"To shout or not to shout ... that is the question?"

Dont Shout
Image Courtesy: Harrow.ac.uk

This post is Part III of a III part series on How to Improve Your Digg Profile by successfully managing your 'Digg friends'.

1) The first post in the series focused on How to Make Yourself More Attractive from a Digg perspective, to improve your chances of being accepted as a trusted friend on Digg.

2) The second post in the series was "Tips for Finding and Securing the 'Right' Friends on Digg", because its about quality not quantity.

3) So, now that youve absorbed all the advice from the previous posts, post 3 will focus specifically on 'Communicating with Friends ... and Tracking Similarity of Interests.

Good Content & Digg Demographics:
This post will begin with the assumption that you already have a group of friends on Digg, and you've finally submitted a QUALITY story. I highlight 'quality' ... because Digg brethren have absolutely no patience for crappy content. There is a little thing called a 'Bury' button, that permits people to anonymously voice their discontent with any submissions ... and no one appears reticent to use it!

Diggs Bury Button

Also ... keep in mind the typical audience of Digg. In general, they are predominantly male, and very young.

Diggs User Demographics (Predicted)
Courtesy: MSN AdCentre Labs - Demographics Prediction Tool

I've had a few stories buried because they spoke more to women than men. Stories can succeed when they don't speak specifically to the younger male demographic, but its much more difficult.

Also, before submitting, ensure that the title and description are descriptive, and not misleading, and be sure to include a good quality descriptive image from the page (if you're submitting a story). I've had at least one story buried because the image was misleading, and another because the title was slightly misleading ... we learn from our mistakes right?

How Many Votes Will It Take:
Muhammad Saleem (aka Digg guru) has a great post about the suspected inner workings of the digg algorithm. As you can see, its not an absolute number of votes that are needed, but rather its a moving target.

Creating Awareness of the Story:
Now that you've submitted your story ... how can you make your friends aware of your posting? You've got 24 hours to get sufficient votes to make the story go 'hot', after that its almost certainly doomed for the gallows of infinite obscurity.

5 approaches:

    1) Do nothing ... almost certainly doomed to failure. This is the approach of the tens of thousands of posts we see with fewer than 10 votes. Very rarely will these posts go hot, unless you're the first to post the news story of the month, or have definitive proof of bigfoot, the lockness monster, or aliens in Seattle (Roswell won't work anymore ... done too often!).
    2) Post Daily ... this is a strategy used by Digg's top users. By posting stories each and every day, they condition you to check their submissions every day. This is a tremendous committment though, and far beyond the capabillities of most. It is really really difficult to consistently find great content to submit
    3) IM/GTalk ... some people really seem to dislike the 'shout' system, and label it as spam as its a less personal form of communication. For those individuals, IM or GTalk is a better means of notification. Its also much better for maintaining relationships, but takes more time!
    4) Encourage friends to subscribe to your submission RSS feed ... this is a great approach, but leaves everything less in your control. You can never really be sure whether or not your friends have seen your submission, unless they've actually voted for it.
    5) Shout ... lets face it. If you have many friends, there's a whole lot of noise in the Diggosphere, and its hard to be seen sometimes. Enter the new Digg 'Shout' system ... which isn't always a friend favourite. Personally, I'm a fan, unless it gets abused. So, I think current concensus on the matter is this; shout only those who shout you, and connect with the rest via other means (email, IM/Gtalk, phone, etc.).

Social Media Etiquette:
Before proceeding further, I'd like to touch on friend etiquette a little. I'll cover 'friend etiquette' in more detail in a future post. For now; lets look at a few related rants by some notables in the industry to see if we can understand some of the issues they face, namely Tamar's rant, and Rebecca Kelley's rant.

What can be learned from these rants?

    a) don't outright ask friends for a vote. Instead, give your friend an 'out' if they don't like the content. Nobody likes to feel cornered ... it can lead the most timid to become agressive. If you choose to use IM or the shout system, simply pose it as "you're bringing this interesting information to their attention" because it might be of interest to them.
    b) if a friend votes ... be contented with the vote. Don't ask them to take more of their valuable time to comment as well ... unless they're a really close friend. I'll do this on occasion to stimulate more conversation about a particular submission. Sometimes there's great information in the comments themselves.
    c) ensure that the same friend is not inundated with requests from different individuals. This can be understandably frustrating.

In the end, I personally employ a combination of approaches ... bit of shouting, bit of IM/Gtalk, bit of RSS.

Tracking Similarity of Interests & Friend Committment:
Now that we've created awareness of your submission, we need to perform some assessments to see which friends actually do have similar interests, and who are merely out for themselves (and these are many). So, here are the tools I use:

1) TINC Good tool to track your top friends (only)

We also have some of our own proprietary tools:
2) Digg Friendship Strength Monitor
3) another proprietary tool that tells me exactly which of my friends have supported my last Digg submission, and which have not. This permits me to gauge their affinity with the story ie. if I've shouted them, and they haven't supported it ... they likely don't like it.

Ultimately, if I find certain friends are not then supporting my submissions routinely, I can conclude their interests are different than mine, and will 'unfriend' them. This doesn't mean I'll necessarily stop supporting their stories (though I will in many cases), just that I won't spare the necessary time in the future bringing my submissions to their attention.

With the extra time created ... I can then invest that time in friending others with more similar interests.

So now ... go forth and Digg! Feel free to friend me if you've got similar interests to mine, and fit the qualifications I described in the first and second posts.