I’ve written twice about social bookmarking at 14thC – the only topic I’ve covered more than once and back-to-back no less. Yahoo! is clearly convinced that social bookmarking is the way of the future with their purchase of Flickr, Upcoming, del.icio.us and now *maybe* Digg (rumors abound) all along side their own “MY Web” that “moves beyond bookmarks”.
Add to that the comments made by Yahoo! Director of Search (France), Olivier Parriche, who said, “Yahoo is going to change in the following months and years. We’re going towards “social-search”. We’re going to use users behaviors, comments, users choices and the communities where they evolve to improve our engine.”
Google is also experimenting with this, though in a reverse sort of way. Instead of adding bookmarks users can now remove results from their SERPs.
It’s clear the search engines are looking to give users what they want, but this may come at the cost of relevancy.
I have a list of more than 20 SB sites now. Many are obscure but some have sprung to life in just a few weeks. There’s big traffic to be had here, and where there’s traffic *someone* will find a way to make money.
Expect more to come. The applications are nearly limitless and marketing gurus and data miners can do a lot with the information garnered by SB users. Imagine knowing what sites appeal to your customers. You could build a design and include content based on factors that are similar accross your user-base.
With all the hype and popularity of these new SB communities there are some dangers to watch out for:
1. SB Users are prone to peer presure. Some SB users vote for sites because everyone else voted for it! Depending on the site, popular URLs may get promoted based on the fact that they are getting promoted. Put another way, if a user sees an article is shooting up they may mark that article so they have it to look at later – this vote does not mean the article is any good.
2. SB Users are not experts. As Rand pointed out this morning, articles that sound convincing may get voted up even when they are not accurate. This can do a lot of harm to any industry. Imagine a bogus article about didease-ridden cattle making it’s way to another country. That country may block the passage of cattle hurting the rancher’s proffits. And once cattle is blocked from crossing a border, especially if a disease is attached to it, it becomes news. At this point the stock market is affected…
This may sound far-fetched but I really don’t think it is.
3. Some SB sites influence the SEs already, some don’t. Del.icio.us does not give link-pop but Digg and Furl do. The rest I’m not sure about… yet!
4. SB Sites are easy to tamper with. Simply by creating multiple accounts you can give your links multiple votes. Another phenominon is SB “gangs” where groups get together formaly or informaly in forums and other places just to vote each others sites up.
5. SB Users are trendy, not loyal. Most SB Users prefer FireFox over IE but use Windows XP over Mac or Linux. This shows that they are technical to some degree but more likely following the trend of FireFox popularity. Also, FireFox has plug-ins for most SB sites making tagging more convenient.
6. SB Sites give spikes of traffic, not steady growth. Depending on your strategy this could be important. “Link Bait” sites may pick up additional backlinks from SB Users that helps them long-term, but the average link submitted will get a few hundred hits in the first day and dwindle fast after that.
7. Some SB Users are weekend warriors. I’ve noticed that links submitted on the weekend outperform links submitted during the work week.
8. SB Users have a lot of pride. While this may be the most practical and useful post I’ve made about it just the fact that it mentions negative aspects of social bookmarking would get it panned in the SB Sites. Go figure.
9. Social bookmarking is getting competitive without competitive differentiation. While more and more sites spring up the benefits and differences between the sites remain cosmetic. Some have different social customs or likes but the only way to find out what those are is by testing them out yourself. We should soon start seeing SB Communities spring up around niche markets instead of the general “news” categories that exists so far.
There’s more information about social bookmarking at 14th Colony including other things to watch out for and specific site reviews.