It takes a certain type of personality to climb the ranks on sites such as Digg (I know, I know, they don’t have ranks anymore). Here are some traits that are common among the most active social newsies.
You would think being social would go without saying, but there is a surprising number of people on these sites exhibiting anti-social behavior. While you’re out there social bookmarking, you’re going to encounter thousands of different people. Be prepared to be social. Approach it as a networking opportunity. Befriend people with similar voting, commenting and submitting habits. Seek to connect with them via IM or email.
Thirst for Content
You would also think being interested in the content found on social news sites would go without saying, but believe it or not, there are quite a few users who bypass the content aspect altogether, opting only to be social. While the social aspects are a key ingredient to social news, it is important to maintain a balance between being social and consuming content.
Awareness of what is happening on and off your chosen social news site at any given time is key. Try to keep up to date with what fellow users are buzzing about. This means continually checking the stories that are being promoted to the front page and attracting the most conversation. Keep an eye on your friends’ activity too.
Keep up to date with what is happening off the site too. After all, the content outside the site is often what drives it. For this, nothing beats a solid RSS reader. Lately I’ve been really appreciating the new implementation of Google Reader. But for power users who want to break big stories, you can’t beat a desktop RSS reader application. For the desktop, I recommend Omea Reader.
Serving the Community
You don’t need to be able to write a lot, but being able to write a compelling headline and a succinct description is a highly underrated skill. As I mentioned earlier, there are plenty of people who do not read the articles, but instead focus on being social. These people often vote based solely off the title and description. This is a practice which I don’t condone whatsoever, but nonetheless it does mean that a good title and description can make the difference between a popular story and an overlooked one.
Much like blogging, if you are knowledgeable in a particular topic, you can carve a niche for yourself in social news. Focusing on a specific topic allows you to keep a pulse on which stories have been submitted and which have not. This tactic, among other things, is what allows users like Roy Schestowitz to routinely submit over 1,000 articles per month to their respective social news site.
… aka obsessive compulsive. Persistence can come naturally as the result of all of some of the above traits. If you are the type of person who has a “more-than-friends” relationship with the refresh button of their browser, then you will be right at home, constantly refreshing the front page, your submissions page, your friends’ submissions page and almost every other page.
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.