Blogging experts and social media marketing experts frequently write about how important it is to build up a network of friends on social bookmarking sites, and even encourage careful gaming of the system by email and instant messenger.
That is gaming the system purely for their own benefit.
They might also frequently suggest you Digg their content, or add them to your bookmarks, or we could also add to that list “Add Me To Your Technorati Favorites”, or “Subscribe to my feed”.
What Benefit Do You Get
From Taking That Action?
- Digg – You get very little benefit at all for taking that action, because most A-list bloggers really aren’t interested in reciprocating the favor – if you do it enough to get noticed, you might gain the occasional link which can help you gain readers
- Other Bookmarking – Again, don’t expect any reciprocity even if you write a good post
- Technorati Favorites – The A-Listers in general can’t see any value in the Technorati Favorite System, haven’t reviewed it in depth, and don’t use it extensively themselves, yet they frequently ask you to favorite them
- Subscribing To Feeds –
Subscribe to their feed and you are guaranteed success– I am sure many bloggers only subscribe to the blogs of A-listers, because they are the only blogs they can trust to get the best information. The information might be good, but that isn’t going to bring you blogging success
I need to be very clear about a few things
- I still read A-list blogs (in my feed reader)
- I still link to A-list blogs
- I still Digg and bookmark posts from A-list blogs that I think are good
Reciprocity and Benefits in Marketing
In internet marketing some of the most powerful tactics are:-
- Providing valuable information and benefits upfront, and at a later date converting your warm audience
- Offering an incentive or bonus for taking an action such as joining a mailing list
- Joint ventures such as free giveaways where lots of people send their traffic to a particular site, and in exchange have a chance to increase the size of their mailing lists and possibly earn some money form one-time offers
- Polls and questionnaires to help you respond to the needs of your audience
Unless you have something amazingly unique to offer in the way of information, or something potentially extremely profitable, you are not going to have access to people on the top rung of the ladder.
Reciprocity and Benefits in Blogging
Rand Fishkin at SEOmoz often refers to the “Linkerati”, which are those people who can provide links to your site, thus giving your content and overall site lots of Google Juice, to help you rise in the search engines, and also give you some traffic to maybe increase your audience.
Note:I am linking to Rand/SEOmoz simply because he coined the phrase, not because I ever expect Rand to link to me
As a blogger, I am going to suggest that you forget about A-list linkerati, and concentrate as much attention as you can on B-list linkerati and your own readers.
Target your content to your readers or the ones you potentially want to gain, because they are the ones who need to benefit from your content. Don’t alienate your core readership by watering down your content to please the A-list.
Over time, as your core readership expands, you can become noticed by the A-list linkerati in your own niche, but that connection is more likely to come via a 3rd party blogger or through a social media site.
Addressing The Needs of Your Audience
I have had a few people leave comments in the past that a lot of what I write is a little over their head currently, or that a particular post might be too long.
I made a concious decision 6 months ago not to write many “Top 10 tips” type articles on this blog. The core content isn’t intended to be a beginners guide or introduction to any particular topic, though I am always willing to answer questions in the comments, and lots of people take advantage of my contact form.
One of the things I have learned is that even your most fervent readers will miss posts, or skip them. They will also skip related posts links and avoid taking a look in categories or going tag browsing.
They will quite often suffer in silence.
One of the things I try hard to do is read or visit reader’s blogs. Sometimes it is hard to get too involved with the commenting, so it might end up being a drive by answer, but you can always follow up with further questions by email (and many do). I did however note in my post on blogging productivity that commenting on other people’s blogs is not productive, at least in many ways.
There comes a point where you can spread yourself too thin, and you would be better off answering questions on your own blog and possibly linking through.
But to answer those questions being raised you have to know about the discussions in the first place, and that requires at least trying to read as much as you can in the time allocated.
I recently went into quite some detail about all the methods I am looking at to help me read more of the blogs my readers write – as my subscriber base increases, it is becoming more and more of a problem, I have significantly slowed down my blog posts over the last 2 months due to the time it takes responding to comment threads on other blogs.
Some of that experimentation is coming under fire from many notable bloggers.
A few bloggers have already had a chance to respond to the criticism so I am going to link to them here.
On DoshDosh there is a very in depth post about the motivation in exchanging Technorati Favorites. and covering the potential effect. Maki doesn’t fully agree with the OPML import method I introduced because it isn’t as personal. If you have 1000 blogs being rotated through your Technorati for the next year, there is a good chance you are going to see something of interest on all of them… well maybe, but there are some bugs.
Elaine goes back to her prom days, and also likes pushing the boundaries a bit. Suddenly a collection of 2000 bloggers can be used for other things.
You could probably pick up links to certain memes and find some really high quality blogs, and then convert the list into a high quality OPML file of blogs on a particular theme.
Gary Lee also related about his own experience in running the Technorati Train. Not quite so in-depth, but for me the most significant part was the conclusion:-
I will continue to use this feature on Technorati and believe that it will continue to give me access and exposure to some sites that I probably will never have found for myself. For those who question the intergrity of this practice, I would just suggest that you first closely take a look at what you have been doing before overly criticizing the marketing practices of your peers.
I also respect the decision of Kieron to only selectively reciprocate.
Technorati Gains From People (ab)Using The Favorite Feature
Engtech has saved me a lot of time, because one of the things I was going to write was desciption of all the geeky things you can do with Technorati Favorites. He has also written about a number of bugs or things that need fixing and I am going to add to that list.
- How hard it is to clean your favorites list – lots and lots of page reloading if you want to delete comments feeds, twitter, search results etc.
