11 Tips to Enhance Your Digg User Experience (and Hopefully Bring You Front Page Fame)

Just a few months ago, I had a love-hate relationship with Digg. Now, after acquainting myself with the system and learning more about what works and what doesn’t, I’m one of the top users of the service. Do I still hate Digg? Occasionally. After all, Digg is a social network that unifies individuals with different opinions. You can definitely expect the unexpected here. Additionally, there are a few fixes I still hope to see for the Digg experience to be improved for all users. But do I still love Digg? I think that answer is self-evident. I find most of my interesting news from Digg, and I consider my knowledge of everyday news to be a lot more comprehensive now that I am an avid user of the service.

On Monday, I celebrated my one-year anniversary as a Digg member. After using Digg quite regularly lately in the latter part of my membership at Digg, I’ve gotten acclimated to the service and to the likes and dislikes of others. Granted, I don’t know everything, but I feel that I’ve gotten a pretty solid feel for what works and what doesn’t. Here are some tips that should help you get the most out of Digg too.

Tip #1: Distinguish Yourself by Choosing an Avatar.

Digg Tip #1: Choose an Avatar

Look at this picture. Look again. Is there anything that draws you to any particular portion of the page? Probably not. When you’re looking in a sea of brand new stories listed on the Digg upcoming page (which is where regular users occasionally scout for new stories), submissions without avatars simply lack personality. With 15 submissions per page and hundreds of submissions hourly, you want to have something more to offer to your potential audience. Consider what it looks like to others when the avatars look as boring as the words on the page. They blend into the background.

Now look at the difference on the upcoming page when someone who submits a story actually has uploaded an avatar:

Digg Tip #1: Choosing an Icon Actually Helps

It’s only a subtle differentiation, but when you’re staring at numerous stories jumbled with small photos, you often find yourself taking a second glance. If you’re looking closely enough, the submission with the avatar should stand out at you and attract your attention. It should bring your awareness to the single “different” submission in the pool of other “noisy” Digg submissions that lack personality.

As a personal preference, it’s useful to have a darker avatar because those stand out more than the lighter ones. However, any loud color or design works. Don’t choose an avatar that will blend in with the default avatar though, because your intention should be to allow other users to make a distinction when they see upcoming stories and not redundancy.

Tip #2: Don’t submit a blog entry if it is just a shortened recap of a bigger story.

Many Diggers hate blogspam. In fact, I know that Digg has banned individuals who submitted stories that were repeated recaps of larger news stories (due to complaints from members, since, after all, Digg is a democratic system). Don’t think that it won’t get you buried, or worse, get a URL banned from the service. Thus, if it’s obvious that your story was taken from a popular news site, submit that news site. Did someone else submit it already? If you have something of great value to provide to your audience and you firmly believe it deserves a Digg mention, expound upon the article, cite other sources, and feel free to submit it as your own (with a description that fits the bill). After all, the Digg FAQ does have a section for “duplicate submissions,” where they say:

Is it a duplicate story if I submit a similar story but from a different source?

That isn’t for us to decide. Sometimes there is a better story from another news outlet. We let our users determine that aspect of duplicate submissions. It is, however, a duplicate story if you submit the same story from the same source.

Oh, but their duplicate detection system isn’t foolproof, you see. Digg’s FAQ also says: “We strongly discourage the submission of duplicate stories as it only steals credit from the first submitter.” I kind of emphasize this sentence because it’s my biggest gripe about Digg. After all, it’s happened to me at least four times (1a/1b/1c; 2a/2b; 3a/3b/3c; 4a/4b). Thus, Digg is susceptible to gaming you can get some pretty good stories promoted if you’re super-fast (hidden tip). (Now, Digg, can you please fix it?)

Tip #3: Make Friends and Network.

Your Friend Dugg This Story! Regardless of what people say, Digg is inherently a social news network. You can befriend people and they can befriend you. Befriending users allows you to associate with those who have similar interests. I’ve seen “cliques” revolve around stories that are political in nature, and I’ve also seen TV/movie-based friendship circles. See the image on the right hand side? It’s not a Digg link (so don’t bother clicking on it). The green star on the top of the Digg button indicates that one or more of your friends has Dugg the story. Once you start adding friends, and once one of those friends Diggs a story, the green star appears on the top left hand corner of every Digg button so that you can easily see what your friends are interested in. It also helps me get an idea of who I should also network with, since I typically find upcoming stories through my personalized upcoming friends’ stories link.

Networking is a super important, if not the most important part of Digg. While Digg doesn’t allow private messaging on the service, there are many alternatives that Digg users have entertained for communication.

But there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about networking. I’ve received a fair share of IMs and emails from people who would simply say “Hi, I see you’re great at Digg. How about you Digg my stories and I Digg yours?” That’s not going to work, guys. Networking typically involves a lot more than superficial communication. If you’re just looking for a front page story from users who don’t have an interest in the story (or in you), you won’t hit the front page. That means there’s no place on Digg for SEO stories (you’ve got Sphinn for that), and Ron Paul has overstayed his welcome everywhere on the Internet. (In fact, most top Digg users hate him now due to the notoriously awful gaming of Digg for his campaign promotion.) You also won’t see a story like this hit the Digg front page (look at the domain that’s originating from!) but it seemed to have fared well on StumbleUpon.

