allows the community to remove bar or broken content."
Immediate points deducted for the VERY annoying flash advertisement that I was greeted with upon entry to Shoutwire, featuring a buzzing mosquito and claiming that I had won a free laptop.
- Shoutwire has competitor Digg beat in one area. It's topics menu, which it calls a filter, is more comprehensive than Digg's, even when all of Digg's topics have been expanded.
- However, Shoutwire's similarity to Digg is pervasive. As is the case with Furl, the addition of nice features doesn't really make Shoutwire unique.
- Categorizing your content correctly will make it more accessible. Due to Shoutwire's eclectic topics, you're probably going to find a subcategory that suits your submission pretty well.
- The site features a forum, but all of Shoutwire's usefulness comes from its bookmarking and voting feature.
- Top stories only appear to receive 100 - 150 votes.
- Combine visibility on Shoutwire with some more popular and influential sites. On its own, Shoutwire will bring you traffic, but not nearly the amount you probably want.
Their (marketing) pitch:
"Young adults are the primary trend drivers in our society. Marketing to young adults on their own terms is critical for success. Facebook offers relevant and integrated advertising opportunities to engage the tech-savvy youth audience
We can help you develop the ideal Facebook advertising solution that reaches an active audience of youth trend-setters and influencers. To determine the most relevant opportunities for you, please click below, and a Facebook sales representative will be in contact with you within two business days
We look forward to working with you and seeing your marketing initiatives come to life on Facebook"
Facebook helps you keep tabs on everyone whose profile you can engineer a gander at. It has grown into a virtual nation of nine million people.
This is what a Web 2.0 heavy-weight looks like as a bluish characiture.
Recent changes to the site have made it slightly more interesting as a marketing tool.
- Companies can buy advertising space on Facebook. Appearing on the left sidebar of any Facebook page, the University of Phoenix is currently pouring big money into having its ads appear on the site, as are Verizon and Sprint.
- If you have the money (and the college-friendly product) to advertise here, your ad will be prominently yet tastefully displayed. The same is not true for MySpace.
- You can pay Facebook five dollars to have a "Facebook Flyer" displayed on the site 10,000 times in one day; the cost increases depending on how many times you wish the flyer to be displayed and how many days you want it to be displayed for.
- You can also post events on the site and invite people to attend. This service is free.
- Now that Facebook is a free-for-all like MySpace, you can send these event advertisements to people who do not have Facebook profiles, as well.
- Far more popular than the events, however, are Facebook groups. Again, anyone can create these groups, and the vast majority of them are you-had-to-be-there ("Ben and Megan's Night to Remember") and pretty pointless.
- Groups that seem to have been created with a financial goal in mind do spring up, although some of them may just be the creations of innocent fans, such as "Boycott Pepsi - Buy Fanta."
- "I'm going to An Inconvenient Truth," however, is a sponsored group that definitely promotes the Al Gore film in its title.
- Going the cheap way, you can create a Facebook profile for your business and add friends from around the globe. This is also known as Friend Spam and it isn't recommended!
- Facebook can expose your brand to a lot of young people, many of whom are in college and a number of whom are interested in throwing their money around. Remember to keep the dominant Facebook demographic in mind: despite the newly open format, Facebook is still the realm of the middle class, late teen, early twenty-something.
The verdict? Promoting an event via this site won't do you any harm, but the search engines have no access to the innards of Facebook, and it seems odd to pay money for a flyer (which just appears as a sidebar ad) when you can create an event or group for free. Buying a sponsored group is another option, à la Gore's film.
Facebook is so beloved by so many people that promoting something wisely and making it seem hip and fun could do you a lot of good. This site's users tend to get passionate about Facebook issues and if you can get them riled up via a group or event, you could stand to benefit greatly from the hysteria.
14. 43 Places
"Travel changes people. Whether it is finding a great new coffee shop in your city or a life altering trip around the world, finding great places can make us happier people. 43 Places helps you make a list of the great places you want to visit and share stories and photos of the places you’ve been.."
The front page of 43 things lists a stylized hodge-podge of things people have listed as their goals; however, browsing people's well-meant wish lists is not the only activity available on the site. By clicking on one of the cities listed on the right hand side of the home page, users are taken to lists of the most popular places that people in that particular city have bookmarked (as is shown below).
- People acknowledge that they've visited a listed premisis, and if you're business is lucky, they'll comment positively on it.
- The site allows users to update establishments' addresses and URLs, and some of the popular destinations have been blessed with links to their websites.
