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Digg Dirt: An Ongoing Examination of Social Bookmarking

12 June 2007 One Comment

When I was a teenager, I spent my after school time hanging out at a used record store in Mineola, NY. Dubbed Mr. Cheapo’s, this hole-in-the-wall purveyor of used vinyl and bootleg concerts served as a Mecca for many misguided youths – all of us praying to our late 90s and classic rock gods. The record shop was more than a place to buy LPs; it was a forum for debating the alcohol tolerances of Bonzo Bonham and Keith Moon, a high horse for the music snobs to perch on, and a place to find out what albums were actually worth a spin.

Those CD referrals were probably the first time I became aware of what we now know as social bookmarking. Though not on the ‘net, I entrusted the collective opinion of the record store junkies to direct me towards something interesting. Now sites like Digg and Reddit do that on a far broader scale, leading 28% of Internet users to tag or categorize some type of online content. Enter the marketers, spammers, and baiters.

As both public relations grad student at Rowan University and interactive copywriter & creative strategist at Unreal Marketing, I’m completely enamored and intrigued with social bookmarking.  It also helps that I’m “nerdily” obsessed with Macintosh, Transformers, BitTorrents, SEO, and numerous other “diggworthy” topics.

Since I’m charged to compile an independent study for my online PR course, marketing geek logic dictates that I write about “Digg Baiting” and do so in full, self-aggrandizing blog format. With 25 million Americans selling things on the web, maybe it’s time to examine the links between the relevant content (or pseudo-relevant content in the case of many surreptitious Digg pieces) and online marketing.

I’m attempting to hit several birds with one stone here. My intent is not only to pass my grad course but also to get on the good side of Don Dunnington and the IAOC, develop useful information for my company (and for whoever else dares read this), and create a lead-in to my thesis topic (I’m sure I’ll post more about that later as well). I’ll also try to include as many long, comma delineated lists as possible.

My study will focus primarily on Digg.com and the concept of Digg Baiting. While I’m sure I will talk about other social bookmarking sites, I’m seeking answers to the following questions: Does “Digg-baited” traffic lead to legitimate traffic? Is there a snowball effect to an organization's real target audience, or are they attracting an outside demographic (namely the Digg demographic)?

My initial Google and blog scouring led me to a lovely spot of gray area.  Experiencing the Digg Effect will not generate new users, comments, or posts for a site, largely since Diggers comment on the Digg entry itself. The click-throughs, however, will boost your search engine rankings, meaning more visibility on Yahoo! and Google, and likely more traffic as an indirect result of the “Dugg” article. A good piece can also lead to an increase in RSS subscribers, but that’s more or less as it relates to media sites.

While this is all pretty much common knowledge, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes that heightens the drama. For starters, the more elite Digg users often team up to boost the rankings of certain articles and bury pieces that disagree with their own collective beliefs. This has led to the current Digg demographic; a decent (yet biased) analysis can be found here. More amusing suggestions for Digg target writing can be found on SEO Black Hat.

Before I wrap up this intro post and get back to culling the Dugg Trends data, I want to leave you with a few things I’ve already noticed about Digg.com.

1.    Many organizations engaging in Digg baiting are targeting TO the Digg demographic. TechCrunch, Gizmodo, and Engadget, are a few tech sites that are certainly guilty of this.
2.    You can’t half-ass Digg. If you’re not an active Digg user, NO ONE WILL DIGG YOUR SUBMISSIONS!
3.    As the Digg audience and article contributions grow, it becomes even harder to make it to the top of the coveted Digg homepage.
4.    Diggers are increasingly savvy of and resistant to bait attempts as evidenced by the burying of many articles tailored specifically to them.

The culture is complex. The payoff may be huge. And it’s time to see what’s really going on at Digg.com. I’ll be pursuing this study for the next 4 weeks. If you’ve got any suggestions or feedback, I’m all ears. I’ll keep you posted on anything I dredge up.

RON SANSONE
IAOC Member

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