The Importance of Networking – My Experience with Power Users

By Mat

Let me take you back to the beginning of 2010, a time when Digg.com was one of the most popular websites in the world averaging close to 40 million unique visitors every month. This small story happened a few months before “New Digg” was introduced, power users become somewhat obsolete and traffic to Digg dropped by 35% in a single month. Before the ultimate collapse of Digg I was able to successfully network with power users to promote a new blog I had started with a friend of mine. The blog was called AddToDesign and it attracted over 150,000 visitors to the site within 4 days.

Something every blog owner talks about when they’re first starting out is how they are going to get traffic. One of the worst things for a blog owner to experience is an unsuccessful launch for their website – it demotivates bloggers and can make you question whether or not you should continue. This is a problem I identified before launching AddToDesign and I needed to find a way to get off to a good start. I had been a semi-active Digg user for a while and the idea of seeing my blog on the front page of a major website would be the perfect start I was looking for. But how could this idea become a reality?

There was 1 month before we were planning on launching AddToDesign so time was limited. A friend suggested I should purchase a “Digg Front Page Service” from a site called uSocial. At the time, it seemed as though uSocial had many of the Digg power users in their pocket – as confirmed by their “60% popular ratio”. They charged a massive $600.00, a price I certainly did not want to pay. Back to the drawing board I went trying to figure out a way to dominate Digg on a very small budget. Just a quick note: doing what I did now could still work but Digg is nothing now compared to what it was back in 2009 – 2010.

A few days later I had a plan which could either waste shitloads of my time or pay off tenfold. The idea was very simple but would take a lot of time. Back when I was using Digg on a weekly basis, many active users would show their instant messaging addresses in their profile. I obviously wanted to get in touch with these guys so I ended up adding about 100 users. Over the next couple of weeks (with less than a month to launch) I basically became a virtual assistant to these guys. I’d sign into Google Talk when I woke up and asked each person if they needed anything done (usually voting on stories) and I’d make myself available to them throughout the day.  Let me explain what I’m doing here if you haven’t caught on: I’m basically trying to spark up a relationship with one of these users in hopes that these few weeks of me doing stuff for them, they’d return the favour. Was I taking advantage or manipulating them? It’s hard to say.

So after weeks of voting on stories and receiving literally thousands of emails from these guys I had found a few individuals who were willing to help me out. Oh, and I still receive daily emails and messages from these guys after stopping years ago. So finding a power user was finished and I was now able to focus on writing content for the launch. Think back to the sort of stuff you’d see on the front page of Digg. The amount of link baiting going on was insane, what with all these list stories (looking at you Cracked) and witty titles dominating the front page. Not wanting to stand out (ha!) I wrote an article called “When The Blind Design: 10 Websites That Just Should Not Exist”. The article was basically a showcase of terrible designed websites with my sarcastic comments added in.

On the 28th of March, 2010 AddToDesign was launched and this article was the first post to go live. With my new contacts I expected good results. At around midnight my time the post hit the front page of Digg and ended with a grand total of 768 votes. My partner and I had estimated a few thousand views and adjusted our web hosting plan to follow suit. A few hours later we experienced “the Digg Effect” which crashed our site. We were down for several hours and missed the peak of the traffic but we still did well. Analytics showed that from launch to 4 days afterwards we hit 150,000 visitors – a lot of this due to Digg. I was extremely thankful to the power user and we worked out a way for him to work on all of our articles. This ended up failing as neither my partner or I had enough time to write articles for the site. I ended up buying out my partner, selling the website and I no longer have anything to do with it. It looks as though the guy that bought it isn’t doing much with it either.

Apart from the bitter disappointment that I had a dormant site with no content being added, I think this is a valuable little networking lesson I learnt. I definitely would do the same thing nowadays on Digg. The site is pretty much dead (I highly doubt any story would get 150,000 views) and the time versus pay off simply isn’t worth it. Does anyone still use Digg? Have you had any success with Digg? Let me know in the comments.



12 Responses to The Importance of Networking – My Experience with Power Users

  1. Ed says:

    Everyone migrated over to Reddit.com!!
    I haven’t heard from digg in ages.

    • Mat says:

      Yeah, Reddit has a lot of Digg users now. I’m pretty sure Digg is still kicking but it’s nothing like it used to be.

  2. Drew Hendricks says:

    Interesting article!! Good thing powerusers no longer own Digg.

  3. Claire Siach says:

    Wouldnt it be funny if this hit the front page of digg.

  4. Jon Winstonh says:

    Am I the only person who thinks the Digg users wont like you telling this story?

  5. I’ve also read/heard of doing similar on LinkedIn’s “Q&A”, Twitter, and so forth — the idea being establishing yourself as “knowledgeable” &c prior to launching your blog.

    @Ed, do you think Reddit would be the today’s Digg, if this blog post were written for a recent timeframe?

  6. Out of curiousity I checked out the addtodesign site and it looks like he updated some of the plugins and the site is totally down. Which goes to checking what your site looks like when you make any change to your CMS backend…

    I guess you have to find the best social media at the time to use to push your message, twitter would need you to be mentioned by a celebrity, I can’t say I haved used reddit or digg in a long time. I look forward to seeing if there is one people are using these days, as I could certainly do with more traffic to my site. (just like everyone else I am guessing)

    • Mat says:

      Yeah, the site is completely down. I doubt it’ll be up and running anytime soon but I’d love to see it take off. It looks like you’re in the design industry – have you tried using designbump.com? It’s social voting but for design related articles. Their are few similar sites out there that are dedicated to your industry. Good luck and cheers for reading! ;)

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