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Lessons Learned from Digg’s Devaluation

Posted on by in Blog

Image credit: Mashable.com.

Human behavior is a funny thing. Literally and figuratively. Tastes, opinions, and actions all turn on a dime, especially as it applies to trends in social media. The stunning change of fate for the social news site Digg illustrates this beautifully.

Digg began in 2004 as a news story conglomeration site with a social bent that allows users to share the most popular news stories found on other sites like Twitter and Facebook. Its aim was to put the people in charge of media; to let the users decide what was news. With $50 million in venture capital investments, at its high point, Digg was on Google’s radar with a $200 million purchase price. Digg did eventually sell – to Betaworks, for only $500,000 dollars. What they missed, according to a recent post on WPMU.org, were crucial lessons in human behavior, the very thing that makes social media social in the first place.

The piece about Digg was posted on WPMU.org listed 5 things that bloggers can learn from this debacle. Here’s a summary:

1. Being First is Not As Important as Being Best

Being the best gives you longevity; being first usually means you’re giving someone else a chance to piggy-back off you and come up with something better. The WPMU post notes that “virtual technology has made it much easier to backwards engineer an idea. . .even if you come up with a great idea today, someone with a better understanding of human behavior can repackage your idea and make it popular before people even know who you are.”

2. Users Are Your Customers

Advertisers are NOT your customers; users are. Yes, you need to keep advertisers happy, but not at the expense of keeping your audience happy. Without that user traffic, you have no site, and no case for getting advertising in the first place.

3. Focus on “People Rank,” Not Page Rank

This goes along with item two above. The phrase “people rank” an upcoming book “Stop Marketing and Be Remarkable,” by Tony Montano, owner of Review Buzz. You must produce content that people connect with, virally if possible, not just content that has dozens of key word insertions and back linking with no real “likes” or “shares.”

4. Value Social Promotion Over Self Promotion

Nobody likes a braggart, and nobody likes a bore. Look for and share content that is promoted by more than just the author, and keep your sources varied and current. Good content can go viral, upping your social status and making self-promotion unnecessary.

5. Get the Right Bait to Hook ‘Em

Just as you wouldn’t put cabbage on a hook to bag a great white, you shouldn’t give your users anything but the best content on which to munch.

As an example, WPMU notes, “Digg was very popular in the beginning, but their low standards when it came to content book marketing and publishing severely decreased the value of their online real estate. There are a TON of garbage articles bookmarked on Digg, proving that any website with low quality standards is just asking to become a low value content farm.”

As of August 1, Digg.com is back to version 1 as a start up under Betaworks’ leadership. In a recent blog post, the editors noted they’ve learned that “at its best, content is a dynamic blend of smart algorithms, smart networks, and smart people” and that “our users are our first, second and third priority.” Let’s hope that philosophy includes a keen eye toward trends in human behavior and the ability to anticipate the next change in tide.

Do you agree with these lessons provided by WPMU? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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