Power account holders live by a set of rules that help them build credibility, establish identity, and make them memorable among the community. Anyone, however, can follow these rules on social news sites to become a respected and valued participant of the service.
This excerpt is from The New Community Rules. The social web provides businesses with a largely untapped marketing channel for products and services -- the trick is knowing how to take advantage of it. With this book, you'll understand how social web technologies work, and learn the most practical and effective ways to reach the people who frequent these websites. You'll get intelligent advice and strategies -- including what works and what doesn't.
Submitters on a social news site should immediately upload an avatar if they want to be considered legitimate by the established authority (that is, other power users). Avatars do more than just make you stand out in the crowd: they help to establish your identity, which is vital if you want to be a memorable contributor of a social news site. Don’t just blend into the background; power users assert authority implicitly by establishing identities that help others remember them. Focus on louder colors that do not necessarily blend in with the background of the site or appear similar to the site’s default avatar.
Power users need to be perceived as altruistic submitters. You should not consistently promote your own content. If you want others to trust you, you must consider the content the community will like. Be a real resource and not a self-serving one. If you consistently push content in a particular subject matter (for example, you’re passionate about politics and you end up sharing interesting content among the thousands of users on a particular social site), you will become an established authority on the subject matter and people will follow you. However, you might feel more comfortable if you diversify your submissions and use multiple high-quality sources.
Of critical importance in establishing a power account is networking. Many people would argue today that social news sites are only “social” sites, and not “news” sites; it’s all about the relationships you have forged over the course of your involvement on the site. You may submit a great news story to a social news site, but if nobody else sees that story (and nobody else is alerted to its existence), there is no chance that the story will hit the front page. If nobody knows you, then your submission, no matter how powerful it is, will fall into oblivion.
The ideal solution would be to network with those who have already established themselves as the power players. If a username is frequently visible on the front page of a social news site, chances are he or she is a dedicated user. If you are truly interested in becoming a dedicated user, you should take the initiative to introduce yourself and get to know that individual. It’s important, though, not to immediately let it be known that you are here to solicit votes from users who have already built trust and credibility. As a power user on numerous social sites myself, I’ve been contacted more than once with “hi, I see you’re active on Digg! Can you please Digg my story?” That’s not the right way to network, under any circumstance.
If you’re looking to build up a credible power account, the users you’re aiming to connect with are going to be your friends for the long haul. Networking is clearly not an overnight process, and you should be diligent in how you approach the power users who everyone wants to become friends with.
As you know, “high quality” is subjective. What if the story I spent 30 hours writing is not deemed appropriate by the community? The important thing is to study the community first and understand what it likes. High quality often has some criteria, however: submitting well-written content is critical. Don’t submit irrelevant spam or short blurbs. If you can find the original source (the source that broke the story and that other sources subsequently reference), by all means, submit that instead (if it wasn’t submitted already).
Real power users have a good idea when stories are published on the original sites. Some popular news outlets have an editorial schedule: features get published at 12 noon or 12 midnight. The most avid of social news users will know as soon as a story is published, and will submit it to the social news site immediately. There’s no time to wait because there’s huge competition to get the story submitted first.
When news breaks (for example, a terror attack in a blossoming city, the passing of a great actor, the winner of the World Series, or the announcement of a new Apple product), be the first one to submit the story as long as it’s from a credible source. The news story may still be developing on the original source, but that means that there will be good content on the news submission in due time.
Of course, you can’t always tell when some of those news stories will break, since breaking news is typically unexpected. Fortunately, Apple often releases products during Tuesday keynotes. Popular technology sites like Engadget and Gizmodo cover the product releases in real time.
How do you determine what is “high quality” on social news sites? You study what the community prefers to submit. Check the popular domains. This may require your own research. However, an independently run website (http://www.di66.net) shows Diggs’ top domains, top titles, and top descriptions according to front-page success.
The key to being a power user is to spend a considerable amount of time on the social sites. This allows you to validate your intentions to the community at large. A typical power user initially spends approximately three to four hours a day building credibility. Once you gain trustworthiness, you will still need to maintain a time commitment, but not as substantially. Some power users who have established themselves as such check their accounts only once in the morning and once in the evening.
Regardless of whether the rules dictate that you shouldn’t always vote on your friends’ stories, backscratching is very prevalent on social sites. It’s all about building those relationships. If you consistently push your friends’ content, they’ll be a lot more likely to help you out, too. Again, these sites are social in nature.
Pay attention to individuals who are voting up your stories long before they ever hit the front page, because those are individuals who trust you but likely also want to be noticed. Establish solid relationships with these users.
As a precautionary note, however, be careful about too much reciprocation; sometimes, complete mutual support can lessen the impact of success.
Once you’ve achieved greatness on one social network, users will follow you on other social networks. This increases the opportunities you will have for networking in the future and will possibly give you a boost in these other social networks as an established user. Of course, you will still need to study the community mentality and make sure you’re following the norms, but this becomes a lot easier if you are recognized across several social networks.
Cross-pollination—that is, submitting stories across several social networks—is a great way to achieve success on social sites. While not every reddit front-page story will be successful on Digg (since the interests of the communities differ), there is a good chance that those stories will be noticed. Plus, if you can spot a great story that is growing in momentum on one social site, it could still be well received on the other social site. Finally, looking on other social sites for great submission ideas is often easier than competing against the 30 or so users who are all anxiously trying to be the first one to submit that Lifehacker noon feature.
It’s easy to say that power users have really achieved success over time given their involvement on social news sites. They have the audience; individuals follow their submissions closely. They have a good sense of the stories that succeed on social sites. They are trusted contributors.
But now that you have reviewed those 10 commandments, it should be apparent that it’s a lot of work! In fact, it’s so time-consuming that power accounts do not exist as much as they did in past years, and much of this relates to algorithmic changes that diminish the impact of these account holders.
At a recent conference I attended, successful blogger Brian Clark wrote that “you can either become a power account user or know someone who already is one.” Clearly, some of the most influential marketers have networked with the power users and have achieved awareness and greatness. They did not become power users themselves. With the number of influencers who have contributed thousands of hours to the task, it’s evident that there are already users who you can turn to. This approach is certainly a lot easier than building up your power account from square one.
Of course, if you don’t have loyalties to a specific company, or if you just want to establish yourself among several social communities, a power account is still a viable choice. More often than not, however, community managers are a more realistic choice for longer-term growth and success, especially as they are prevalent on multiple social channels and do not necessarily have to focus their energies on social news sites exclusively.
When executing a successful social media strategy, listen to your constituents across as many social networks as possible. Build relationships with individuals on social sites and establish a brand identity in those parts. Above all, listen to the community and act upon its feedback to create better products that users are actively seeking.
Since people can be talking about you nearly everywhere, it is hard to keep track of what they are saying and where they are saying it. There are numerous tools that you can use to monitor the conversation.
A community manager may wish to establish communications between the company and the customers. She loves working with people, loves a challenge, and is an effective communicator. The community manager may also wish to become an influential power player on social news sites by actively engaging on them. Once she gains the trust of the community, she can slowly push the agenda of the company by submitting relevant stories that will be well received by the community.
Power account holders are most visible on social news sites since their immense dedication has brought them the respect of other community members. To become a power account holder, there are a few guidelines you can follow, though the time and energy commitment is substantial. Even if maintaining a power account is not a strategy you are interested in, understanding the 10 commandments of power account submitters can help you succeed on these social sites.
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