Larry BraunerI’m writing about social bookmarking sites because of comments on my Facebook page indicating that people could still be unfamiliar with social bookmarking.

Social bookmarking sites are meta resources that help us to catalog and organize the vast amount of resources that can be found on the web from web pages to pictures to videos and more.

Social Bookmarking Sites Defined

My broad definition of social bookmarking sites is this:

Social bookmarking sites are websites that people use to save, categorize, share and search bookmarks, i.e., links and descriptive data, that refer to resources, such as web pages and other types of web media.

It’s important to note that the resources themselves aren’t being shared on social bookmarking sites, but rather bookmarks referring to the resources. Bookmarks themselves are the content on social bookmarking sites.

My definition of social bookmarking sites includes not only sites explicitly created for bookmark sharing, but multipurpose social networking sites, as well.

Reasons for Social Bookmarking Sites

There are a variety reasons for employing social bookmarking sites, such as saving links, sharing links with others, conducting research and generating traffic.

When generating traffic, it’s essential to share one’s own links sparingly, in order to appear neither as a social bookmarking abuser nor as a spammer.

Popular Social Bookmarking Sites

Social Bookmarking SitesI suggest to you a recent list of popular social bookmarking sites to check out. Let me append Facebook and LinkedIn to that list, which already includes Twitter, since Facebook-page and LinkedIn updates are much like Twitter tweets in that you can explain your links, and your bookmarks are indexed by and available through search engines.

Neither Twitter, Facebook nor LinkedIn are pure social bookmarking sites, as they weren’t created explicitly for social bookmarking.

While Twitter does enable some categorization using hashtags, Facebook and LinkedIn do not, which may have been the reason for excluding them from the eBizMBA list of social bookmarking sites cited.

I personally use a number of the social bookmarking sites in the eBizMBA list including Digg, but I especially like StumbleUpon and plan to use it more and more over time.

My favorite social bookmarking sites that don’t yet receive sufficient traffic to qualify for the eBizMBA list are Business Exchange and Amplify.

Exploring Social Bookmarking Sites

Preferences for social bookmarking sites are different for each individual and project. If you’re new to social bookmarking, explore, experiment and discover the social bookmarking sites that fit your objectives and style.

Karin Boode has started a social bookmarking group on the Small Business Networking site to help us learn from and share our findings with each other. You’re invited to join.

Let’s hear about your experiences with social bookmarking and social bookmarking sites.

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Larry BraunerTo what extent do you benefit from social bookmarking sites in your social media projects?

Paul Chaney, author of The Digital Handshake, reveals in his recent article, Social bookmarking’s place in the marketing spectrum, that surprisingly few social media marketers understand and use social bookmarking sites.

Social media practitioners seem to be unaware that social bookmarking sites can send traffic and help them make important connections, and they also seem to be unclear about how social bookmarking sites really work.

I myself only dabbled in social bookmarking until recently. I submitted my own articles exclusively to a variety of social bookmarking sites and gained very little benefit from my efforts.

Using Social Bookmarking Sites Effectively

In December, I joined Business Week’s Business Exchange and adopted a very social and spam-free strategy. In 12 Tips for Using Business Week’s Social Bookmarking Site, I detailed the approach that I had developed for using Business Exchange. This approach has since served as a prototype my use of other social bookmarking sites as well.

Thanks to my change of strategy, I now receive nearly 1,000 visits per month to  my blog from social bookmarking sites, and the number of visits keeps growing. I’ve also met some wonderful people.

The following are 10 tips for using social bookmarking sites effectively:

  1. Focus on a small number of social bookmarking sites. Don’t take on more sites than you can easily manage.
  2. Look for social bookmarking sites that are appropriate for your particular niche.
  3. Bookmark only high-quality relevant content that’s genuinely worth sharing with other site members.
  4. Don’t bookmark only your own content, since doing so is spammy.
  5. Always be on the lookout for additional content to share.
  6. Bookmark frequently enough that fellow members can get to know you.
  7. Look for opportunities to engage and help other members both on and off the social bookmarking site.
  8. Abide by the policies and norms specific to each of social bookmarking sites you join. Take the time to learn how to use each site by reading articles and watching what others are doing. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
  9. Help grow each of your favorite social bookmarking sites by inviting your friends and colleagues to become members.
  10. Be patient. Make adjustments as necessary. Rome wasn’t build in a day. (You probably didn’t realize that the Romans even used social bookmarking sites.)

