…by working hard and contributing to the community.

There are a fair few deal sharing websites like Hot UK Deals or Fat Wallet where a community works together to find different offers, and like content sharing sites like Digg, these deal sites can provide you with a massive amount of traffic if your offer goes hot and gets a lot of exposure.

A common assumption is that these deal websites work like this:

  1. Deals are submitted by impartial users
  2. Users vote for the best deal based on quality
  3. The best deals get the most visibility

In fact, on the whole, the process is more like this:

  1. Deals are submitted by business owner/ affiliate
  2. Submitter requests votes from influence network based on previous vote trading
  3. Influence network  vote in favour of the deal based on previous vote trading
  4. Impartial users see the deal and vote based on quality
  5. The deal goes popular

This would be of no surprise to users of Digg, or indeed, anyone who has ever watched an election, or been in a classroom.  Popularity is hard to achieve, and democracy fails without diplomacy.

Clique voting is not necessarily a problem for users of offer or sharing websites – Ultimately, the net effect of either model above is that they get access to a set of offers or pieces of content that they might not have been able to find otherwise.  It can be a problem for retailers or other on-line traders, because the fact is, without playing the games of the community, the chances of a deal getting any real exposure is very limited.

So, the question is, how do you get a network in place that can support your deals?

Make Friends and Influence People…

In an ideal world, your content would become popular by virtue of its quality, but the reality of social sharing websites is mired in politics and petty trading of votes to gain visibility.
Without investing time in making the right friends on sharing websites, you may as well forget about even uploading your content and adding links, because quite simply they will not attract any interest.
There are 3 main stages to developing your presence on any social sharing website:

  • Building a Profile
  • Building a Network
  • Building a Reputation

Building a Profile

On sharing websites where popularity is currency, it is vitally important to employ a profile that is unconnected to your business.  You should avoid using the name of your company in the name of your profile or any imagery associated with it.
A complete profile is a credible profile, so provide as much information as you can.  It can be tempting to create a false identity on a sharing website, and many people do, however you should not just randomly create an identity, as it can be hard to maintain an artificial identity long term.
The amount of information that you present to other users should always be tailored to the content that you want to promote.  Creating a false identity that you imagine will attract a lot of followers is no good if it is has no credibility – a 23 year old female who likes house music and designer lingerie might not have real authority on an IT news website  discussing server hardware.

Your Name

In the same way as you will struggle to find a 3 letter domain name, finding a short and memorable name on a lot of social sharing websites can be difficult, so finding the most appropriate name possible can be a struggle.  Ideally, find something that is memorable,and appropriate.  Special Characters, numbers and leet spelling can cause mistakes when people try and enter the user name, and also cause confusion with anyone who has a similar name, so ideally you should avoid them.

Your Avatar

In the same way as you want your company logo to be easily recognisable, you want the same for your avatar.  If it stands out on the page, other users will be able to recognise it more easily when they are scrolling down the page.  Choose something simple and coloured so that it stands out from the website. In most cases, the version of your avatar that gets displayed in most discussions will be quite small, so you need something that scales well.  Photos don’t always work that well as an avatar, so try and steer reasonably clear.
A good rule of thumb is to choose an avatar that makes sense at 50px square, as this is a common size in discussions.  One reason to have a strong logo style avatar is that it is displayed every time you post, comment, share a message or shout to other users.  If your fellow users start to see your avatar voting for their content, they will find it easier to pick it out when you request help from them.

Building a Network

The key to getting your content to go popular is to promote it directly to as many interested people as possible.  This means developing contacts who read and vote for similar content to what you are interested in.
Your first step in building a targeted and efficient network of advocates should be to look for people who currently vote for similar content to yours.  If you are promoting special offers or deals, look for the people who frequently appear in the list of people who voted for a link. You should befriend people in moderation – a good rule of thumb is to request friendship from a number less than 20% of your current total number of friends on any one day, and to be consistent.
Bear in mind, that not everyone will want to reciprocate your friendship at first, but it can be worth being especially nice to very influential people, as they may come on board later.

