An introduction to social news sites

Using social news sites is a great way to discover what’s hot on the Web, find stories and story ideas related to your beat, and share content with other audiences.

Social news sites are different from social networks because they are communities where users can submit links and share them with other users. On most sites, users have the power to vote on the submitted content, which can impact its visibility to the rest of the community. If enough users vote up a link (because they think that content is newsworthy or simply interesting), it could be shared for all to see on the front page of the site, where the link could experience a burst of traffic.

In addition, some of these sites are influenced by algorithms and monitored by editors. The algorithms determine which stories become popular based on a number of undisclosed factors. The editors watch over the submitted content and have the ability to impact the success of a link either by promoting it or removing it if it’s inappropriate or against the site’s Terms of Use.

Social news sites come in all shapes and sizes, just like social networks. Some are general and others have more niche-focused audiences. Some of these lists are a bit old, but they give you an idea of how many sites are out there:

- Dosh Dosh: 50 Social News Websites
- Squareoak: 83 Social News Sites – Categorized by Niche
- Social Media Trader: 115 Social News and Bookmark Sites Ranked and Rated

To get started on a social network:

- Determine which one is right for you. Before joining a community, do some research to find out if it has an active community, if it fits your interests, how much participation is required, etc.

- Observe how the community operates. Participation on most sites involves voting on others’ submissions, leaving comments and more. These actions usually increase your influence in the community and are often reciprocated. Other users will want to become your friend you if they see you’re active and good to your friends.

- Seek out influential users (those who have stories promoted to the front often, etc.) and find out what makes them influential. What you can do to achieve similar success?

- Be patient. Success won’t come overnight, so don’t join in hopes that your first link will become wildly popular. It can take weeks to create a profile that has the potential to make your link go viral.

Amanda Maurer is a digital news editor at the Chicago Tribune, who specializes in social media. She blogs at acmaurer.com; you can also follow her on Twitter at @acmaurer.

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