My Favorite Social Bookmarking Sites

I invite you to join the social bookmarking sites where I’m currently active:

  • Business Exchange - As the name implies, this social bookmarking site is business oriented. It attracts high caliber business users and members of the info elite. I believe that site improvements are on the drawing board or underway.
  • StumbleUpon - This site is suitable for all niches. To use it, you need to download and install the StumbleUpon toolbar.
  • Amplify - This site is also for everybody and is a good syndication site too. Download and install the Amplify bookmarklet for easy bookmarking.

I also invite you to subscribe to my blog and to share your thoughts about social bookmarking sites in the comment area below. :-)

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Larry BraunerCan social aggregation and syndication websites make life online easier?

I wrote in Hubze is a New Business Site for Personal Branding and Social Media Aggregation that “the aggregation of social websites will be a major focus of 2010, as enabling technologies like semantic web come to the forefront.”

Social Networking SitesSocial media enthusiasts who regularly cross post on multiple social platforms use aggregation and syndication sites and tools to simplify simultaneous cross posting across those platforms.

For example, I often want to share a link, an idea or content on all of the most popular social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Ning sites, such as inSocialMedia).

Since I don’t want to work through a complicated or tedious process each time I do that, I rely on syndication sites such as Amplify, Ping.fm and Posterous to help, depending upon the type of information I’m sharing.

Posterous vs. Amplify vs. Ping.fm

I prefer syndication sites over desktop tools, since I can access those sites from any computer wherever I happen to be, and they also help build my web presence. These are my current favorites:

  • Amplify - A social bookmarking site . You add links (along with article snippets if you like) using a browser bookmarklet, and your entries are posted to all the social networks you’ve specified. Amplify also has a strong social element and is a useful online social networking resource.
  • Ping.fm - A micro blogging site (a little like Twitter). Your posts can have pics attached, and can be distributed to a large variety of pre-specified social websites. You can conveniently submit your posts to Ping.fm by email.
  • Posterous - A blogging community to which you can post pics, video and text. Your Posterous posts are shared on a variety of pre-specified social websites. Posterous, like Amplify, has a strong social element. As with Ping.fm, you can submit your posts to Posterous by email, and as with Amplify you can create posts using a browser bookmarklet.

Hubze, now in testing, may be another important aggregation and syndication site in the future.

However, there are many syndication sites and tools that are already being used successfully. Which social aggregation and syndication websites and tools do you like to use — and why?

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Larry BraunerHow much do you know about website widgets?

Last week, in Website Widgets and Ads Raise Security and Privacy Issues, I shared my concerns about security and privacy issues connected with the use of widgets on a blog or other website.

I concluded, “You are responsible as a blogger or website owner to protect the privacy of your visitors as best you can. Use widgets from reputable sources and banner ads, too.”

Today, I list 10 types of website widgets that can enhance your site:

  1. Community Building Widgets - I use both Google Friend Connect and Facebook fan page widgets here on Online Social Networking. They work on blogs, as well as other websites, and I like them very much. Make sure you enable and use the Google Friend Connect newsletter feature.
  2. Subscription Widgets - I use RSS and NetworkedBlogs widgets, which are suitable for blogs, and I also use an email subscription widget that works with any website.
  3. Tracking Widgets - In addition to embedding Google Analytics internally on every page of this blog, I use Get Clicky, Alexa, Page Rank Checker, Website Grader and Flag Counter widgets to acquire a broad range of additional statistics.
  4. Social Networking Widgets - Social network widgets encourage visitors to connect with you on Twitter, Facebook, BlogCatalog, MyBlogLog and other key social bookmarking and social networking sites. An Entrecard widget enables me to network and expose my blog to thousands of bloggers.
  5. Polls and Survey Widgets - I use the interests and comments features of Google Friend Connect to obtain feedback and preferences from my GFC community.
  6. Content Sharing Widgets - The Add This widget at the end of each article makes it very easy (hint, hint) for you to share content with friends in your networks.
  7. Advertising Widgets - Ad widgets from Google Adwords, ad networks and retailers such as Amazon help you generate income from your blog or other website.
  8. Syndication Widgets - Display news, other information, YouTube videos and Flickr pics on your site.
  9. Widget Bars - Here’s an example of a page with a Digg toolbar widget (hint, hint again). Widget bars are becoming more and more common.
  10. Widget Gadgets - See Google Gadgets for everything else under the sun.

My favorite website widgets are community building widgets, subscription widgets, tracking widgets and social networking widgets. In a subsequent article, I’ll provide useful tips for using widgets. :-)

However, one more thing before you leave. What types of widgets do you use? What are examples of each?

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Larry BraunerI’ve bookmarked and skimmed a dozen or more articles that project the path of social media in 2010. Collectively these articles represent many days of researching and writing.

Search Social Media 2010 on Google, and you’ll be able to compile your own social media 2010 reading list. If the information in all the articles isn’t sufficiently comprehensive, a list of 44+ social media books to buy and read can help fill the gaps.

2010Not that I don’t like reading about trends and innovations — I do. However, I learned long ago that the bleeding edge cuts both ways, and there’s merit in waiting until the timing is right.

Blogs and Facebook have been around for years, yet only recently have they emerged as key tools for main- stream businesses.

I suggest that we watch and see how social media and technology play out in 2010, but that we focus on the basics and build our web presences right now using techniques and resources at our fingertips.

Here are my eight social media marketing basics for building a web presence 2010:

  1. Core Marketing and PR Competencies - Analytics, branding, communication, competitive intelligence, design, list building, market segmentation, marketing research, targeting, etc.
  2. High-Quality Relevant Content - Producing and sharing articles, videos, podcasts, pictures, conference calls and talk shows.
  3. Search Engine Optimization - Social media and SEO complement each other. Read Social Media vs. Search Engine Optimization and Website vs. Web Presence.
  4. Blogging - Also in Website vs. Web Presence, Darren Rouse, author of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, shares in a video his blog-centric approach to social media marketing, an approach to which I subscribe.
  5. Social Networking Sites - Nearly any social media site can present opportunities to network. By social networking sites, I mean sites that exist primarily for networking rather than content sharing.The principal social networking sites for business are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. You can also throw into the mix Ning and other niche social networking sites.
  6. Content Sharing Sites - Two of the most popular content sharing sites are YouTube and Flickr, but there are many more.
  7. Social Bookmarking Sites - There are hundreds of business and social bookmarking sites. Two of my favorite sites are Business Exchange and StumbleUpon.
  8. Blog and Web Site Networks - There are many blog and website networks. My favorites include Entrecard, NetworkedBlogsTechnorati, MyBlogLog, BlogCatalog and Google Friend Connect.

With these social media basics, you can build a huge web presence in 2010. It’s not possession of the latest technology or an inside scoop on a new FB app that’ll enable you to soar in 2010. Your success will depend largely upon your own creativity, skills, efficiency and inner motivation.

I hope you have already mastered the all-important skills of subscribing to blogs and commenting on blog posts.  ;-)

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Larry Brauner
Like you, I typically visit many blogs and websites each day.

Some websites clearly have it together. They have lots of website traffic and appeal to visitors.

Other websites aren’t bad. They have good potential. With a few tweaks here and there, they could enjoy much more website traffic and appeal much more to their audience.