- Being featured on 43 Place's "popular with locals" sidebar is great advertising, and entrepreneurs would be sensible to add URLs to their 43 Places entries.
- A business's visibility is related to the number of people who have said they've visited it, so adding your debt consolidation firm won't do you much good, unless people are into hanging out around bad credit reports.
It's worthwhile to note that 43 Places runs on the same platform system as 43 Things, which can also be a valuable place to conduct social media marketing.
"An "elevator pitch" is a quick and concise way to communicate who you are, what you're trying to do, and why you do it better. It's nice to know that at any given time you can tell people, quickly and clearly, exactly what you do."
At least this site is honest about self-promotion. Digg, Shadows and the rest like to portray their sites as libraries of the web's best content, when in fact, a huge amount of that content is submitted by those who made it. YourElevatorPitch makes no secret that, like Squidoo, it's about showing off your own business.
- There are a couple of annoying things about YourElevatorPitch. Firstly, there is no search box. What! No search box? Horrifyingly enough, YourElevatorPitch's search is limited to viewing top-rated, most-rated and random pitches.
- Users rate pitches on a scale of one to four, hence the "elevator" reference.Anyone who has ever taken a quiz where you can only score 0, 25, 50, 75 or 100%, knows it's pretty tough to do well.
- YourElevatorPitch allows you to add a link to your site and has some anti-spam measures, such as a quick arithmatic problem for people who wish to add comments. This may also get rid of ultra-stupid humans as well as bots, which is nothing but excellent.
- As it takes a minimal amount of time to sign up, and because a link to your premier site will be prominently displayed on your profile, it's not a bad idea. Go for it, but don't get hurt when you're only ranking a 2.89 out of 4. It's a YourElevatorPitch score, not your daughter's GPA.
"Flickr - almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world."
As opposed to sites such as Webshots, Flickr has a more of a professional aura, catering to people who want to promote a business (such as their art work, as is pictured in the example below).
Its clean layout makes it a better place to share any photos, personal or not. However, due to its more experienced, professional population, it's a far more sensible realm in which to market something than similar sites, such as Webshots.
Certain niches, such as art, are more competitive in Flickr than others.
- Upload your interesting, relevant pictures, and then link to your website in your profile.
- Topping a search can be profitable. On a search for "art galleries washington dc", Flickr user "lil" came in first. An interested user who clicks through to lil's profile page will see that she is a former art curator who is interested in being contacted about having her work published. She also provides a link to her website.
- Definitely include such a link. There's not much point having an impressive photo gallery and not directing viewers to your website.
- Aside from displaying your product, Flickr can be used as a PR tool. Include pictures that depict you in your professional life as you'd like to be seen by the public. Although this goes for every site where you can upload photographs, manage your online persona through your pictures.
"WikiHow is a collaborative writing project to build the world's largest how-to manual."
People who com to WikiHow do so in order to do something that they can't do by themselves.
- On Wikihow, users create and search for "how to" information.
- If you are uploading your own services, you need to market your expertise as much as your products and services, because it's the help aspect that users are initially seeking.
- Users have fond their way onto WikiHow in order to avoid paying someone: Convincing them that they should patronize your business, rather than attempt a DIY involves providing enough useful advice to keep somebody interested, but not neglecting to provide external links and subtle promotions.
- If your company deals in SEO and your WikiHow page details the nitty-gritty of the business in its entirity, potential customers will think they have no need to follow your links or purchase your services.
- Think of WikiHow as linkbait. Get them hooked; reel them in.
18. Blue Dot
"Co-founded in October 2004 by Mohit Srivastava, Blue Dot, Inc., is a Seattle-based company whose mission is to help people stay connected with their friends, wherever they are, whenever they want. Through a new type of communication described as Social Discovery®, Blue Dot’s free Web site allows users to find, save and share interesting Web content with friends and family. The company’s technology lets users quickly communicate and share information on a wide range of topics in a way that can be easily incorporated into their daily activities."
Blue Dot appears to combine the friend-accumulating features of MySpace with the news-tagging ideals of... more sites than I care to repeat here.
- After you've created a Blue Dot account, you can write quite a lot about yourself on your profile page. Your profile page is where your bookmarks (or "dots") are displayed.
- Find people who are interested in similar things to you. This could be helpful when it comes to marketing.
- A lot of the site's bookmarked content is not promotional, but is informative, including a lot of articles. Consider contributing content like this in order to promote your business.
- This site is two years old, but doesn't have nearly the stragle-hold on either social networking or bookmarking that Digg or MySpace have.
