Studying the front page of Digg or Reddit can give you some pretty decent insight into what kinds of content is worthy of the communities votes. However, it’s nothing compared to what you can learn by reading and being an active member of the “social” part of social media: the comments. If you’re looking for insights into the “algorithms” of your favorite social news & bookmarking sites, this is your pay dirt. But getting to know the community is just one reason to join in on the conversation…the other, which is vital to the success in the world of social bookmarking, is networking.
Regular commenting, especially on stories & submissions within your topic or category is a necessary part of building a social network. While most social news & bookmarking sites allow comments to be voted on, which can help build (or hurt) your profile’s “karma” (as Reddit calls it), that’s not the main goal, here. What’s more important is that active commenting shows you have a desire to be part of the community. Those who skip this part may still be able to build a network of “digg this and I’ll digg yours” friends, but they’ll be missing some of the most important votes of all: The real community’s.
Here are some general guidelines for commenting on social bookmarking/news sites in order to help build a strong network.
Building a network within a social bookmarking community means voting on stories that have been recently submitted; not just after they’re on the homepage. This activity gives you the perfect opportunity to get your comment in before the masses. Being first to comment on a submission has obvious advantages. Making the first comment means yours will be the first other users read as well as the longest running, giving you a better chance to rack up those up-votes. Most importantly, being early means that users (particularly the submitter, who’s probably still actively promoting their sub) will be more likely to notice you and your comment. Hint: if you’re trying to get the attention of power users, this is the perfect place to start.
Read & Reply
One of the most frustrating parts of social commenting sections is duplicate comments. If you don’t take the time to read what’s already been said, you run the risk or repeating another user’s comment, and your comment will more than likely be buried. Furthermore, reading through what others have said gives you an opportunity to reply to other great comments that could start a new conversation. Replying directly to comments can also even send your comment directly to a user’s e-mail inbox (depending on their settings), giving you just one more chance to be noticed.
Add to the conversation
Lame comments like “what a great article” or “this was pretty cool” just isn’t going to get it done. And while being funny can be great, in order to make the most of commenting as a networking strategy, you really need to say something that somehow expands on a submission or that can evoke a conversation. Think of it as your goal to get users to reply to your comment – obviously without anything negative. If you’re link dropping, be sure that the link follows this rule too, or you could find yourself in bigger trouble than simply buried. One more thing: leave your personal stories out of it. If you’re a member of Digg, and one of your comments gets the reply: “Cool story, bro.” You fail.
It’s a Trap! Avoid Comment Memes
Comment memes are essentially comments that are either repeated across a thread (or multiple threads) that generally follow a pattern or theme (like the “it’s a trap” ascii art comment meme). Every once in a great while, you might see a “comment meme” used in a way that’s both appropriate and perhaps even… enjoyable. That is, however, the exception to the rule. Not only that, but these types of comments are not really the kind that help you build your network. If used properly it might get you some up-votes, but as I said earlier, that’s not the main goal. Generally speaking, avoid comment memes in comment sections. That is (of course) unless you’re on Reddit, where depending on the situation, the opposite might be true…use your judgment after you…
Get to Know the community
Before you try jumping right into a community, it’s probably wise to take some time to get to know that community first. Look over the comments, particularly in your niche, and get to know where the users generally stand on hot topic issues. Find the top comments and take note of what types of comments are attracting the most up-votes. Perhaps more importantly, take note of comments that have the most down votes to see what types of comments and opinions aren’t wanted. It’s not that you have to pretend to be someone you’re not, but taking the time to do this will probably help you avoid making a comment that offends and/or gets buried.
Stay Positive & Don’t be a troll
Making negative comments on a thread or reply is pretty much whatever the opposite of networking is. Leave your strong opinions to yourself and focus on the task at hand. Nobody likes a troll; and entering into a flame war doesn’t help anyone. Remember the saying: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”? Apply that here and you’ll be just fine.
If social media is a part of your online marketing strategy, then commenting in social news communities should be a part of your every day social media routine. It’s a surefire way to get noticed by users (especially power users) and will more than likely be a catalyst to building a strong social network. If you’re lucky, you may even get the attention of some of the content producers opening opportunities for things like guest articles, media contacts, and even LINKS!
Todd Heim is CEO, co-founder, and SEO manager of Essential Internet Marketing, LLC, an SEM and Social Media Marketing company based in Albany, NY. You can find Todd on twitter at: http://twitter.com/ToddHeim/