October 2007

I’ve heard a lot of people complain that social media is corrupt and that social media success is based on knowing the system or having friends with clout. Well, how is that different from regular media? In normal journals, newspapers and magazines not just anyone gets published, right? It is about your credibility and who you know. So why do people complain so much about corruption in social media? Did you really expect it would be fundamentally new and different?

The difference, as I see it, isn’t related to democracy or egalitarianism. Rather, the difference is participation. More and more mainstream media publications are adding blogs and comments, following the lead of social media sites. However, the basic paradigms and earned hierarchy and contact-based success haven’t changed. Is that so wrong? Do you really want to sift through the thousands upon thousands of stories submitted to Digg on a daily basis?

The reality is: any media source needs a way to sort information ahead of time prior to publication. In the case of newspapers, editors and the position held by reporters control what the public ultimately sees. In the case of social media sites, users vote for stories but they also vote for submitters. Either way, there is an element of content as well as an element of author (or submitter) trust.

So what can we take from all of this? Social media isn’t, perhaps, as different from regular media as we might have assumed, expected or hoped. However, it might be a step in a new direction. So instead of complaining about the details, we should, perhaps, all take a step back and think more broadly: are we at least moving in the right direction? Even if this kind of media isn’t fundamentally new, is it at least an improvement?

When people think of submitting links, usually social news, networking and bookmarking websites come to mind. The most popular of these, such as Digg and Reddit, can be hard to succeed on as there is a great deal of competition. However, there are some sites out there that are less well-known but can send a great deal of traffic – thousands of hits or more per accepted submission. I have recently seen thousands of visitors from sites I have manually contacted and that require manual approval for link publishing – very different than typical social media site. For two reasons, however, I am not going to list out the ones I have used in the past to do this:

1) Some of these sites are surprisingly unknown by the blogging and webmaster communities. They would potentially be flooded with semi-relevant spam were word to get out. In many cases, niche communities frequent these sites looking for links related to their interests, and these sites often have just one or two moderators.

2) Your niches probably aren’t my niches. What works for content I create will likely not work for your own. There are thousands of link-oriented sites on the web that can be found via simple Google searches. Also watch for an unsolicited source of incoming traffic – who knows, if you ping them with a similar future post they may be more than happy to link to you again.

One site I write for targets bizarre oddities, though it is often linked to from a site that mostly (strangely enough) links to porn. Why does it work? The demographics clearly overlap. So be sure to look past the overt purpose of the site and see what they are linking too. Whenever you come across a new site that posts frequent or daily link, look at what they link to and see if you have something that fits, either from your site or someone else’s.

I recommend making a list of such sites over time and keeping them in mind whenever you create new content. There are obvious and popular ones like Fark and Thoof to be sure, but there are many smaller ones that still send a ton of traffic to articles that they deem worthy of being linked to. When you find one, be patient and don’t spam – test out a link or two you think might be relevant in order to learn what they like to link to!

That all being said, if you leave a comment and (without linking – just use the site title please) let me know what your website is I would be more than happy to suggest possible sites to ping with links for traffic. I simply don’t want to announce them all here for fear of overloading sites I respect and enjoy with irrelevant links.