Digg.com was the primary topic of discussion at SMX Social Media Tuesday and why not? In Chris Winfield‘s words, “Digg is all that anybody cares about.”

www.flickr.com

The comments and the vibes I got from the discussion, mostly the “Extra! Extra! The Social News Sites” panel featuring Winfield, Neil Patel and Tamar Weinberg, were, however, a little contradicting to what I consider the generally agreed upon appropriate approach to social media.

I was bothered a bit by the general tone that Digg is something everyone seems to be beholden to. While there is no argument that a successful Digg post can drive thousands of people to your site — Brent Csutoras, Rebecca Kelley and Cameron Olthuis actually emphasized making sure your servers were ready for a Digg onslaught in the Linkbaiting session — Chris’s comment seemed to be the rule of thumb.

During the discussion, Patel said that Digg users donâ’t actually read the posts. They just Digg or bury the stories and move on. He also actually advocated having fake profiles, behaving in accordance with the community — he mentioned reporting people trying to buy Diggs — but then using the profiles to become power users implementing Social Media Optimization techniques and getting lots of front page placement.

I tried to ask a question at the end of the session but wasn’t close enough to the microphone steward, so I’m here blogging it instead:

Why should we beholden to such a website or community if A) It’s users are disingenuous to the process and B) SEO and SEM folks are openly lying, tricking and duping the community to suit their or their client’s needs? Will this model not run its course and become a farce because the collective online community is smarter than even the most brilliant Digg hack?

SMX Social Media Day One Links, Live Blogs and Posts

Live Blog Transcripts
(Start with this entry and navigate your way through the sessions using their “next post” links.)

  1. From Vanessa Fox at SearchEngineLand.com
  2. From Kim Krause Berg at SearchEngineRoundtable.com
  3. From Eric Lander at SearchEngineJournal.com
  4. From Marty Weintraub at aimClear.com

Flickr Photos

  1. Mine
  2. TopRankBlog’s (Lee Oden, I assume)
  3. StorySpinn’s
  4. Rustybrick’s

Sorry if I missed anyone. Make sure I have them for tomorrow!

[tags]SMXsocial, SMX Social Media, Digg, social news, social media ethics[/tags]

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.toddearwood.com toddearwood

    I think you’re right, why should we place so much important on a site that is has been “gamed.” Digg is quite frankly, overrated. How many sites actually get long-term traffic from Digg? If your goal is to be a one/two-hit wonder, then plead for Diggs.

    I suspect most of us love the rush of a traffic spike, but many times things go right back to the way they were before.

    My suggestion… right good content for YOUR audience and avoid catering to a system that won’t help long-term growth.

  • http://www.janequigley.com jquig99

    I was there today also and it really was a wake up call. No one reads(and I’m hoping Patel was kidding about the WSJ – I’m sure he was)? And all Diggers are snarky 16 year olds.

    Today was too Digg-central for me. I think that Digg gives people a quick spike of traffic, but not a significant bump of repeat or sticky users. They Digg and move on.

    I did like the keynote – and I’m going to spend more time on StumbleUpon tonight as a result.

    Thanks for the links – just going over my notes and trying to digest today. Looking forward to tomorrow!

  • http://www.techipedia.com Tamar Weinberg

    “Will this model not run its course and become a farce because the collective online community is smarter than even the most brilliant Digg hack?”

    Bottom line: it works when used properly. At the end of the day, you want to provide content that users want. If your content isn’t desirable, you’re not hitting the front page. It is about collective intelligence.

    As far as the conflicts between Neil and myself: clearly, most Diggers are not always looking at the content. That’s why I said that a title and description are critical. I’m sure I spoke fast in the beginning (Danny gave the appropriate disclaimer regarding nervousness for a first-time presentation!) but titles and descriptions are popular for two reasons:
    1. People who “blind Digg,” that is, they Digg stories without reading the content, will not go to your site . However, you can win them over by having a winning title and description and they’ll vote for you at the minimum. Conversely, if your title and description are not good, your chances are a lot lower for success.
    2. On the other hand, not everyone blind Diggs. Some people want to find news and read the content thoroughly. These are people who want to get more than just that title and description; your title and description have caused them to want to know more. Yes, there are people like that.

    Neil is right to some extent, but he also gives gross generalizations. Digg’s crowd has evolved over time. As more and more people talk about Digg, the crowd becomes more and more diverse. I wasn’t a Digger a few months ago because I hated the teenage mentality. Now, I’ve blended but added some extra flavor myself. With the addition of regular users, you, too, can shift the direction of the social news site. I encourage it. :)

    Regarding buries, some people bury a lot. Most bury infrequently. However, I speak about a crowd I am most familiar with. There are variations to the rule, but personally, as critical as I am, I give the benefit of the doubt unless the content is “lame” (Chinese-content on an English speaking site, stupid titles/descriptions – occasionally, sex-related material, etc.) or clearly spam.

