Before discussing the use of social bookmarking as a business tool, we should first have a quick look at the phenomenon and discuss why it has become so popular. By understanding that, then it will become easier to understand potential business uses. The uses outlined here are just that: outlines, since the particular applications to which these sites can be put will be specific to your type of online business.
The original intention of social bookmarking is to enable you to store websites and pages that you have found and want to refer to later, and also to refer them to others that you think might benefit from them or just enjoy visiting them. You can bookmark any type of web content from articles to blogs to videos, and to start doing so you have first to register with one or more social bookmarking sites.
Among the more popular of such services are Digg, Reddit, Del.icio.us, Blink, Furl and StumbleUpon. They are easy to join, and having done so all you have to do to make a bookmark is simply to add a button or chicklet linking to the specific social bookmarking site, and click on it. The URL of the page you are viewing will be added to your bookmarks and you can categorize it by means of tags. Tags are no more than the keywords that you feel best describe the page you are viewing. You can use just the one tag or a number of them.
All of your bookmarks within each site are accessible by clicking on one of the tags in your ‘tag cloud’, which is basically a list of tags, although it is possible to categorize them in order to make it easier to find bookmarks on specific topics.
So how can you use social bookmarking as a business tool? For a start it is a way to increase the visibility of your blogs, websites and even your affiliate programs, and increased visibility leads to more visitors. Social bookmarking sites can provide you with back-links that will improve your Google PageRank: this in turn can improve your search engine results position. Because they are free you have nothing to lose by using these sites in this way, unless you overdo it and are regarded as a spammer.
Here are the steps needed to use bookmarking sites effectively for your business while avoiding the spamming trap.
Let’s assume that you have registered with a social bookmarking site such as del.icio.us, and are ready to go. The same steps here will apply to the others, and like most other aspects of an online business, best results will be obtained by using as many social bookmarking sites as you can find. Repetition brings best results.
1. Check out the site. Not all social bookmarking sites have the same type of users, and it is essential that there are other users on the site that are liable to be interested in your website content and products. Check out the blogs and websites that get the highest number of bookmarks – that is often a good guide as to the type of user, and if you can produce content similar to the more popular stuff on the bookmarking site in question, then you should be able to use that site in your business.
2. Produce content close to that which gets most bookmarks on each specific site, and twist it towards your business. It is possible to use practically any social bookmarking site this way if you are clever enough. The bookmarks that you make of your own web pages or blogs should contain good content that is interesting, entertaining or educational, and not outright sales material. Leave the conversion of traffic to sales until you actually have them on your website, and then provide links to your sales pages. People are more liable to purchase from you if you have shown expertise in the subject in hand by solving a problem or presenting a new angle on a specific topic.
3. Avoid the advice given in some quarters to open several accounts with the same social bookmarking site. That is liable to damage your reputation, and at worst can result in the site banning you and canceling all of your registrations. Even if under different names and email addresses, they can identify you through your IP address.
These are the general ways in which you can begin using social bookmarking as a business tool in order to generate new business. However, there is more to these sites than just getting business, and they are useful as administrative tools in their own right. Here are some ways in which they can help make your business easier to run:
1. Use social bookmarking as a cataloging system for the knowledge base of your business. Any employees that come across sites that deal with specific aspects of your business can bookmark them under specific tags predefined by you to be used for certain types of information. Good restaurants and excellent hotels for business clients, inexpensive sources of office equipment and reference materials relating to your business are all categories that you can predefine, and that you and your employees can build up on approved social bookmarking sites.
2. Use them when seeking new suppliers or customers. Staff can make a bookmark when they come across websites or blog postings of potential clients or suppliers for specific services you are seeking. Let’s say you are seeking a new limo company to transport important clients to and from airports. After a while you can access the social bookmarking site to find out what your staff has bookmarked, and so make your choice much easier.
3. If you are able to establish if your clients, customers or vendors have a registration with a social bookmarking site, you can register with the same site yourself and bookmark your own blog postings and web content. If you get advance notice that a particular potential client is seeking a new service or supplier, then you can get ahead of the field by making a bookmark on the site that they use.
One of the advantages of such sites is that the keywords, or tags, are user defined rather than search engine defined. They should therefore define the content in a more human way that the machines would. If you are looking for specific information you should be able to find it easier by using the language that others would also use. There is a disadvantage to this in that misspellings are common, so make sure that your spelling is correct because the social bookmarking site will not ask you if you are sure, as a search engine such as Google does.
There are many ways in which to use social bookmarking as a business tool, both as an administration and a traffic and sales tool. Once you understand how such sites work, then you will doubtless find many more uses in addition to those outlined above.