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Social Media Influence: How To Be Awesome on Social News

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How do you measure your social media influence? How do you get social exposure? Social sites like Reddit and Digg are huge sources of traffic and users.  Savvy operators would do well to plumb the communities there to test product-market fit, discover and expand to new communities, and leverage such communities to reach social media influence.

The key word to social news is “community.”  These communities include groups of people who may already care about the topics and trends that surround your product and are early adopters and influential audiences to boot.  But there’s a key!  Each community already has its own language and culture which you have to treat with respect.  Tailor your story to the community and become a member of it — and you have a chance to unlock the potential social news has to offer.

What Is Social News?  

Social news sites allow users to share and submit post articles and stories, moderated by administrators or the community, most often featuring user-participation such as voting.  Their coverage can be broad and varied like Reddit or inhabit a niche/particular beat like Slashdot or Hacker News.

The innovation offered by social news sites is that their content is determined by the community, not by armies of editors and journalists.  And everyone’s vote counts the same.  Therein lies the opportunity, as social news sites have a democratizing effect which makes it possible for your stories to be featured on a huge stage.

Why Do I Need Social News?

The “build it and they will come” approach to building a business on the web just doesn’t cut it these days.  There’s a lot of web out there for people to wade through, so social news sites’ democratic curation function can help build the road for people to discover your product.

Moreover, social news sites particularly have people invested in being part of the process.  Their users like finding things that people have built, and they’ll help bring the more general public mountain to you, either directly or by having their stories picked up by influential bloggers or larger, more traditional media outlets.

How To Be Awesome on Social News

1.  Know your audience and create a custom story just for them.  Be guided by how a social news site’s users determine the popularity of your story.  Like freelancers who pitch stories to editors, you should know your audience and the publication to best gain traction.  Become an actual member of the community, not to just talk, broadcast, and promote, but to participate and listen — you know, the whole “social” aspect, of give and take and conversation.

Keep in mind what may attract the community’s movers and shakers and that journalists use start-up and tech media as sources. These are links to potentially wider and more diverse audiences, but they will have to find your story both compelling and credible first.

2.  Put together an e-mail list of fans and friends to contact to request upvotes when you post a story.   No one will see your story unless it has enough momentum to get visible.  Votes from fans and friends will get you to the front page, and there the story will live or die based on its own merit.  Remember: social news is a democracy, not a meritocracy — and like with any good democracy, harnessing your constituencies is the first step to making it to the national stage.

3.  Don’t try too hard. You will turn people off, and you’ll turn into a marketer / spammer, not a member of the community. And often, you may be pleasantly surprised at what gets picked up when you leave enough breathing room.



Discussion

Walter Chen

Walter Chen

Walter Chen is the co-creator of the startup iDoneThis, which is an email-based productivity log (and on the lists for “startups to watch.”) He was a lawyer at Jenner & Block, and also served as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Detroit, Michigan...

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