- Optimum usage of Blue Dot would be to build a community of people in your industry and bookmark your content that they should be interested in, and that promotes what you have to offer.
"The Stylehive is a collaborative shopping community. It is a place where contributors can work together to share and discover the hottest stores, designers, trends, and must have products.The Stylehive is a collection of all the best products, brands, designers and stores discovered and tagged by the Hive community. "
From an SEO point of view, StyleHive does itself no favours by commiting the cardinal sin of having numerous duplicate pages. Searching for "leather boots" brings users to a results page with a dynamic URL... and included on the results page is a link, which elicits an identical page to the one users are already looking at, but is static.
- This site is only of use to you if your business involves cute, higher-end accessories and clothes.
- StyleHive deals mainly in fashion, not function.
- Salt and pepper shakers shaped as Lilliput characters "have magnetic feet that stick to the stainless steel base or the stem (of their holder) equally well." That will give you a pretty good idea what you'll find on StyleHive.
- The site has the typical social bookmarking features of "top today", "top this month" etc, and clicking on any of these sorting tools will reveal shoes, handbags and moonstruck light objects, slip casted and perforated. You know! Use a clear light bulb, and the flower patterns are drawn all over the walls and ceiling!
- If you are indeed dealing in something that could be considered fashionable and chic, having your product listed on StyleHive will help convince the "right" people that your products are cool enough for them. Half the time, people forget that marketers themselves can bookmark things, and that expert opinion is not involved.
Assuming you're selling something hip, interesting and vaguely usable, you'd do well to have a link on StyleHive. Try to ignore the rather horrible layout, oddly intrusive bookmarking buttons and abundance of confusing headlines. The people who shop here either have money to spend, or think they do. Market your strange balls of light to an audience that seems to appreciate it.
"JotSpot was founded in 2004 as the first company to provide an application wiki."
- This site lets you create a free wiki for your business, or pay for one that you can open to the public.
- The wiki can serve as an advertising platform or simply an office tool. For use as an advertising tool, you will have to pay for it.
- The free wiki is only accessible by people who the creator has invited.
- It's a good idea to integrate the wiki with your actual website. This creates the illusion that you're letting users edit and contribute to the site.
- The Jotspot powered eBay wiki is viewable by anybody, and is accessible on eBay's "Community" page. Its wiki appears to very popular with its audience, although its website is also a heavy-weight.
- For novelty, communication and work place environment issues, JotSpot can be a great tool.
- You can potentially integrate a personal tone to your site with such a wiki. A blog can achieve this, especially if you enable comments, but a wiki is one of the most striking forms of user interaction. This could earn you special kudos if your company is known for being stand-offish or hard to reach.
"Wetpaint powers websites that tap the power of collaborative thinking. The heart of the Wetpaint advantage is its ability to allow anyone — especially those without technical skill — to create and contribute to websites written for and by those who share a passion or interest. To do this, Wetpaint combines the best aspects of wikis, blogs, forums and social networks so anyone can click and type on the web."
Here's a fun game. Go to Wetpaint, find your way to a Wetpaint site with a number of external links and view its source. Now do a search on "nofollow." That's about how useful Wetpaint is for link love.
Seriously though, Wetpaint lets users create wiki pages with relatively sane URLs, using a template that is quite liberal with images, navigation and secondary pages.
- Like Jotpost, one creates a wiki on Wetpaint.
- If you have something to sell, Wetpaint can be useful for business ventures in that the pages are usually very interest-specific and people who visit a particular page are likely to become customers.
- Wetpaint wikis are available to the public and are free.
- Adsense! Everywhere! If you want it.
- You will potentially have to put up with people posting comments that you don't like. A wiki owner who intends to use the page for marketing will need to keep a close eye on the site's content, which could prove difficult if the wiki has multiple pages. Tread with care.
- Desipte its status as a wiki, you can create a reasonable page, many of which have a lot of user interaction.
"Shadows is the link-sharing website for people. By people. With Shadows, you have the power to discover the web's most fascinating content – the most interesting pages saved, discussed, and rated by you, your friends, and the Shadows community. Express your individuality through your links, comments, and profile. Join or start a group discussion. Let your voice be heard! Invite friends. Grow your community. In Shadows, you can have fun surfing for the web's best links or you can create an account, jump in, add your best links, and become part of our thriving community."
