Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sharing with the Information Ecosphere

I started thinking about social sharing and bookmarking when I was writing a post about small business and the local content site that’s actively supporting their Internet Marketing efforts. As you can see, Cape Cod Today makes it easy to share content, exactly what any content publisher should be doing. When you share something, they encourage you to share it again! You can sign up for their Twitter feed, which puts all headlines in your Tweet stream (they hope you’ll retweet it). It all comes under the heading of getting the content out, perhaps reaching readers who wouldn’t otherwise have seen the article or were not even familiar with the website. This article from the NYT last week discusses issues and has a funny graphic; be sure to expand it.

This advice is all well and good for a business site. Could/should bloggers and other types of websites do the same? That’s the easy one—of course they should! More difficult is to decide how to do it in order to have the most success in reaching your target market.

This set of icons from puts the issue in perspective. Note that this includes all the ways of sharing content, not just social bookmarking services. How on earth do you select from all of these? Probably the first thing you notice is that many of the bookmarking ser vices you’ve never heard of; every time I look at this chart I see an unfamiliar one! Next you might notice that some of them are clearly specialized—TellMyPolititician, for example. Some of them you might not think appropriate for a general-audience publication—PimpThisBlog strikes me as something I wouldn’t use even if it works for some audiences. Frankly, though that still doesn’t eliminate many of the bookmarking services.

You could start with the biggies; that’s what most people seem to do; they are also the most readily available. Here’s a list of the top 20 bookmarking sites if you want to start down that path. The graphic includes all major ways of sharing, not just the bookmarking sites, so their ranking—not surprisingly—has Facebook at the top. Here’s an article that gives some advice on what to look for.

Some of the sites are well known for catering to a particular target audience. Reddit is beloved of young tech folks; little known to the rest of us. An American Library Association division actually has a list of the best bookmarking sites for teachers.

What’s the best way? Choose several bookmarking services that seem reasonable and install them on your site. It’s easy, as long as you have access to the HTML. Then study the analytics; see what sites are sending you the most traffic. You may be able to get keyword data; that’s even better.

All bookmarking services have some reports available. You may find it necessary to use a metrics program (Google Analytics remains free and easy to use) to really understand the sources of traffic to your site. Then you can refine your choices and your visitors can help you share your content with the world?

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