The key with growing your network of friends is to do it steadily, and do it within the context of the rest of the user community – keep an eye on what constitutes a popular user, and also the number of friends are needed to hit the first page of a particular website on a consistent basis.
If the number of friends that popular people on the website have is comparatively lower than above, then do not exceed it – ultimately, you only need enough friends to be competitive.
The ratio of people you follow to the number of people who follow you on social websites is often an important measure of your individual importance on the website.  Although in the initial period of being on a website, you will typically be following more people than usual in a bid to build your individual network, over time, you should always push for a network of friends on a social sharing website that is asymetric in number – a good rule of thumb is to follow around 30% of the number of people who are following you.  On some networks, it can take some time for your profile to get noticed enough to have people actively requesting friendship, however the more active you are, and the more you participate in the community, the more people will want to associate with you.
As with the people who you follow normally, never behave randomly, be selective.  Look for people who are active in the verticals that you want to promote, and who regularly vote on other people’s submissions.  The last thing that you want to do is acquire a lot of followers who consider themselves too important to reciprocate .

Things you should look for in your friends

Everything that you look for in friends on sharing networks should be considered in order to increase the chances that you have of making your own content more popular.  With this in mind, look for people who:

  • Are active in voting for the same subject as you want to promote
  • Have more followers than they follow
  • Regularly promote content other than their own to their followers
  • Regularly comment on the content they promote

People who fulfil the criteria above are the exact kind of people that you want to work with because everything that they do will help to provide your content with a boost.  Provided that your own activities on the website are not counter to their own goals, and hold them back.

Profile your Friends

Social networking is all about people, and most networks provide you with information about other members that you should use in order to make the most of marketing to them.  When each person becomes a friend or a fan, spend some time reading their profile, and add their details to a database or spreadsheet.  You could spend forever getting as much information as possible about the people you are working with, however top line data tends to be useful enough to help you to segment the market when you are sending out messages and requesting help to promote content or votes.
When you first make a connection, you should just capture some top line information, which you should then look to review and update on a reasonably regular basis:
Name Gender Member Since Friends Followers Votes Submissions Gone Hot Voted Shouted
James Male 1 year 250 500 3650 30 10 Yes Yes
The reason you want to track information about gender is to ensure that you use your audience as effectively as possible – try and target people who are most appropriate to your product and content.
People who regularly vote for your content and also promote it to their followers are amongst the most useful partners on social websites, and you should maintain a higher level of communication with them than any of your other followers and friends.
Absolute numbers can be misleading, you may come across people who are new to the website who could be more powerful allies, so try to factor in performance as percentage, and compare this way:
Name Gender Member Since Friends /

Follower

Votes / Day Hot Submissions Voted Shouted
James Male 1 year 0.5 10 0.1 Yes Yes
By using the same data above in a more easy to compare way, you can then provide a comparison between users more easily that will help you to judge more easily the strength of different partners, and judge who you should be working with.
Be careful of becoming friends with any people who are too far outside the norm on any statistics – someone who has made thousands of votes in a short period might be a spammer or an automated program, so any effort made in building a relationship with them would likely be a waste of time.

Building a Reputation

Activity is absolutely essential within any social media community if you want to be heard and keep yourself in front of mind.  Within a sharing website, where you will rely on your community to help to promote your content, you need to reciprocate, and do the same for them.
A great way of thinking about how best to build your reputation on a sharing website – or any other social medium is to be SAFE:

  • Selective
  • Active
  • Fair
  • Entertaining

Being Selective means not just following everyone, or voting for everything – you should stick to following people who are a good match for you, and vote for content that is complementary to your won – most sharing websties do monitor the volume of things you like over time, and will eventually reduce the value of each of your votes, so use them wisely.
Being Active means visiting the site regularly, spending time reviewing content, voting for things that are good, and also voting against things that are low quality or spammy (generally avoid voting against your most important friends), and commenting.  Also, ensure that you are regularly submitting high quality content that is useful to other members – keep the amount of content from any one website to less than 10% of your total volume.
Being Fair means that you should ensure that the level of activity that you request from your friends does not exceed the level of effort that you put into helping them.  Reciprocity is important on social websites – if someone shouts your content to their followers, you should do the same when appropriate, if someone votes for your content, do the same.
Being Entertaining means being the kind of person who benefits the community.  Make sure that you are not repetitive in what you provide, and that you contribute to discussions to keep them alive.  If all you ever promote on the website is variations on a theme, people will soon get bored, and stop wanting to work with you.

