Whether you’re an aspiring author or you’re launching a new business, publicity is all important. Finding a means of promoting your ventures in an efficient and cost-effective way is paramount – and the web has given us all new ways of achieving this goal. From social media to banner ads, the internet is full of different ways to advertise and promote, but how are you to know what works and what doesn’t? Take link sharing sites, for example. A lot of people claim that sites such as Reddit, Digg and Delicous are invaluable resources for aspiring business people. They allow users to post their own content for review by the community, who can then ‘vote’ on or recommend it to the whole site. But are link sharing sites a good means of promotion, and should you sign up and try to reach the wider audience they can offer?
Beware of looking like a ‘spammer’
If you’ve ever visited a link sharing site – especially the new or upcoming sections – you’ll have seen just how many other people there are trying to push their services. And, unfortunately, a good proportion of these people can’t really be described as reputable. In fact, the word ‘spammer’ would be a much more appropriate moniker. The reason that sites like Reddit attract spammers is that they offer anyone the ability to share content and get instant traffic. There will always be someone who clicks every link, no matter how spammy it is. But that doesn’t mean this traffic is reliable. In fact, you can almost be guaranteed that these people will never visit again. It’s a false economy. What you need to do as a promoter is prepare something that’s valuable to the community – and that’s an art form in itself.
Don’t be too pushy
In order to take advantage of the thousands of people that use social link sharing sites, you need to be able to offer them something. If you’re an author, for example, you can’t come off as simply trying to sell your books. Instead, you need to solve a problem or offer some insight for free, and offer the book on the side. This will help the community feel like you’re actively contributing and not just marketing at them. If you simply post a link to buy your book, you’ll quickly see how much of a bad idea that can be. Traffic will spike then bottom out, and none of the links you post again will gain much traction. It’s a slippery slope.
Bide your time and do things properly
By rushing in and posting poorly thought out content to sites like Digg, you may get a quick shot in the arm in terms of traffic, but it’s very unlikely that this will convert to sales. Instead, you want to craft something of value to the community, and only post it once. If the community sees that you’re posting your link over and over again, you’ll end up doing more damage than good to your reputation. It’s hard enough to make a positive impact without shooting yourself in the foot. As mentioned above, the best thing you can do to make a splash on link sharing websites is to post something that offers the community something, and offer the option to buy something too. For example, as an author you may want to post an insightful article that will be of interest to the community, then include a link to your eBook in your sidebar. It’s a more subtle, and generally more effective, means of self-promotion.
The bottom line
So can link sharing sites be a good form of publicity? Yes they can, but they can quickly become a double edged sword. It’s easy to get swept away by the numbers than can be driven to your website to see your offerings, but if you’re viewed as ‘spammy’ for even a moment, these communities can quickly turn on you. There have been numerous horror stories about companies that have acted unscrupulously, been found out trying to ‘game’ sites like Reddit, and then suffered a serious PR nightmare. The bottom line is: be careful. They’re a great tool, but need to be used in the right way to make the best impact.
Imogen Reed is a full time freelance writer and researcher who specialises in marketing and branding. In her spare time she likes to spend time with her young family exploring the great outdoors, making use of her all-terrain mountain buggy and enjoying all things natural and organic.