People often ask me what drew me to the world of social news. This is a question that has more possible answers now than when I started using Digg. Some of the answers also provide insights as to why it is so hard to stop participating in social news once you’ve started.
Before the age of social news sites, I used to work in an office with an open-concept layout. The employees there would frequently IM links to current events to everyone in the office. People would read it and then shout out comments or witty remarks about it. This was the original social news for me. The environment on Digg reminded me of that.
The thing that hooks many people, and the thing that initially hooked me, is the first time a submission of theirs gets promoted to the front page. There is a small rush that comes from knowing you’ve gotten the word out about something interesting. It can be likened to the feeling of leveling up in a role playing game. And just like leveling up, it motivates you to go for the next level.
Other users dive into the social news pool with dollar signs in their eyes. Netscape hires people to professionally bookmark for them and Newsvine has ad revenue sharing. Content producers drool at the possibility of being on the front page of these sites. SEO consultants have begun offering Social Media Optimization services for their clients. There are even some sites that rely on Digg to serve the volume of ads they promise their sponsors.
Still other users have had social news “forced” upon them. When Netscape launched their revamped social news format in June, some of their users who were accustomed to the portal were disappointed. So disappointed were they that they began registering their displeasure in the form of articles that they submitted to the site, thereby unwittingly getting drawn into the process. Before long many of them settled in and their protests vanished.
Once you’ve been drawn in you’re bound to encounter another hook: the social atmosphere. The more you participate, the more people with similar interests you will connect with. I often find myself considering these people when I read articles. The depths of these relationships can vary from online acquaintances to business relationships. Several friends of mine have landed consultant positions as a result of their connections on Digg. I’m waiting patiently to celebrate the first time 2 social bookmarkers meet, fall in love and get married (Headline: “It Was Love at First Digg”).
And once someone gets into social news that deep, they rarely turn back. If I had a nickel for every time a fellow social bookmarker has told me they’re “resigning” from Digg or Netscape or Newsvine, I would need a very, very large nickel storage medium. Sure enough, they’re back in the saddle within hours or days. This retention of users is one of the many reasons why socially driven news is going to have a lasting impact on the way we consume content.
Derek van Vliet is a Toronto, Ontario native who has been programming for most of his life. In the last year he has been active in social news. He is currently a top 10-ranked user on Digg where he goes by the name BloodJunkie. He is also a professional social bookmarker (aka Navigator) on Netscape, where he goes by the name Neophile. Check his blog at http://neothoughts.com.