Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Is Social Media Bookmarking for Etailers BS?

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Image by holisticmonkey via Flickr
I've just spent 8 hours of my life -- wasted, some may say -- investigating the efficacy of social bookmarking for large etailers. Social bookmarking sites -- Digg, reddit, StumbleUpon and literally hundreds of others -- have a variety of uses. I'll even grant you that they may have some value in increasing traffic and helping search rankings. But here's the punchline: the amount of bullshit artists touting bullshit advice on how to use social media bookmarking is of astronomical proportions.

Yes, I know. Bad advice on the internet. Go figure.

[sigh]

So is social media bookmarking worthless?

No, not at all. Millions of people use sites like those listed above to not only save interesting sites and web content, but also to discover and share new and interesting content. It's the social part of the name that's important. And often forgotten about in a rush to gain the oh-so-powerful backlink.

So let's start there: Social media bookmarking is a complete and utter waste of time without compelling content.

If you're an etailer selling the same stuff available at any number of other online -- or offline -- retailers, even if you're selling it for a lower price than anyone else, understand this: the fact that you sell something does not constitute compelling content. To be blunt, we don't care.

Ok, smartass. So is social media bookmarking worthless for online retailers?

Maybe not. But it does require a strategy to develop the content worthy of sharing. Compelling content. Remarkable content. And if you're not willing to do that, then you might as well stop reading. You won't like the rest of this.

Here are a few tips on building compelling content as an etailer that may be worthy of sharing:

  • Interesting packages - Just because you don't make something doesn't mean you can't pair that -- or triad that -- up with something else to make it interesting. Smoking deals are always relevant. And it's often times better to discount a group of items with a mix of profit points than to slash everything by 25%. Create pages that feature deals that your customers want and your competitors can't touch. And for the love of peat (I like scotch), hire a copywriter to convey the awesomeness of the deal without sounding like a used car salesman!

  • Copy from Groupon - This rapidly growing site features city-specific, super-discounted deals that only kick in when a certain number of people sign up. To get the deal, interested parties share the deal with their network, and it's not uncommon to see Groupon deals all over the various social media bookmarking sites. Offer up the same idea, but base it on the number of times your site's offer page is Dugg, for example. Or even easier: put a coupon code on the offer page and add in "share this" type links loudly to encourage sharing.

  • Data mine and publish quirky behaviors - We've all seen the funny "those who bought this also bought..." suggestions Amazon often makes. Chances are, you have some real gems in your database, too. Or maybe you see a spike in orders of one type of product during the year that seems a little odd. Mine your data looking for patterns people might find interesting or funny, then build content around those patterns. If it's compelling, share it!

  • Go ahead and list your "special" pages - You should submit more than just your home page. Just make sure the pages are good entry points and have good content. No one wants to see your "here's all the brands we sell" page. But someone may want to see the special storefront you made for Doodiddly Diodes. Be smart about using this, and always ask yourself if the new page you've created is worthy -- in the social bookmark users' eyes -- of being included on those sites. If the answer is "I'm not sure", then it isn't. Move along.


That'll get you started. Once you've figured that out and created the content, you've got the lion's share of the work done.

But what about that "share this" button I've placed on every page of my website?

It's probably a waste of time. Even worse: it may be impacting your conversion rate. Ouch! You won't know until you test, but anything not directed to get someone to buy on a purchase page is diverting attention. A better approach might be to send that "share this" button along to the customer a few days after the sale with a "if you loved it, share it!" message.

Your turn now. Did I go too far?

I'm certain that a fair number of "seo experts" will jump in with stories of how they've managed to boost rankings, build boatloads of traffic and generally refute my initial arguments. If that's you, can I ask one question? Please provide specific examples related to the business of etailers. I'm trying to be specific with my lambasting. I hope you will be, too.

Now for that worthless "share this button". No, wait. I'm not an etailer. Different rules apply, see? ;)

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