Writing Life: StumbleUpon and Your Web Presence
Web Presence for the Writer – Short Articles on Improving Your Internet Profile for Authors
If you read the last Web Presence for the Writer article (all about Google searches), you should be getting the overall goals here — be noticed, but only for the good stuff. Getting your Google returns looking like you want them to is a good first step. After that, there’s about 4,326,754 social networking tools (very precise statistic) that might or might not do you any good at all. I’m still trying them myself, so I can’t weigh in on everything, but I’ll try to visit all of the big ones at least once. Facebook is the obvious first choice, and I hate being obvious (and also trust all of you to have at least a passing familiarity with Facebook), so let’s take a look at StumbleUpon.
What Is StumbleUpon?
I’m so glad you asked.
StumbleUpon is very easy to explain if you use Pandora (and seriously, who doesn’t?) — it’s Pandora, but for webpages instead of songs. You pick some things you’re interested in (writing, say), click the giant button that says “Stumble” on it, and the search engine pulls up a random webpage that it thinks you might like. If you like it you click the thumbs-up graphic, if you hate it you go thumbs-down, and if you could go either way just hit “Stumble” again and keep surfing. The search engine gets smarter and smarter about what you like and don’t like, and the new pages just keep getting better — theoretically.
Help for Writers
Obviously, a tool that lets you waste time on the internet doesn’t scream “writing productivity.” In fact, I may be introducing people to a previously-unknown time-waster here, and I do apologize if that’s the case. The value of StumbleUpon lies in getting other people to Stumble you — your blog, your publications online, your articles on Wikipedia or Google Knol or whatever else you want more exposure for.
The advantage of StumbleUpon from the perspective of someone who wants to be StumbledUpon (as it were) is that the search engine takes a sort of brute-force approach to all new content that’s added. That means that the first time someone gives your webpage a thumbs-up (more on that in a minute), StumbleUpon will start throwing it at anyone whose established preferences even vaguely justify a look at your content. The engine is looking for better data, seeing who is and isn’t into what you’re giving it, and it needs a lot of initial points — meaning a lot of initial views during that first twenty-four hours or so.
After the initial rush, StumbleUpon drops how frequently it’s offering a particular page, and from then on it seems to keep about the same rate of referral unless a couple people happen to “thumbs-up” the site within a short period of time. Then the engine will say “hey, maybe they’re onto something” and start offering to a broader audience again. Pretty simple, right?
So Get Your Writing Stumbled
StumbleUpon relies on user recommendations, so until someone recommends your site, this isn’t a useful tool. The good news is, there’s no rules against self-advertisement. Plan on a ten or fifteen minute time investment the first time you pick up StumbleUpon, but after that you shouldn’t be looking at more than thirty to sixty seconds of work getting everything you put on the web a few hundred hits for free. Generating content that keeps those viewers there is up to you, but the initial data-gathering period once you add a site to StumbleUpon will guarantee that a wide range of people at least glance at it.
So if you haven’t, go to the website and create a profile. Get the browser tool, because without it you won’t be able to automatically “thumbs-up” sites that aren’t in StumbleUpon already, and that’s mostly what you’re interested in doing. Actually Stumbling around and marking things you like or don’t like isn’t necessary, though it can be fun — and it’s nice to have something in your list of “favorites” besides your own stuff, just in case someone does check your profile out. You don’t want to seem too greedy.
Once the browser tool is installed, the work is mostly done. From here on out, every time you add a post to your blog, or put a new page on your home site, or in general get something on the web that you want people to take a look at, click the little blue-and-green StumbleUpon logo as soon as the new content is up. Since you’ll be the first person to “Stumble” that page, you get to write the short summary and review — go ahead and flatter yourself. You’ve earned it; just taking the time to install the browser tool is more effort than most web users are going to.
Just remember that the rush of views will happen during the day or so after you add a page to StumbleUpon, so keep the first visible content as high quality as possible for that period. You don’t want to add a little one-line blog post about being out of town and then Stumble it with a thumbs-up, for example — that’ll just refer people to a really boring post, and they’ll be unlikely to visit your blog again. It’s a shotgun approach to readership, but the barrel’s still got to be pointed in the right direction.
And, of course, be generous — once you have the browser tool, it’s literally one click and a quick, one-sentence summary to add someone else’s content to StumbleUpon as well. If you see something you like, give it the thumbs-up! Odds are they’ll be grateful for the traffic.
Thoughts on using StumbleUpon? Furious with me for introducing you to this new time-waster? Came here as a Stumbler in the first place? Drop a comment; let me know!