I promised myself that I’d write up some suggestions for improving blogs and websites. I realize that while much is possible, we can’t hope to do everything. We need to apply the 80/20 rule and focus on strategies and techniques that are easy to implement yet promise substantial benefits:

  1. Make Your Text Easier to Read - Some months ago, I noticed that my blog’s text wasn’t visually sharp enough. It was difficult to read. Upon examination, I noticed that the font wasn’t quite black, and the background wasn’t totally white. The links were grayish. After a few minor theme changes, the color scheme was improved. Low contrast combinations or light text on a dark background always require extra effort to read.
  2. Optimize for Human Eyeballs - A site’s title tells search engines and their users what the site is about. The title is the bold headline in search engine results. Using keywords in your site’s title can help you rank higher for those keywords. Recently, I changed the title of my blog hoping to rank higher on more keywords, and my traffic fell. The new title was unfortunately less relevant and less appealing to my potential readers. I changed my title back, and traffic rebounded. The takeaway: Optimize for humans, not just for search engines.
  3. Use Headings to Break Up Long Articles - Headings break up an article into sections and help make the article easy to scan and read. Limiting paragraph size helps too. Headings, however, like titles, can tell search engines what an article is about and are an excellent place to insert your keywords.
  4. Link Out - I provided a rationale for linking out to other sites in The Blogger’s Guide to Links and Comments: “Use of outbound links enhances your pages in ways that both search engines and people can easily appreciate.” The advice in that article applies equally to blogs and conventional websites. Unless you’re linking to ads, use only dofollow links.
  5. Link Internally - This can be huge. Linking internally increases a site’s circulation, and it increases the perceived relevance of both the linking page and the page linked to. Link to another page or article on your site when you have the opportunity. In a blog, you can even link to a tag, as I often do. A blog site map such as the once generated by the Wordpress plugin Really Simple Sitemap makes it easy for visitors to find a blog’s archived content. I use internal links on my blog nearly everywhere, even in places which aren’t obvious.
  6. Be Social - Adding a social dimension to your web presence makes you real and credible. Join all the major social networking sites, and let visitors know how they can connect with you. Google Friend Connect and Facebook NetworkedBlogs widgets add sociability to your site and enable readers to publicly endorse you. Bloggers can join blog networking sites as well such as Technorati, Entrecard, BlogCatalog and MyBlogLog.
  7. Make Subscription Simple - Make it as easy as possible for readers to subscribe to your blog or newsletter. Blogs should offer subscription by both email (using a service like Aweber) and RSS (using a service like Feedburner). I’m always amazed when I have to hunt for a way to subscribe to a site.
  8. Use Social Bookmarking - Make your content easier to find and, as is the case with some social bookmarking sites, create quality links into your blog or website. Some of the social bookmarking sites I use are Digg, Delicious, Propeller, Reddit, diigo, Jumptags, Google Bookmarks and iZeby.
  9. Encourage Comments - Not only do I generally ask readers to comment, but I comment back as well whenever it’s appropriate.
  10. Extend Your Domain - If your domain will expire with the next twelve months, you might be signaling to search engines and savvy visitors that your site is only temporary.

I’ve omitted other ways that you can improve your website, because they’re harder to implement, and because they’ll give me something to discuss in a subsequent article. ;-)

In any case, we have our work cut out for us. :-)

What do you think?

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Larry BraunerNearly every day I hear from people who want to know how to start a blog or how to have a more successful blog.

I admit that I’m still learning myself, but I’ve made great progress in the nine months since I started blogging.

This past month alone my Online Social Networking blog received 5,202 visits including 1,993 visits from search engines.

My Google PageRank is up to 3, and my Alexa traffic rank is 181,032. These stats put my blog in the top 1% of all websites.

What are the critical success factors contributing to my rapid progress?

My Personal Blog Philosophy

There are ten success strategies that shape my blog philosophy.

