Most bloggers hope to gain large volumes of traffic through social media, which of course requires getting votes from other social media users. There are a number of different ways to get votes, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. If you are hoping to have success with social media, you will have the best results if you have a plan and if you consider where those votes will be coming from.
Here’s a quick look at some of the different ways that you can/will get social media votes.
1. On the social media sites themselves
Once one of your blog posts is submitted to Digg or a similar news-style social media site, ideally users will see it on the upcoming page and vote for your (and hopefully they are also clicking-through and actually visiting your blog).
2. From a toolbar
3. From your blog
Most blogs now include some type of buttons, links, or widgets that allow visitors to vote for the current page on social media. Some of these are for a specific social media site, such as the Digg button, and some are more general in nature and allow the user to choose from a number of social media sites.
4. In response to a request
Almost every social media site has some type of option for sharing content or links with friends in attempt to gain some exposure and votes. Digg’s shout system and StumbleUpon’s share with a friend feature are two examples. In addition to sharing a link with a friend directly through a social media site, many bloggers will email friends and contacts to request a vote.
How Does This Affect You?
The approach you take to market your blog through social media will need to take into consideration how you hope to get votes. The process of gaining a vote from Digg’s upcoming page is a bit different from getting a vote through a Digg button on your blog post, and it’s certainly different than using the shout feature. In most cases, unless your blog has a huge audience you will need to consider how you will get votes.
Votes coming directly from the social media site
Each social media sites works a little bit differently, but in some cases the number of votes that you get directly from the site will be influenced by who submits the post. For example, on Digg, many users view the submissions of their friends, so if a post is submitted by a “power user” that has a lot of friends, you are more likely to get votes than if it is submitted by a new user that has no friends.
Additionally, titles are extremely important for getting votes this way. Think for a moment about how the upcoming pages at most social media sites work. It’s probably a list of 10 – 20 titles with maybe a very brief description. In this case, the user is not going to click-through to every item, he or she will only visit those that are attention grabbers. Without a strong title or headline, your submission is likely to get passed over in favor of others that are more compelling. Your first challenge is to get a click, and the next challenge is to provide content that will make them vote.
Also consider the factor of blind votes. Many times, submissions with strong titles will draw votes without users even clicking-through to the page. While this is not what you want (since you are actually trying to get people to your blog), it still beats them not visiting or voting. At least blind votes have the potential to lead to other visitors.
Votes from the toolbar
While you have no control over what toolbars your visitors have installed, if you consistently market to particular audiences you are likely to gain readers that use a specific toolbar. For example, if you market to StumbleUpon users and some of those users become regular readers of your blog, you’ve just increased the number of readers that have the SU toolbar installed. Of course, the more visitors that have the toolbar installed, the better your chances will be of getting votes through the toolbar.
For social media sites that use a toolbar, I have found that it helps to funnel traffic from anywhere possible. If you have the ability to get traffic from another social media site, chances are some of those visitors will also be users of StumbleUpon and del.icio.us, for example, and hopefully they will use the toolbar to bookmark your post or give it the thumbs up, even though they originally found it through another source.
From my experience, the ease of use of the toolbar makes traffic transfer from one social media site to another. For example, if a Digg user finds something they like through Digg, they are somewhat likely to quickly use their toolbar to bookmark or thumb up the page because it is fast and convenient. On the other hand, if an SU user comes across something they like, they are much less likely to try and track that page down on Digg to give it a vote.
Votes from your website
By placing a voting button or widget directly on a blog post you may be able to convert some of your existing traffic into votes. On my primary blog I was able to get a few posts to the front page of Digg, not because they were submitted by a power user, but because I put a Digg button on the post and a percentage of the visitors also took the time to click on the button. In this case you can make up for not being submitted by a power user.
To have effectiveness using buttons and widgets you will need to limit your use. Some bloggers cover their blogs with 50 different buttons and widgets hoping to get traffic, but all it really accomplishes is a distraction for readers. You’re much better off to use a very small number of buttons for social media sites that are specifically relevant to your content. If you know many of your readers use a particular social media site, consider including a button on your posts.
You challenges with voting buttons and widgets are getting visitors to notice them and then getting them to vote. Because these buttons and widgets are so common, many visitors tend to overlook them and not even pay any attention to them. This is where using few buttons will help, as it will make the ones that you do use stand out a bit more. In order to get visitors to vote, the best thing you can do is to provide quality content that they will want to vote for, and choose the social media sites that you target carefully.
Votes from sharing with friends
This method can be very effective or not effective at all, depending on how you approach it. The shout system at Digg was very effective when it was first implemented, but that quickly wore off as it was abused by many users and most people got sick of getting so many emails. On the other hand, bloggers with a strong network can get votes with other approaches. StumbleUpon’s share feature has worked pretty well for me in the past.
The challenge with sharing submissions with friends, regardless of how you do it, is not to go overboard and not to be seen as a spammer. No one once to be constantly asked for votes from the same person, so save this approach for those times when you need it or when you think it will be most effective.
What’s Your Opinion?
Where do most of your social media votes come from? What methods work well for your?