Social Bookmarks: Not for Bloggers Only

Social bookmarking is finally gaining traction. Twenty-eight percent of Internet users have tagged online content, and on a typical day, 7 percent of users tag or categorize content, according to Pew Internet and American Life Project’s December 2006 research. took six months to reach 2 million registered users (in March 2007) after having taken three years to acquire its first million.

What makes social bookmarking important to marketers is it’s another cost-effective way to augment search marketing efforts, distribute content, and aid branding.

Defining Social Bookmarking

Social bookmarks are links allowing users to store, classify, share, and search content through a process known as tagging. Tags are a user-generated taxonomy that makes information easier to find. Social bookmarks can be applied to various types of content, including Web sites, blogs, PDFs, audio, video, photos, and tools.

Major social bookmarking sites include, Furl, StumbleUpon, and Google Bookmarks. TopRank Online Marketing CEO Lee Odden suggests adding commentary to bookmarks to aid search within the social media site.

Social news sites such as Digg and reddit are often counted in this category. These sites can be important for reputation management and branding, notes SEOmoz CEO Rand Fishkin. To mitigate the effect of negative information about your company, create articles portraying your firm in a positive light and optimize them on these sites.

Using Social Bookmarking for Marketing Purposes

Marketers can use social bookmarks to allow visitors to share their content. In this sense, bookmarks have forward-to-a-friend functionality. Additionally, marketers can post their content to social bookmarking sites to drive traffic and links to their sites. A mortgage company could post a calculator to determine monthly payments; for example, an e-tailer could add social bookmarking to allow shoppers to show products to friends.

At its core, social bookmarking requires engaging content or offering tools readers find interesting and useful and worth passing along. Regardless of your product, act like a magazine editor whose cover must spur newsstand purchases. Think creatively about your offering to produce content that attracts readers. Consider the following:

  • Focus on topics of interest to your audience.
  • Make content easy to read online. Think like a blogger. Use lists and bold fonts to aid readability.
  • Offer useful tools related to your product.
  • Select attention-getting titles.
  • Employ keywords important to your offering.
  • Use content formats appropriate to your audience.

To encourage users to tag your content, place buttons either at the top or bottom of each article. Discover which social bookmarking communities best resonate with your readership, and only include those bookmark options to avoid clutter and confusion. TopRank’s blog offers an easy-to-use tool to aid this process.

If you’re considering directly submitting content to bookmarking sites, understand the community dynamics and build your reputation within it. Join each social bookmarking site you’d like to use and participate in it. Cultivate a set of friends to help disseminate your posts. Submit relevant content, vote on it, tag it, and comment on it.

When creating content to use for social bookmarking, marketers often overlook the need to engage readers after they’ve been driven to your content. As with other forms of traffic, ensure destination pages act as entries to the rest of the site. To this end, consider this content’s role in your conversion process. It influences the information placed adjacent to it. Consider the following:

  • Place related stories or product.
  • Include bestsellers.
  • Add a search box at both the top and the bottom of the page.
  • Offer various tagging services.
  • Allow e-mail address capture to build relationships.
  • Offer RSS feed signups.
  • If purchase or lead generation is involved, offer multiple response channels, including e-mail, toll-free numbers, and retail locations.
  • Suggest relevant content tags and keywords to help aggregate traffic.
  • Allow visitors to comment.
  • Include e-mail forward-to-a-friend functionality.
  • Enable users to print the article. Ensure printed versions contain the URL as well as a marketing-related message. Add a toll-free number and physical locations, if appropriate.

As with other viral marketing, social bookmarking may require multiple attempts before an article drives significant traffic. Consider each effort a learning experience to better understand the communities in which you participate. If a bookmark becomes popular, you may need extra server capacity to support the traffic.

Measure Social Bookmarking’s Impact

Since social bookmarking aims to share your message with a wider social community, broadening reach and active participation is important. To assess the effect of bookmarking, monitor the following metrics:

  • Bookmarked content. Check which articles readers tag and what terms they use.
  • Traffic. Monitor the number of visitors from each article posted on various social bookmarking sites, as well as articles visitors bookmark.
  • Rankings. Monitor how content performs on various social bookmarking sites.
  • Links. Track the impact of bookmarked content on links back to your site. This helps improve organic search optimization.
  • Branding impact. Assess the impact of additional sources of positive information about your firm.
  • Revenues. For content sites, this can be assessed in terms of page views and advertising dollars. For e-tailers, metrics can depend on where the customer is in the buying process and can include tracking actual purchases or building a house file of prospects.
  • Expenses. Where special content is created or support is used, assess the costs.

Social bookmarks afford marketers another way to engage with customers and prospects by sharing content that’s of interest to them. Because social bookmarking is relatively new and growing fast, now’s the time to test and get up to speed. Do some limited testing to see how it performs as part of your marketing mix. Once you dip your toe into the social bookmarking waters, you just might find it’s worth diving in.

Meet Heidi at the ClickZ Specifics: Web Metrics seminar on May 2 at the Hilton New York in New York City.

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