The shift from physical printed copies of notes and books to digital has claimed an unsuspecting victim in the last decade: bookmarking. It’s no longer about the little decorative pieces of paper or braided fabric we used to mark our spot in a book. It has developed into an entirely new habit of building huge libraries and lists of interesting webpages, and just like anything on the internet these days, it has turned social.
Social bookmarking is not a new phenomenon. The first websites to champion it came along as early as 1996, although the idea was still in its infancy at that time and the results were vastly different from the concept as we understand it today. Since then, bookmarking has become more and more about sharing. Every internet user is familiar with the bookmarking function of internet browsers, but how many can say they know how to make the most of the many websites out there that focus on the social side of things?
Social bookmarking has developed into a concept that not only helps you save pointers to interesting material you found online, but also helps you label and organise it, as well as annotate particular passages that caught your attention. Moreover, many websites have a discovery aspect to their user experience, helping people find new exciting material they might enjoy based on their past web activity logged on the site. This discovery mode is particularly seen on StumbleUpon, a website which has built its entire user base by helping people literally stumble upon interesting sites and leave feedback.
One site that launched with the aim to be a useful tool for information management is Diigo, a social annotation website that allows users to bookmark and tag pages on the internet. People can highlight part of a page or the entire page and attach sticky notes as annotations which can be kept private or shared with a group. More recently Diigo has introduced a customisable toolbar with enhanced search capabilities.
Many social bookmarking sites have front pages populated by the websites which receive the best feedback and the most bookmarks. This gives them a great deal of power when it comes to distributing traffic online, and having your page or product featured on one of them can send a high number of hits your way. This sudden surge in popularity has often been described as “the Digg effect” after webmasters of sites featured on social bookmarking site Digg noticed huge spikes in traffic.
One of the most successful social bookmarking websites was founded in 2003 and by the end of 2008 claimed to have more than 5.3 million users and 180 million unique bookmarked URLs. Delicious is a free and easy tool that you can use to save, organise and discover interesting information on the web.
Business people should see opportunities everywhere, especially in the online age. With old-school bookmarks already having a rich history in advertising, it would be easy to fall into the trap of treating social bookmarking sites the same way and flogging your products or links left, right and centre. However it’s important to get to know the community you are trying to join to successfully get them to accept your links. Many are notoriously sensitive to spam and have low levels of tolerance when it comes to blatant attempts from marketing teams to get quick exposure for their clients.
For example, Reddit may be the self-styled front page of the internet, but getting up there and benefiting from its popularity will take slightly longer than a few clicks. By far the best way of utilising social bookmarking websites is by becoming a part of the community yourself. Find the right section within the site – the subreddit in this case, contribute to discussions and become a productive member of the community. Being a trusted source will give any material you distribute a lot more authority and credibility.
There are plenty of social bookmarking sites to choose from, and finding the right niche will help you reach your target audience quicker. Reddit may have subsections for everything under the sun, but it’s worth doing a bit of research to see if there might be an active website in your field. Entrepreneurs and potential investors could look into Hacker News, a platform aimed primarily at technology enthusiasts and venture capitalists.
It’s all about being social, and getting through to the right people could make a huge difference to your business. Word of mouth is still one of the best ways to get your services noticed by potential customers. Many people confess to favouring recommendations from friends over strangers who post reviews online, and being more likely to use a service or buy a product if they were introduced to it by a trusted source. What better way of getting your name out there than through social bookmarking?