    Todd’s comment is on the mark though. I talk about Digg because it fits what content I (and millions of others) seek out. Not everyone else agrees. I don’t often venture to Propeller, for example, because it has more of a Political News focus and that doesn’t describe the social news I care about. Truthfully, not everyone can leverage Digg, but they can try as long as they find the right content to please the audience.

    As much as I’ve offered advice to the extent that you can be creative about what you sell, there is no doubt that Diggers dislike knowing that people are marketers. You can reveal your identity, but they won’t like you at the offset even if your content is super. It’s really important to remember that you’re looking to pacify the community and provide value to them, but once they know this one thing about you, it gets all the more difficult.

    Put it this way: Many people don’t take their work home. Most of us separate our careers from our family life. Consider Digg to be a hobby and don’t let your “marketing career” get in the way. ;)

    P.S. Introduce yourself please!

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    And this, my friends, is why when I Twittered about her earlier today, I indicated that Tamar was brilliant.

    T: First thing in the a.m., I’m introducing and shaking hands. I am not anti-social, I just got called away during the last two sessions and had to jet.

    JQuigg: Glad you stopped in. Looking forward to your take. Will also introduce myself tomorrow.

    Earwood: Thanks for chiming in. You’ll dig Tamar, (and JQuigg for that matter). Links provided in their user names.

  • http://www.vandelaydesign.com/blog/ Steven Snell

    I’m not really a fan of Digg, but I use it because it can bring so much traffic. Yes, it’s low quality traffic, but that volume of low quality traffic still adds up. The two times that I made it to the Digg front page were the 2 best days for me in terms of new subscribers.

  • http://www.cameronolthuis.com Cameron Olthuis

    I look it at differently. If you’re providing a valuable piece of content to a community of people that clearly enjoy it – I wouldn’t consider that tricking them or duping them.

    The community is smarter than you give them credit for. In other words, they’re not easily tricked.

    Now granted, if you came right out and told them it was marketing the story would be buried into oblivion. So I can see your POV.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Steven … thanks for the input. I have no questions Digg can drive traffic. I just wonder about its long-term health if there’s that level of shallowness to the whole thing.

    Cameron … Thanks, so much for stopping by. I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation at SMX Social Media. Anyone who can make life insurance stories and services viral through Digg, etc., is a superstar. And you’re right, providing useful information isn’t duping them, but if Neil’s assertion is accurate, Digg is more of a pissing match to see who has more points and not who gives the most qualified stories. You are also right, though, in pointing out the community is smarter than that notion gives credit for … good stories don’t find their way to the top without substance. Thanks agian for the note!

  • http://www.10e20.com/blog Chris Winfield

    Hi Jason -

    It was great to meet you at SMX and glad we got a chance to chat on Monday night!

    I’m a bit disappointed by the title of your post and sorry if that is somehow the impression I gave. Perhaps there were too many generalizations.

    Andy Greenberg from Forbes summed up the point I was trying to get across here in his article yesterday:

    “The easiest way to garner traffic and Google-boosting links from social media, according to Chris Winfield, isn’t to take shortcuts, but rather to add creative value.”
    http://www.forbes.com/technology/2007/10/17/digg-google-advertising-tech-cx_ag_1017digg.html

    I truly believe that.

    Anyway – it was great to meet you and I hope you enjoyed the conference!

  • http://www.brentcsutoras.com Brent Csutoras

    I think we are not beholden to anything but the results we seek. Much would be the same argument made as to why people use Google over all the rest.

    It is just simply the results you want. Digg happens to drive results that no other social community can.

    I think more than anything what we teach is how to make quality content and which community favors which content.

    If you want to rank well in SEO Google would tell you that you need to make Quality content. This is the same.

    I think you will notice in my session i said numerous times you must be link worthy and you must have good content.

    How is showing you what a community likes and then helping you make content for them in any way Duping the users or being shallow.

    Anyhow i always enjoy your posts and talking with you. You challenge people alot and ask for serious answers. I just think you are misunderstanding what it is that we do a little.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Chris and Brent — Thanks for chiming in and for the balance in the conversation.

    My hope is that the take away from the post isn’t that each of you were telling people to try and game Digg. If that is the case, I apologize for the misrepresentation.

    The point I was hoping to make was that it seemed some (Neil with his generalizations and humor) of the conversation pointed to tactics that could be less genuine to what the community demands. And if everyone is Digg focused plus Digg users don’t read, but just jockey for the front page, I would think the community would eventually tire of the gaming that goes on there.

    But both of you are right, the quality content wins because the community is smarter than even the most brilliant user. That’s why Digg’s viability is on solid ground.

    It never hurts to pose the question, though.

    Thanks again. I was honored to be the in room with both of you and others this week and learned a great deal from your insights.

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