Tuesday, July 22, 2008

10 Social Bookmarking Questions

I'm asked by lots of people about digital"stuff" and I have recently been in and around conversations about Social Bookmarking that have been either confusing or just plain wrong.
Hopefully the FAQ below should put a better perspective on things:

1. What's social bookmarking?
The act of submitting a distinct URL to a social bookmarking site and usually adding a description & keyword 'tags'
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_bookmarking

2. Are these the same as social news sites?
The lines between Social Bookmarking and Social News sites have become very blurred as both have the same sort of fucntionality and it is possible to submit the same links to both sites. In fact a lot of people mean both when they use either term. However, people use social bookmarking sites in slightly different ways to social news sites.

3. Why do people do this?
Site owners want people who use these sites as search portals to find their pages easily. Searching through a set of human-submitted and classified links produces (arguably) better results. Also as more people use the www over time, the importing of browser 'favourites' from one PC to the next becomes more intricate and the organisation requirements of these bookmarks increases. By placing your own bookmarks on the web, you write them to a single place that can be retrieved anytime subsequently.

4. What popular social bookmarking sites are there?
http://www.del.icio.us/ (Owned by Yahoo! and currently the most popular)
http://ma.gnolia.com/
http://www.stumbleupon.com/
plus many more (including social news sites) can be found here and here.

However, it is now also possible to insert URL's into popular social networking sites such as Facebook & Bebo. Therefore before deciding to encourage social bookmarking, its recommended you find which sites your target demographic is actually using.

5. How popular is this activity?
As of 18/7/2008 Yahoo currently lists 36,475,990 recognised inbound links to Delicious and it ranks just under the top 1000 of all Internet sites (I would actually have thought it would be higher... but there you go)

6. Why is tagging my content important?
Collective tagging by multiple individuals creates a "folksonomy”, a term created by Thomas Vander Wal in a discussion thread on information architecture. It is a contraction of the words “folk” and “taxonomy".

7. Of what use is it to my company?
a. Your pages on specific topics can be found by those who use these social bookmarking site to find new and interesting content (Note: getting on the 'Popular' page of del.icio.us is a good way to gain significant instant traffic for smaller sites, particularly bloggers)
b. Search Engine Optimisation: Since in-bound links are generally seen as a major contributor to gaining a higher placing in search engines, the creation of in-bound links from a number of people can only assist your optimisation efforts.
c. Understand your users more: By seeing what pages of your site your user bookmark and the tags they apply, you can see what they find interesting and track their terminology.

8. What potential issues does this create for my website?
One notable issue I have found happens when a company re-develops its website and uses different technology/URLs. All existing social bookmarks will be pointing at the old site URL's and you must ensure you have a way of elegantly handling those "Page not found" messages (404 errors).

9. What are the problems with users tagging pages themselves?

a. Not all tags are created equally:

The problems inherent in an uncontrolled vocabulary lead to a number of limitations and weaknesses in folksonomies. Ambiguity of the tags can emerge as users apply the same tag in different ways. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the lack of synonym control can lead to different tags being used for the same concept, precluding collocation.
Thanks Adam: http://www.adammathes.com/academic/computer-mediated-communication/

2. You have no control over what tags your users assign to your pages.
I'll leave you to decide what it does to your SEO efforts if several users decide to tag your site with inappropriate words..... you can do nothing about this.

10. How do I encourage my users to Social Bookmark pages?
Placing a small piece of code on the popular/obvious pages of your site can insert a link through to each social bookmarking site (and you'll consider doing this for all bookmarking services on all of your web pages first of all). For example: BBC website articles currently have 5 links beneath each article to: Delicious, Digg, Reddit, Facebook & StumbleUpon.


Hint: To ensure you don't have a huge list of links on each page you can use Social Bookmark Sharing services, of which the most popular is http://www.addthis.com/. This tool not only allows you to put one link on each page that allows you to save the URL on a number of the more popular services, it also provides some very useful analytics tools on its usage.
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