While not acknowledged or acclaimed by most social media marketing “experts,” StumbleUpon is a fine tool that can bring lots of traffic — both the targeted and untargeted kind — to your website. But with all other social networks, there are rules of engagement that are determined by the community.
Brief Overview of StumbleUpon
Since everyone is mostly raving about Twitter and Facebook as of late, I’m going to briefly define StumbleUpon and explain how it works. More information and tips for usage can be read in The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web. This description of StumbleUpon has been taken from the book:
StumbleUpon [is] a social content discovery engine with bookmarking features. StumbleUpon is different from many other social sites in that it works via a toolbar installation on your browser. Once it gathers personalized information from you (hobbies and interests), you can start surfing with StumbleUpon to find brand new sites that are related to your interests as suggested by other users on the service. The more active you are on StumbleUpon, the more opportunity there is for you to grow your network and expose your own content to more and more StumbleUpon users.
Great, now we have that out of the way. This post is going to touch upon other parts of StumbleUpon, especially user behaviors that I’ve observed recently.
I’ve personally found StumbleUpon to be a great tool to find good and exciting content, and I’ve even made some friends through the “toolbar.” Relationship opportunities on StumbleUpon are endless, especially since it’s a social bookmarking service based on interests.
StumbleUpon Etiquette Guidelines
One of the most powerful elements to StumbleUpon is the ability to share stories with your friends as long as they are subscribed to your favorites. Truth be told, most people accept every incoming friend request they receive. The motivation behind this is the desire to broaden one’s reach, even if the subscriber is sending them completely off-topic content. As someone who always has incoming stumbles awaiting my perusal, though, I think there are some rules of thumb (no pun intended) that should be followed at all times.
- Avoid pushing all your stories: What would you do if you never really subscribed to the New York Times because you just weren’t that interested but you received an endless stream of New York Times stories in your email inbox all day long? You’d probably get sick of it, right? Exactly. Therefore, while I appreciate that you have a great design site that you update 5-6 times a day, please don’t send me every single uploaded photo. And you there with the SEO/tech blog, that goes for you too. It’s just overwhelming and selfish. Instead, find the cream of the crop of your content, your best works. Give people the opportunity to navigate through your site to find better content. If you send them 5 stories everyday, they’ll never have time to actually go through your site to find gems because their StumbleUpon activity is limited to clearing out their toolbar of pending Stumbles.
- Diversify the sources you send from: To follow the previous bullet point, spice it up a bit. I don’t want to get news.yahoo.com stories 5 times a day from the same Stumbler. It shows that you have a vested financial interest in Yahoo News. (This is not a real example, readers.) There are some Stumblers who do this very well. Others just don’t get it. If you can’t diversify the sources you send from, at least do us a favor and don’t do it so frequently. Once a week is good, but don’t do it any more than that.
- Use the toolbar, check your inbox, and give back to the community: StumbleUpon’s success, at least for sending out and receiving stories, thrives on its toolbar. I see right now that I have 13 pages waiting for me. If this number exceeds 99, you could be in for trouble and get caught with hundreds of
crappages to wade through. Don’t let it exceed that number. As much as I hate some of the stories being sent to me, I know I have to get through the queued items in my toolbar to avoid an INBOX_FULL message. The INBOX_FULL message typically appears when a Stumbler sends another user stumbles, but users cannot respond to the original Stumblers because their toolbar is full with hundreds of sites being queued. Personally, I think this does a disservice to the StumbleUpon community and StumbleUpon should absolutely disallow this behavior. Until then, there will be users who take but can’t give back to the community. If you want to build a genuine relationship that benefits you in the long haul, accept other stumbles. Don’t expect me (and others) to want to help you if you have no time to help us.
- Look what other people are Stumbling and submit similar content: Over the past few months, there has been one user who has sent me Stumbles relating to her home improvement store. Typically, if you can put an interesting spin on that content, that’d be great. However, these pages are not social content. They’re category pages (sink repair, anyone?), articles about chisels, and random junk that no average person really wants to read. She’s not alone; I got some high-level machinery equipment store stumbles from a guy who I subsequently unfriended based on the sheer spam of it all. (No, I do not need a core bit or a granite blade, thank you!) If you don’t realize what other people are submitting to StumbleUpon, don’t bother using it. If you take time to see what other community members find interesting, then you might get inspired to craft content that would be interesting to the social internet at large. Still stuck? Check out these viral ideas.
- Don’t send other social networking vote requests through StumbleUpon: StumbleUpon is a network of content that you believe someone else is interested in. It’s not a way to pawn for votes on other social networks. Not everyone has accounts on the social sites you’re asking for votes on. And if you’re using StumbleUpon to solicit votes on Digg, do you think Digg doesn’t notice? If your content isn’t good enough to succeed on those social networks on their own, StumbleUpon isn’t going to help you. If you want success on your Digg (or other social network) submissions, you better to do it under the radar.
- Send well-designed content you really believe in: It’s not just a matter of sending the content of the page itself. Design and aesthetics of the page are of paramount importance. This could be a small item like the font or header design — you could even do AB testing to confirm. If it looks like you put effort into making the entire page beautiful, you’ll see results. If your page looks like it was slapped together in Frontpage, you better realize that you’re not getting a “thumbs up” from most of the your site’s visitors because you are showing implicitly that you don’t care. You can be a brilliant writer with a great essay. If that essay was slapped onto a website with a cruddy design, nobody will care. I know I certainly don’t.
StumbleUpon Best Practices
StumbleUpon has its own algorithm to determine whether an item gets viewed often or not and by who. While nobody knows the StumbleUpon algorithm, the following is suggested.
- Don’t thumb up everything: Be selective with the incoming content. Don’t thumbs it up just because someone in your network sent it to you. That likely reduces your influence as a stumbler that StumbleUpon would want to trust. I can’t believe that people actually thumbs up the Digg pages that are sent and the granite blade product page. Seriously?!
- Participate often: If you actually clear your StumbleUpon toolbar, you won’t anger someone with an INBOX_FULL message because they simply won’t get one when sending you messages. Participation ensures that you will be able to build friendships and get more people who would be interested in seeing what you have to share.
- Review pages often: Give your two cents on content, both newly discovered by yourself (add pages to the StumbleUpon database!) and by friends. Let people know that you’re serious about the network so that they want to associate themselves with you.
- Write a unique review: If you really care about the content you’re promoting, show it by writing a real review for the content rather than letting StumbleUpon pre-populate the review field with a “from the page” blurb. Putting effort into the review shows that you want other people to see it. If you can’t spend 10 seconds to write “great post,” don’t spend any time at all. (Thanks Kristi!)
StumbleUpon is a great network and can be hugely powerful if you use it properly. Like all social networks, you need to give of yourself and think about what the community wants. It’s not just about you. If you think about the greater good, you can be a very powerful influencer in the StumbleUpon community.
Did I miss anything? What other StumbleUpon missteps have you encountered? What other suggestions would you make?