Digg and Social Marketing Strategy

    December 22, 2006

There has been a lot of chatter on various blogs and forums lately about Digg banning domains (a lifetime ban it seems). Some sites have received this response from Digg:

“When submitted stories are consistently reported as spam and users complain via our feedback email about submission spam, we ban the domain. The domain will not be unbanned. The domain would consistently get reported as spam otherwise.”

SoooI thought it would be worthwhile writing a post that looked at social marketing, with a particular focus on Digg.

First of all, some background reading if you feel like it:

The difference between social marketing and SEO

I think this is core to the issues facing a lot of sites that have been banned by Digg. An SEO strategy is a very flexible thing. You can take your broad strategy for any site (or page for that matter) and apply it to other sites (or pages). Of course, this is an over simplification – there are obviously differences from industry to industry and site to site, but generally, what works for one site can more or less be applied to another site for similar results.

You optimise the same core areas, write content in a similar style and build links from standard sources. It’s a very transferable strategy.

Social marketing has largely been adopted by the SEO community due to the fact that “buzz” and “viral” campaigns can result in some sweet links, which are great for SEO. But more and more, SEOs are beginning to appreciate the traffic and brand value from this form of marketing – the problem arises when the SEO mindset is applied to this emerging channel of marketing.

Simply put – a social marketing campaign needs to be tailored to your specific objectives and although certain aspects are “standard”, each strategy isn’t as obviously transferable as SEO is.

Example 1 – an innocent mistake

A blogger who has been banned from Digg had posted on his blog that he had “only” submitted each of his 30 or so articles to Digg once. Not gonna name names at this point because I do think it was an innocent and non-malicious action intended to “seed” the stories on Digg in the hope that they would “grow” in popularity. However if he reads this and doesn’t mind being named, I’ll happily add in links, etc to his posts.

The problem here is not his intention – just the implementation.

When devising a social marketing strategy, we need to look at the big picture, particularly when exposing our sites to a large community. As with forums or blog news sites such as Threadwatch, there are different levels of issues and etiquette we need to consider. For Digg, I would make the following assumptions:

  • They receive a lot of rubbish submissions
  • Most of which probably come from the SEO community (or at the very least, people with a knowledge of SEO)
  • As such, the Digg community may frown upon SEO flavoured submissions.

So, in this example, submitting every one of his blog posts, the author has applied a SEO mindset by creating a social marketing strategy that isn’t entirely appropriate to meet his objectives. By submitting so many of his own articles, the community system (a combination of human and automated factors) has flagged his domain as spam. The number of submissions as a proportion of the size of his site were so high that Digg has banned his site (as most articles would have been buried).

The point here is that not every post made on a blog actually deserves to be added to Digg. Most blogs cover niche topics and in the grand scheme of things, it’s unlikely that everything you (or I) write will be “Digg worthy” – remember the community out there is much larger than just SEO.

A more appropriate strategy for this type of site (a blog) would be to submit ONLY articles that high quality and are likely to appeal to a broader community, or at the very least just space out your submissions (as submitting an article from your own site as and when you post them could trigger a spam flag).

Example 2 – social bookmark buttons on larger sites

Another domain that has been banned from Digg is the popular business networking site ecademy. This is an interesting one, because it is an active site with a vibrant community of it’s own.

Of course, I can only speculate as to why they were banned, but I would assume that the following factors are core:

  • Lot’s of user generate articles (different authors), each with a Digg It link.
  • Authors most likely Digg their own submissions.
  • AND / OR regular users Digg the story.

Why is this a problem?

Let’s put it in context. The site receives 100,000’s of visitors each month and as a networking site, a high proportion are likely to be returning visitors and as such they will be familiar with regular authors.

The chances are that even if the author doesn’t Digg their own story, some regular users will. Only one person needs to do it, but given the scale of the content being generated this could lead to a lot of submissions on a regular basis. Again, as with example 1, lots of submissions + low Digg count could lead to spam flagging.

But surely sites shouldn’t be banned because users Digg their content?

No, of course not. But what we would like and what happens in reality are two different things. I’d love for Google to not index the site belonging to the guy who is copying my content, but here we are!

As I said at the beginning – we need to look at the big picture. Where do your articles fit into the grand scheme of things? Generally, not where we would like, but then that’s why we’re developing a marketing strategy, right?

The reality of the situation is that Digg receives a lot of spammy submissions and as such we need to factor this into our strategies. Some people will spend time working out ways to get around this – fake usernames, pay to Digg, etc. Personally I think this is a waste of time. It is social marketing after all and if you can’t embrace the community for what it is, then you have a larger problem that won’t be solved by a short term burst of traffic from social media sites.

Tips for smaller sites and blogs

I would be inclined to avoid larger social media sites such as Digg until you can get yourself some decent professional kudos from fellow bloggers and industry professionals.

Basically, if you are considered to be a nobody, then your submission isn’t really going to carry the weight that it otherwise would. But if your site or blog has a lot of blogsphere / press / authoritative exposure, then the articles you write a much more likely to stand up to close inspection. Plus it’s useful for smaller sites to have an established user base that can support submissions by Digging them – that will mean there’s less chance of your submission fading away into nothingness.

Also, think about it before you Digg something. Does it really warrant the submission? Is it a topic that would spark a several page discussion on a forum or be covered by industry news sources (or is sufficiently sensationalist for neither of those to matter)? If you can’t answer yes to any of those questions, then why would other people Digg your submission?

Tips for larger sites

If your site generates a lot of content (larger forums, sites where users can submit articles, etc), then consider how you will approach social bookmarking buttons. Do you really want every piece of content to have a Digg button on it?

In my opinion, a good strategy for larger sites would be to have some mechanism to monitor and list popular topics – either by comments, replies, page views, etc. If you can shuffle these to a “popular page” and then ONLY add social bookmark buttons to these pieces of content, then there’s more chance it will be accepted by the Digg community.

Basically, for most sites, the onus is on the site owner to filter out the crap content and promote selective social bookmarking, instead of broad based bookmarking with a “let them sort it out at their end” philosophy. This will give you the best return on your efforts, while minimising the risk of a ban.


should I Digg this post?


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Scott Boyd (aka Marketing Guy) is an Edinburgh based online marketing consultant with over 6 years experience in the industry. He is the founder of SEO agency eFlaunt, where he mixes a
blend of traditional marketing and SEO.

Scott’s musings relating to the marketing and SEO industries can be found on his blog – Fused Nation.