Tip #4: Use a good title and description.

I think it goes without saying that a lot of users venture to Digg.com, browse headlines that interest them, Digg the story, and then leave the site. While some sites that are linked from Digg boast 15,000-90,000 unique visitors from Digg, think about how many people are actually reading the title and description of the submission and who don’t click on the link. Write something that compels them to react and do so.

This, for example, doesn’t work. Needless to say, it is also spam.

Digg Tip #4: Use a Good Title and Description

Another personal preference: Titles Can Be Written Like This, But Please Don’t Write Your Descriptions Like This. (Pretty please, Russ?)

Tip #5: Comment… but also Digg the story.

If you have something useful to say, say it! But if you say it and you vouch for the story, your comment won’t serve as a vote, so make sure to Digg the story too. I’ve seen people say that they totally agree with a specific Digg submission (in the comments) but yet don’t vote for the story. Each individual votes actually counts, but comment interaction helps too. Participate in both.

This isn’t just a flaw for Digg. It’s a flaw for other social networks as well. If you’re going to comment in agreement (and not with criticism), please vote for the story. Otherwise, you’re exhibiting a certain kind of “I don’t really know how to use this service.”

Tip #6: Don’t Spam Keywords.

This is pretty much self-explanatory. I’m not sure what this guy was getting out in the image below, but it doesn’t do anything for your site’s visibility. On that note, remember that Digg users seek viral content.

Digg Tip #5: Don't Spam Keywords

Tip #7: Don’t utilize gaming systems.

If you missed my blog post on Subvert and Profit, you should take a look at it after you finish reading this list of tips. In essence, there are no guarantees when utilizing systems that intend to take advantage of Digg’s weaknesses, and this might be why Digg bury data is still not available for public consumption. Even so, if your story isn’t Digg material, it won’t hit the main page because the wisdom of crowds simply won’t let it get there… or the time on the front page will be short-lived.

Tip #8: Digg is an English-Speaking site.

This one comes from the Digg rules themselves:

Digg is currently only an English-language content site. Please do not submit non-English content.

That said, I’m not sure why people are determined to get traffic from Digg when the Digg audience is an English-speaking crowd. The only non-English stories I’ve ever seen hit the Digg main page were stories written in hexadecimal, and those stories were actually understandable by a largely tech crowd.

Therefore, these won’t work, but, uh, thanks:

Digg Tip #8: Speak in English.

Digg Tip #8: Speak in English (really)

LOLcats stuff still has growth potential, though — if you can be super original.

Tip #9: Learn if your stories are buried.

Digg bury data isn’t publicly available by Digg themselves, but it is available. I’ve noticed that you can also find out if your story is buried by going to the Digg Upcoming Stories page and by navigating to the page that corresponds to the number of Diggs you have. If your submission is missing, it’s gone. The URL search updates with the buried data much later for some odd reason. Your best bet would be to check the Upcoming Stories links.

Tip #10: Subscribe to Digg’s RSS Feed.

Want to know what makes Digg and what doesn’t? Sure, you can navigate to the front page of Digg and then click a few pages deep. But the popular stories on Digg shift with trends; the iPhone stories are getting old now, and people are even being bothered by Google stories. Not long ago, however, both stories were once all over the front page. Tuesday’s Apple event had numerous front-pagers, but the submissions about Apple that were submitted later in the day were ignored because of redundancy. It helps to be first, but it doesn’t always work to your benefit (see gripe in Tip #2).

Tip #11: Show some activity.

Digg is community where being involved on a semi-regular to regular basis will help your chances of being noticed. It’s not about submitting a story, asking 30 friends to Digg it for you, and your work is done. You can even log onto Digg.com just a few times a week, check the top stories, and then check the Upcoming Stories and push some of those to the top. In time, people will acknowledge you.

One other thing is that you don’t have to Digg the most upcoming stories. Submitters also take note of people who Digg stories when they don’t necessarily have that many votes (note that that is a URL specific to my account, but it should illustrate what I am trying to get at). Typically, you can build friendships more easily when the submitter notices that you just Dugg his/her story right around the time it was submitted. I’ve seen people befriend me simply on that activity alone.

Conclusion

While some of these tips are downright obvious, some are a little harder to come by and require a bit more commitment and time. Just like friendships take time and energy to develop, your Digg user experience will be greatly enhanced by your dedication to the service. It’s not an overnight process, but the returns on your investment should be obvious after awhile.

And now, I’m sure you’ve asked, since there should be a good amount of useful information here: why did I share this?

As Baron VC once said in his own post with Digg tips:

Well, I think claims that Digg is controlled by a small minority is over blown. I also think there are some great users with good stories that are dying simply because they don�t network enough. Frankly, the ranks of top Digg users could use a shake up to keep articles on Digg more diverse.

Therefore, I hope to see you on the front page sometime soon too.

As I look back at one year of Digging, I’m the 69th top active user on Digg with 121 front page stories, and in the past 30 days alone, I’m ranked #5. But stay tuned: I’m not done yet. There are definitely more stories to come. :)

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