Unfortunately, Shadows is rendered useless by massive spam abuse. The homepage documents the ten most recent additions, and during my review of Shadows for this article, the site was undergoing some major spamming. A bot, it seemed, was uploading literally hundreds of pages about colon cleansing. Later, the topic had changed to online casinos.
If you do choose to use Shadows to list your site, here's some things to keep in mind:
- It's a social tagging site that is dominated by antisocial bots.
- It will take a long time for everything to load, but it's an easy process to get your site on Shadows. Too easy, as it turns out.
- Write a well-crafted description for your site. Your site's description will be listed next to its screenshot, as will its tags.
- You should add tags to your listing so that your page is easily found when users perform a search on one of your keywords.
- Spammers have stuffed their listings with every common keyword imaginable. Search for "dogs" and some of your results will be saris, suites and casinos.
- Like Digg, your link's rank will improve given the number of people who have bookmarked it.
- Some spammers are bookmarking their own content to the extent that it will rank well in search results.
- In the event that you have some unspammed tags, then Shadows could prove to be a useful marketing tool.
The most frustrating thing of all is that a number of the spam links do not actually link to anything. Not even a link farm. For some reason, this just adds insult to injury.
Sadly, Shadows is controlled by spammers and no one seems to be doing anything about it.
23. Yahoo! 360
"A place that's all about you to share with friends and family."
The purpose of Yahoo! 360 appears to be much like that of MySpace, but without the hideousness.
- Create a MySpace-esque page with a blog, photos, favorite quotes and links.
- This site has little to offer in the realm of marketing unless you build a community.
- Through the site's "invite a friend" feature, one could build a network. It's a little pointless to search for people because, in typical Yahoo! Messenger style, people tend to use nicknames as opposed to their real names on here.
- The only good way to get noticed on Yahoo! 360 is to be featured on the home page under "Interesting Pages."
- You can join groups that relate to your niche, although these groups aren't found on Yahoo! 360. You will need to go to Y! Groups Home where you'll be taken to the subdomain of whichever groups you choose to join.
"Furl is a free service that saves the important items you find on the Web and enables you to quickly find them again. Furl archives a personal copy of every page you save. When you want to recall it, you can find it instantly by searching the full text your archived items. Each member has a personal archive of 5 gigabytes (GB), large enough to store tens of thousands of searchable items. Furl recommends new Web pages that may interest you, guided by the sites you've already "Furled," or saved."
Some of Furl's features make it stand apart from other, similar sites. However, you shouldn't expect much from Furl if your content is not techy.
There are some Furl tools that really do appear to be pointless - there for the sake of adding glitter to an increasingly common idea. For example, Furl's "Ratings" system lets users assign a rank if 1 (Bad) to 5 (Excellent) to their saved items. But why would anyone would want to save items that they consider to be"bad"?
- Like many other sites, one bookmarks content and that content is voted upon by the community.
- Having your site "furled" (you know, as in "dugg") is useful, but the numbers don't rival those of Furl's competitor's.
- Some of the "most popular" items have only been furled by thirty or forty people; others are listed as "hot" popular sites, and they only have ten furls. After trying a number of times, the "top items of this month" page would not load.
- Having said this, the site is clean and easy to use. It can't hurt to be mentioned on Furl, and you're unlikely to experience the "Furl effect."
- Common phrases: Yahoo!, Google, Windows, software and Linux.
- Here, you have the opportunity to get noticed in a more streamlined world. Whereas Netscape, Newsvine and Shoutwire deal with a wide range of topics, Furl will have you noticed by a tech-minded crowd. Embrace this site for its audience's demographic, not its size.
"Ning is a free online service for cloning, customizing and sharing Social Web Apps."
If you're easily annoyed by the nonsensical names people often give to Web 2.0 sites, then Ning will irritate the heck out of you. Even some of the more ridiculous names out there, like Frappr, have a vaguely sensible orgin, e.g. Friend Mapper. Ning? Well, not so much.
- Sign up for a Ning account and create a whole manner of web applications.
- The most popular pages appear on Ning's home page, which would be useful if the most popular pages weren't so... useless. A sample of the most popular social websites on Ning includes the "What's Cuter?" page that pitches photographs of cute animals against other cute photographs.
- This is a great place to create a free website. Ning sites can be unique and of a good quality.
- Ning is not intrusive with advertising or self-promotion.
- You have full control over your source codes.
- Although "ning" appears in your URL, many of the pages are very well made and don't immediately jump off the screen as having been created on another site.
- Invite and alow people to join your Ning page (i.e. treat is as a group that invites participation) and use it as a community extention of your main website.