  1. Blogging Mindset - Writing and publishing a successful blog is a major project that requires very big commitment. Blogging requires that you move forward at all times. So often people start blogging and give up. They didn’t have the blogging mindset, and they weren’t willing to do what successful bloggers do.
  2. Research and Planning - Before I wrote one word on my blog, before I decided what to call my blog, before I purchased a domain name for my blog, I did plenty of research. Where should my blog be hosted? What platform should it run on? What will I write about, and which keywords will I optimize for? These questions and more were addressed up front and their answers formed my initial plan of action.
  3. Bias for Action - Getting started and keeping your momentum going is essential if you want to have a successful blog. While adequate preparation is important, a time comes when you must “draw a line in the sand”, stop preparing and begin writing. Your ongoing research and writing need to become routine. Don’t worry if your articles aren’t perfect. You can edit your posts after publishing them, and it could even help with the search engines to do so.
  4. Experimentation and Tracking - Every blogging enterprise is different, and you’ll need to find the mix of strategies and tactics that are right for your blog. If you install Google Analytics, you’ll be able to track your blog’s traffic. You’ll know what is working and what’s not. Materminding with friends and mentors is another way to gain valuable insights.
  5. Correction as Needed - When you discover something that’s not working, you’ll look to refine it or replace it. Ongoing tracking will provide you with the feedback you need to make the necessary correction in your direction to stay on course.
  6. High Quality Content - Quality content to me means writing with both the reader and the search engines in mind. It means writing well, revising the text many times, proofreading, etc. It also means choosing topics that will make readers want to return to your blog. Please don’t write long run-on paragraphs. Make it easy for your reader to go through your article on the screen without having to print it out… Because they won’t. And one more thing, until you have tons of visitors reading your blog every day, don’t even consider cluttering it up with cheesy ads.
  7. Online Social Networking - The best way to find readers and subscribers for your blog is at social networking sites. For this purpose you can use most business networking sites or networking sites that cater to bloggers such as Entrecard and MyBlogLog. I happen to prefer Twitter and the Ning family of social networking sites. Carefully inviting site members to visit your blog is a nice way to reach out to them — not at all spammy. Make it easy for your readers to subscribe. My readers have two ways to opt in RSS Feed and autoresponder.
  8. Search Engine Optimization - Treat every blog post as a website that will one day stand on its own, because it will. It will eventually works it’s way down and off your blog’s cover page. Use keyword research to find the best words and phrases to use in your articles. Make sure that your main search terms are neither too general nor too competitive to earn you good placement in the search engines. Don’t limit yourself to using only your primary keywords in your text. Using all relevant search terms, even the ones that are hard to compete for, will turn you article into a search engine magnet.
  9. Social Bookmarking - Using social media sites such as Digg and del.icio.us to anchor and promote your blog posts is very important. Social Marker will help you find more bookmarking sites and facilitate the bookmarking process. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the terms of service of each of the social media sites you use, so that you don’t get banned. Bookmark articles using their individual URL, not your blog’s URL, since each article is its own website, not just a part of the blog.
  10. Patience and Time - Over time your traffic will increase, so will your credibility, and you’ll gain subscribers. Don’t expect much before three months, and give yourself a full year to become a blogging superstar.

For more articles on blogging, blog marketing and SEO see Blog Marketing and SEO Training.

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Larry Brauner

Seth Godin’s Web 2.0 Traffic Watch List

My interest in social media has evolved substantially over the past year.

My love for social networking sites is not something new, but my appreciation for blogging and social bookmarking sites certainly are.

As I mentioned in my recent post, Social Networking Site Catalog, “I launched this blog to share my passion for online social networking and my experiences at social networking sites. I never intended to assemble a catalog. There are already too many good ones out there.”

One of the world’s top marketers and author of marketing books, Seth Godin, provides a catalog of 952 top social media sites, Seth Godin’s Web 2.0 Traffic Watch List. It can help you know what’s hot and what’s not.

Here are the top ten from Seth’s list as I write this:

  1. youtube.com
  2. myspace.com
  3. orkut.com
  4. en.wikipedia.org
  5. ebay.com
  6. facebook.com
  7. fotolog.com
  8. flickr.com
  9. friendster.com
  10. photobucket.com

Put content in the right places, and you will attract other users and search engines like a magnet. If you’re into marketing, that’s exactly what you want.

How do you use social media?

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