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February 5, 2010

The secret behind hitting the Digg spread

Putting aside your professional expertise in social media, how frequently are you activating your interests online? We all want our online content to have a decent chance of spreading on a popular social bookmarking site. But, there are no easy shortcuts and quite right too. So here’s a lesson from Digg, which rewards those who become an influential and interesting member in an online niche.

Digg says:

Over the last four years weโ€™ve been continually evolving our (real-time) user influence calculations at Digg. Behind the scenes we track the types of stories you Digg, when you dugg something pre or post homepage promotion, and how your Digg influences others on the site. While not outwardly visible, many of these factors help us gauge when to put stories on the homepage or recommend them to others.

So what changes on Digg? Well, this wonโ€™t impact anything on Digg today, but user influence and the data we collect during this process will play an important role in upcoming versions of Digg.

Social media is all about the level of interaction and effort you put in to your interests, and as such, an algorithm that rewards activity such as the one outlined by Digg makes perfect sense. In short, the amount of investment you put into cultivating relationships with people determines how much you take out. The bane of the social media practitioner is to think it ends with an all encompassing Twitter account that loosely follows some key people in different communities, particularly when the main objective can sometimes appear to be an aim to uphold retweetable banter among fellow marketing professionals.

The reality is you have to be incredibly chameleon in planning a campaign by being part of your online audience and earning your right to be interesting. And that doesn’t involve method acting (chameleon being a poor choice of word), it involves delegated areas of interest within an agency of very active online people.

If you’re not involved in a community relating to the campaign you’re running, how can you judge the intensity of the spread of a conversation in its immediacy and people’s motivations and habits of sharing?

Sure, a tool-driven audit can give you a dated overview of the relevant conversations but then you’re just a lurker. And lurkers aren’t socially awesome – they’re barely audible. And lurkers are always late to the party.

Broadly looking at memes as an example of the ‘holy grail of advertising’, too many agencies audit them for replication in some form after they’ve passed their share-by date – when it’s original ideas that get fantastically repurposed. It’s more interesting to actively study the ongoing evolution of a postulation of cultural ideas (or randomness) in a community such as 4chan to see how they’re conjured and unpacked early if you want to ignite your own.

Internally at Rubber we tackled this by 1. letting people identify and explore their interests and looking at what level of genuinely engaged online activity they had in certain communities and 2. allowing them to be liberated from their personal ties and being professionally transparent by running social bases in interest areas for the agency such as Rubber_Flicks and greenrubber.

So if you’re a non-digital native planning this blogger outreach thing, don’t let all these tools make you fall under the pretence of knowing your audience … be your audience and internetually speaking … you’ll be loved.