The sites that receive the most attention from viewers and admins alike tend to be relatively pointless. This is a little sad, though, because someone who really wanted to make an excellent Ning application could potentially do a really good job.
"Frappr was created by Brian, Kun and James at Rising Concepts, who wanted to see where all their high school and college friends went after they graduated. Frappr (Friend Mapper) lets you see the zip code where your friends live or work, letting you find out who works in the office building next door and who lives in the apartment complex across the street."
Using Google maps, Frappr gives a rough estimate of where SEOmoz is located.
Socially, this is a fun, interesting application, However it's contentious whether users will really come to Frappr for commercial purposes.
- Signing up for a Frappr account means that you can add yourself and your location to a number of maps.
- When you add yourself to a map, add the URL of your site that will appear in the information bubble. If you do not include any contact information, your listing on the maps is pretty much there for fun, unless someone wanting to get in touch with you takes the time to Google you afterwards.
- Potentially, people could contact you as a result of your Frappr listing if they've searched for your services, but it isn't likely that consumers are going to start with Frappr. They're far more likely to turn to a search engine.
- Frappr is best used as a networking tool within a profession than it is as an advertising or marketing platform. However, as networking can be as important a task as marketing, it is not a waste of time to get onto Frappr and make contact with the people in your industry.
"The Best Stuff in the World is an open, organic, polymorphous site which, depending on the user, could take on diverse forms and meanings. The site simply asks you to input your "best stuff" in the world: whether it be a song that inspires you, your favourite little Indian restaurant or the best explication of Kantian aesthetics ... it's up to you!"
Each little picture in the above montage is clickable, taking you to the individual entry for whatever it is you choose to click on.
- Signing up for an account is easy, and you can immediately begin searching for / adding things that you think are "the best."
- This site is more fun than practical. If you are marketing a company that can't be packaged as chic or cute, submitting it to The Best Stuff in the World won't do you much good..
- You'll look like a silly spammer for adding things like "insurance" to the site.
- If your "thing" gets picked up by the community, which it likely won't unless you're already a big-boy, you might get some free publicity in the form of the homepage's montage
"MySpace is an online community that lets you meet your friends' friends. Create a private community on MySpace and you can share photos, journals and interests with your growing network of mutual friends! See who knows who, or how you are connected. Find out if you really are six people away from Kevin Bacon."
120,419,298. As of October 17, 2006, this was the number of profile pages that MySpace claimed to house. Is there a way to wade through MySpace's dillion fourteen year olds and use the site for your benefit?
Busy as a buzzy bumble bee: MySpace is Web 2.0's dungeon of no return.
- The granddaddy of all networking sites, MySpace's profiles are not tailored for marketing. Unless, that is, you're marketing your stellar personality and sexual availability.
- With MySpace, you are always going to be spamming when you create a regular profile for your company. Artists of various creeds have specialized profile options, but if you aren't a singer, filmmaker or comedian, you'll be creating a regular profile along with the world's fifteen year olds.
- It's impossible not to look trashy when you're faced with MySpace's profile options, such as "Who I'd like to meet" and "Heroes." Some of these options remain on your profile page, even if you do not add any content to them.
- Create a profile on MySpace for link love alone. If people add you as their friend because they have a genuine interest in your products or services, consider yourself lucky.
- DO NOT go around adding random people as your friends or inviting them to events. It's incredibly annoying and kind of invasive.
- MySpace's evil, liberal HTML code allowances can work in your favor. You can color your page similarly to your own website or company standard, but stay away from the custom layouts and glittery picture backgrounds. In case you hadn't already noticed, they're hideous.
- Use different sites to really promote your business. There are too many spammers, scammers and idiots on MySpace now, and you could easily be mistakened for one if you attempt to use all of MySpace's networking potential for marketing.
- There's no harm in repeating this: MySpace is fine for some links and for the potential that someone will contact you, but that is about it.
What follows is a what-not-to-do example of a certain MySpace page we came across:
It's as easy as pie to create a MySpace profile, and people do it with the intent of making money all the time. Promoting something like a mortgage service might be akin to spamming on the square. Certain businesses just don't seem to fit well with MySpace's culture, and mortgage brokers lose a certain amount of credibility when headed by guessing games about singers and free trips to the Olive Garden.
If you read down to "ESTABLISHED MORTGAGE BROKER," you read too far.
The above example touts its listing on an NBC list of experts by saying (in all caps) "MortgageHelpMe has earned the featured spot on NBC10's Local Experts." Sounds impressive, but on visiting the site, it becomes obvious that the company paid for the link. In addition, the company does not have a "featured spot" but is residing on an ad.doubleclick.net list.