Tips for Success

When you are submitting content that you want to capture the attention of the public and become successful, it is absolutely essential that you do everything you can to maximise your chances.

View the competition

There is no point in promoting something at the same time as another similar item – even if your content is better, or your offer is more compelling, users will be split between the two, and both would be likely to suffer.

Timing is Essential

You need to make sure that you take full benefit of being popular.  It is always easier to get to the top of the popular lists during quiet times of the day, but the rewards for this are minimal. Think about the normal usage patterns for your website in terms of number of converting visitors, as this is when your content is of most interest to them, and schedule content to be launched at a similar time.
One of the things that will make your profile stronger and more authoritative within any social sharing website is the number of your posts that become popular, and if there is a time of day when you find it easier to get a lot of votes for your content and make it hot, this is useful.  When you are publishing content that you want to go popular, but you know will not be successful in terms of traffic, you should ensure that you use content that is of lower value to you, or is from a related website rather than your own.

Use Your Data

You should treat the title and description that you give to the promotional content the same consideration as you would to any advert that you run.  Look at your CTR and conversion data from any paid search campaigns that you are running to see what kind of language resonates best with your customers.
When you are publicising offers, consider when to use percentage discounts and when to use absolute amounts.  If you have an item that usually costs £100 on offer for £50, there are many ways that you can structure the offer:

  • 50% off Product X
  • £50 off Product X
  • Product X for just £50
  • Half Price Product X
  • Two for One on Product X
  • Buy one Product X, get one Free

Rank performance of different adverts that you have run in the past, but also look at what kinds of offers are performing best on your target website.  Search audiences will exhibit some behavioural differences from social media, so bear this in mind, and never stick religiously with “what you know” – sometimes the market knows better.

Use Your Brand

If you have worked to promote your brand, make sure that you leverage this effort within your social listing – if people recognise your product and branding, and associate good things with it, then they will be more likely to respond to it.
In addition to your core corporate brand, remember that you are also working to promote your social identity on whichever webiste you are promoting via, so concentrate on delivering a reliable standard of content.

Shouting Quietly

A key feature of sharing websites is the ability to recommend content or “shout” about it.  The terminology will differ depending on the site you are using, but it is pretty much an ever present function.
A mistake that a lot of people make is to simply shout the same message to all of their followers – this is impersonal, and generally results in fewer of them taking action than they otherwise might.
You should record every person that you shout to in your database, and log what kind of a response you get from them – that way you can refine your approach – also, by segmenting the people that you are in contact with, you can avoid generic messaging and send different content to different people to make your communication more personal – and therefore, more effective.

External Promotion

No man is an island, and this is true of offers websites.  If you really want to do well, make sure that you post your offers via a dedicated Twitter account (Yourcompanyoffers) or via whichever network has the closest demographic match to your target customers.

Track Things

In order to demonstrate a realistic ROI from any activity that you carry out on a website, you should look at ways of monitoring the resulting traffic.  Most analytics will track referrers from different domains, and provided that you are able to assign some kind of value per visitor to a channel, it is important to do this.
You should also ensure that you are able to separate out traffic that your work has contributed from any other traffic in order to be able to adequately attribute value to the social media campaign.
As most sharing websites apply URL filters such as Nofollow to outbound links in order to reduce the amount of SEO benefit that they offer in a bid to fight spam, you should consider appending some kind of custom variable that is unique to each offer or content that you promote:

domain.com/offerpage.html?channel=socmed&source=deals&id=12345

You can then track each offer individually to monitor the success of individual campaigns right through from the wording used, to the number of votes, to the number of sales.

Return on Investment?

Success is rarely accidental, but it is important to ensure that the level of success is not negatively disproportionate to the effort made.
The one truth about any kind of social media activity is that you only get out what you are prepared to put in.  The more time you invest in building up your profile and demonstrating your commitment to a particular website, the more visibility you will have, and the better the results you will get from it are.  Where there is a tangible goal for the activity – such as increased sales of a special offer, or a high volume of traffic to a particular page, we can demonstrate a tangible return on investment.

One Response to Make Loads of Sales on Deals Websites…

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