Even the very biggest social bookmarking website, Twitter, is only being used by just over one in four law firms. Making use of a social bookmarking tool can make your job easier when you've been assigned to create a social bookmark presence for your law firm. As inbound links have become more important, social bookmarking tools have proliferated all over the web. Before you decide to purchase any social bookmarking tool, read this guide. You'll find out why not all social bookmarking tools do what they claim—and why some could actually be damaging to your law firm's marketing campaigns.
How Does Social Bookmarking Work?
When you create a traditional site bookmark in your web browser, you can come back and visit a website any time you like, even if you don't remember the URL. When you create a social bookmark, you're not just marking a website for your own later perusal, you're also showing it to other people who might be interested. They, in turn, can share it with their friends, and can also comment on it to make their opinions on your link known.
Because so many links come into the biggest social bookmarking hubs every minute, the people using these websites need some way to sort through the links and determine which ones are most likely to be high quality. The solution used by most social bookmarking websites is a voting system that allows people to vote on their favorite submissions. Whoever gets the most votes (based on a weighted system that takes time since the submission into account) has their link displayed first. It's very easy to put a link onto a website with a social bookmarking tool, but it can be very difficult to get a link on the front page of these sites.
Types of Social Bookmarking Tools: Buttons For Your Site
One of the most commonly used types of social bookmarking tool is the humble button. You have probably seen these buttons on blogs and news websites, asking you to “digg it” or submit a link to Reddit or Twitter. These buttons are very harmless social bookmarking tools, and can be useful for nearly any law blog.
If you already maintain a blog, it is very easy to find some code to put these buttons on your website. Often, social bookmarking tools to create these buttons will also include code to help you track what is done with them and how often they're clicked. Don't use too many buttons—choose just half a dozen or so of the buttons from your favorite social bookmarking tool for button creation, or you'll have the potential to overwhelm your visitors with too many distracting graphics.
Types of Social Bookmarking Tools: Automated Submitters
Now we'll go from the most harmless social bookmarking tools to the one that can cause potentially the most harm to your website. An automated submission social bookmarking tool probably sounds like a great idea the first time you hear about it. Many of these social bookmarking tools automate the entire process of posting your link, from creating an account to making the posts.
If you're considering using a social bookmarking tool that sounds like this, stop and reconsider what you're doing. Keep in mind that these are social websites, where people will talk about your site. Do you want people's impression of you to be “that lawyer who spams Reddit”? Or would you rather have it be “that lawyer on Reddit who's always really helpful to people going through a hard situation?” Now you begin to see why it's not always a good idea to use this kind of social bookmarking tool.
Google isn't fooled, either, and that's where the other part of the harm equation comes in. Not only can automated social bookmarking tools hurt your reputation with individual people, it can also make your website stick out like a sore thumb when Google looks at it. If you've got far more links to your website, from a huge range of social bookmarking accounts, than your traffic would indicate is possible, you'll be penalized. Organic social bookmarking links made without the use of social bookmarking tools tend to generate traffic as well as links.
Types of Social Bookmarking Tools: Friend Tracking
Another kind of social bookmarking tool that is relatively safe to use is a friend tracking tool. These tools can help you to identify who is taking notice of your posts. Many social bookmarking websites allow for people to list you as a “friend” and follow your posts. By using social bookmarking tools like these, you can identify who your most useful friends are (the people who are giving you additional links and comments the most) and try to cultivate more friends using similar techniques.
Beyond Social Bookmarking Tools: Rules To Avoid Getting Banned
The worst thing that can happen as a result of your social bookmarking tool use is that you could be banned from a website. While it's sometimes trivially easy to make a new account, people who do this repeatedly (especially using automated social bookmarking tools) will end up being IP blocked, making it much more difficult to get new accounts in the future.
In order to avoid getting banned, commit to only using social bookmarking tools that are white-hat and help you make good links with quality content. You should also work on comments, not just post creation, and put real effort into your comments. It doesn't take much for someone to notice that your history is a string of “good article” and other generic comments that don't necessarily have much to do with the conversation.
The more that you put in to social bookmarking websites, the more you'll be able to get out of them. That's the ultimate rule to keep in mind no matter what social bookmarking tool you decide is best for you. Garbage in equals garbage out, every time—so make sure you're not just polluting the communities you're posting in.