In typical MySpace style, the folks at MortgageHelpMe.com have also added a fun song to their profile. However misguided, their choice of the Steve Miller Band's "Take the Money and Run" certainly created some chuckles around the SEOmoz office. Finally, a company who can't add a link to their own site or work out how to get rid of the "Myspace Layouts by Pimp-My-Profile.com" label in their copied-and-pasted HTML code might not be able to manage your money, either.
The sad thing is that this sort of marketing actually makes some credible companies look bad. Well-meaning business people have undoubtedly created MySpace accounts in the hope of attracting curious surfers. If they've done it correctly, a MySpace account could possibly provide some link love, but most of the 100,000,000 plus people on the site aren't looking for financial assistance. They want to be "added" by the dude in Math 107 who wears the pink Abercrombie shirt, so unless you're a really cute mortgage broker, go elsewhere to promote your business.
29. Yahoo! Answers
"A place where people ask each other questions on any topic, and get answers by sharing facts, opinions, and personal experiences."
"Is it against the law," asks optimojones04, "to eat while driving?" Public opinion is divided. "Careless operation of a motor vehicle if the cops a well lets just say aint been getting any," replies Exoilfeildtrash. "Only if your fat," contends churcknorris2cool (misspelling his).
The above represents one of the more intelligent questions available on Yahoo! Answers. There is such a plethora of awful (and awfully funny) questions asked on this site that it's easy to get lost in the idiocy.
- You may be lucky enough to come across a question that you can answer in a manner that promotes a business venture, but be subtle.
- All links are nofollowed, so don't bother loading up on those babies.
- Yahoo! lets you post four questions per day and also limits the number of questions you can post without also answering other people's questions in return.
- Cleverly worded marketing pitches can pose as questions.
- Users categorize their questions by subject. There are many topics, so finding one that fits your question should not be hard.
- You can gain customers if you manage to ask clever questions or, in a more honest sense, answer people's questions with relevant, considerate responses.
30. And as a fun way to end, we showcase Rdiculous
"Poking fun at web 2.0 named websites. It was inevitable, all the good domain names are taken so companies have become increasingly more creative in choosing their domain names. We started this site on a whim after noticing the growing number of sites that are emerging with random letters missing (especially the “e” before the “r”). We figured someone should catalog all of these sites so we decided to step up to the plate. Follow along with us as we document this Rdiculous trend."
Rdiculous limits itself to commenting on sites who have commited the above offense: leaving the "e" out of words that usually end an "er". Think Frappr and Flickr. The site provides the down-low on eighteen sites, and its write-ups are quite similiar to what we've written here.
Of course, there are far more Web 2.0 sites out there than we have convered in this article. There simply isn't enough time to investigate every one of them, or even a healthy portion. That, and because Rand keeps sending Jane more and more links to new Web 2.0 sites, it really is about time to wrap up this piece.
We've discovered during the course of this project that virtually every Web 2.0 site carries with it a degree of commercial usefulness. Some sites have built-in hindrances, such as nofollowed links or pages that are only accessible with passwords and therefore do not exist in the eyes of search engines. Others advertise their commercial friendliness, boasting their search engine popularity or stating in their pitches that their goal is to help people market their businesses. Although we certainly don't recommend that anyone spam these sites, we do suggest that the responsible use of social media marketing can help a business. We already knew that spam was horrible, irritating and a thorough turn-off, but certain experiences, such as the afternoon during which we encountered Shadows' immense spam problem, drove home the point that spamming is worse than not advertising at all. The MySpace mortgage encounter also exemplified how bad advertising is worse than none, as well.
And just for fun, some sites, such as the Web 2.0 Validator attempt to create categories whereby sites are scored on the "Web 2.0-ness". In this case (which is purely for the purposes of entertainment), the criteria are decided upon by users. Incidentally, this is the result if one tries to "validate" the validator:
Hopefully, what we've provided here can be of some use if you're deciding whether social media sites are right for your marketing purposes. At the very least, we hope it's marginally entertaining. It disturbs us slightly that in a short time from now, this article may be completely obsolete due to the fact that of sites such as these are popping up daily. Still, the information we've gathered is applicable to all types of online social media. Even if you can't stand the idea of Web 2.0, it isn't going away. Luckily, its very form leaves its quality in all of our hands. Don't neglect your content, and Web 2.0 will enhance your internet marketing experience.