- My Favorites should have equal authority – this might seem obvious, but if you have selcted certain blogs as your favorites, you would expect them all to show up someime or other on your front page. This doesn’t happen. The blogs with the least authority are skipped, and you can end up with 4 copies of the same blog post plus comments on your front page, and all the content from other blogs never appearing.
The same happens in the RSS feeds, and my sidebar syndication unfairly doesn’t include as many blogs as it should.
- Importing OPML – I want to pre-assign tags when I import, thus I could for instance grab a list of 400+ SEO blogs, and import it under an SEO tag immediately. Duplicate entries would just get a new tag
- The Searching of Favorites isn’t giving me any results
Based upon the bugs Engtech has found, and my own experience, it seems to me these features were never really put through their paces before, and certainly not by the people criticising the favorite exchanges (who still ask their readers to favorite without giving a benefit for doing it)
As far as I have seen, no mainstream tech blog has ever actually done an extensive review including the various ways Technorati Favorites can be used.
If They Saw a Value In Reciprocation
Or Using Technorati Favorites
The Detractors Would Be Reciprocating Like Mad
Lets take Twitter as an example:-
This is a screenshot from Twitterholic, where I have highlighted all those accounts that are practicing reciprocation to a large extent, or have invited a massive amount of people as friends in the hope of them being reciprocated.
I grabbed the top 21, just so I could mention Stephen Colbert, not that he is actually doing any reciprocation.
Among the reciprocators are Robert Scoble, John Edwards, Jason Calacanis (though not 100%), Chris Pirillo, and the extremely smart social networking specialist Webtickle added maybe 5000 friends the day he setup a Twitter account.
These are people who want to communicate with others in the blogosphere or Twittersphere and Twitter encourage reciprocation because every time someone adds you as a friend you get an email.
Both Bumpzee and Blogcatalog also send emails notifying about new friends, and I expect both services will add lots of features to take advantage of this
Hang on a minute… MyBlogLog used to also send emails for everyone that friended you automatically, and people complained about that being abused, and I was among them.
What is the difference?
With Twitter it is like an invitation to enter 2 way communication
With Technorati, no emails are sent, and if you friend lots of people maybe using the OPML import you can use that to make your searching more relevant, and for creating useful shared feeds.
With Bumpzee and Blogcatalog I have generally reciprocated a fair amount, because everyone using the service so far has been quality with no spam – both services have blogs being vetted for inclusion, I am not sure how members are vetted these days. Most of the people I recognise as my readers, so of course I am going to reciprocate.
With MyBlogLog, currently there still is little use for having friends other than if you want to allow only certain people access to your contact information on various networks, and to segregate messages between friends and strangers. Hopefully they will start accelerating their development as I saw they are hiring 2 new developers.
Technorati Reciprocal Favoriting
I have always offered benefits for people to add me to their favorites. I reciprocate, because I truely want to read what my readers are writing, and whilst I started off just using the Technorati supplied widgets, I now have a Technorati Favorites RSS feed in my sidebar.
Unlike MyBlogLog Communities, I get to read my Technorati Favorites in a single stream of RSS or on the Technorati site using pagination and I have always had my Technorati Favorites in my Google Reader Account as well.
I can’t guarantee to read every post, but I definately skim them when I have time.
The other thing it guarantees is when I am researching new posts, I get to read what my readers have said about a particular subject, and respond to them, and not the A-Listers.
I do however reject the notion that services that provide an OPML import feature don’t want people to actually use it to import feeds.
Other Ways to Add Incentives
Andy Beal is offering a Wii for favorites, similar to his earlier MyBlogLog efforts.
Jordan seems to have the hots for data, so I am also going to offer some.
During the last month I have had 562 visitors from Technorati
80 of those visits came from the Technorati home page (as in from people who had favorited me)
26 visitors from the Technorati Top100 Favorites Page
51 Visitors for my andybeard.eu page on Technorati
In addition I show my favorites in my sidebar, which shows up as links in Technorati, just link blogroll links – so my favorites all get a nice link from me without losing too much Google Juice to a huge long blogroll.
That link however also gets seen in the WordPress console, so brings in a few visitors. I would attribute at least 50 uniques for that.
Also important, I have probably gained at least 50 subscribers to my RSS or email syndication that I can attribute and quite a few links, though I am also giving out a lot of links.
For an established blog, these numbers would not be looked on as significant.
I have also spent much more time writing about Technorati Favorites than taking part in the exchanges, but as one of my core topics for this blog is blog optimization and blog search, plus various blog social networks, that time invested was worthwhile.
Some Ideas for Technorati, and My Readers
If Technorati provide a way to tag OPML when you import, then users of the service could create packages of their favorite blogs around a certain subject. Other feed reader services have default subscription packages, why not allow Technorati users to create their own with the ability to import them under their own designated tag.
Proactive Technorati users could then share these OPML distributions
Feed Link Chain?
Yep, another chain starting up, this time with RSS Feeds – seems to be a long list and I couldn’t find any mention on Google Blog Search, so maybe he is starting it.
The problem is with full feeds in your feed reader, there are only a certain number you can read. Sure again it is interesting OPML but there is no way to gauge reciprocation, and the list I have seen gives absolutely no details about the blogs to give an incentive to subscribe to a particular one.
Also why all the manual clicking to add people to a feed reader. Why not just distribute an OPML file if you really want to do it.
It has been mentioned that this will help boost monetization potential, but advertisers aren’t stupid, and nor are TLA / ReviewMe / Sponsored Reviews / TLB / PPP etc