Alright, so in an attempt to fully take advantage of this social-networking-blogging-21st-century thing, I’ve jumped on the StumbleUpon bandwagon (probably later than most, but hey, you gotta start somewhere). It took me a few days to fully figure it out in between work & life & etc., but I think I’ve got a decent grasp on it now. Here’s what I did and how I plan to use it. Hopefully you’ll find this useful, because it took a lot of Googling for me to figure everything out (or at least as much as I know now).
What the heck is StumbleUpon & why would I want another social network?
From what I can tell, it’s a lot like Twitter, but a lot less social. You’ll have an account which you can customize by defining a bunch of your “interests.” You’ll subscribe to other people’s accounts and they’ll subscribe to yours (sounds a lot like following/followers). But here’s the fun part: You’ll click a button—either “Discover” on the StumbleUpon web site, or “Stumble!” on your browser—and fun things will start happening!
Basically, by defining your interests, the site gets an idea of what you like. Then, by thumbing up or down sites as you visit (or “stumble upon”) them, it learns more and more about you so it can recommend better web sites. Scary, yes, but we’re in the Internet-age and the Internet is supposed to know more about you than you know about yourself. That seems to be how the world works. I’ve read that the site’s been compared to having a remote control, but a more apt description may be that it’s like the “seek” button on your car radio, except that it’ll only find radio stations you’ll be interested in. I’ve mixed up the analogies, but you get the idea.
Either way, it’s here to stay and you can definitely get some good use out of it. There are a ton of amazing web sites out there that you probably wouldn’t ever come across without the randomness of a StumbleUpon find.
Step-by-step guide to get started:
- Go to stumbleupon.com to set up your user name & account. For consistency purposes, I recommend using the same name as your travel blog (which hopefully matches or mimics your Twitter account, too).
- Next, you’ll want to install the in-browser Firefox add-on (download here). Of course, if you don’t already use Firefox, you’re a fool because you should be. So, get on that already.
- After you’ve got an account and an easy way to Stumble with your Firefox add-on, you should set up some preferences. You might be lucky and when/if you click the “Start Stumbling” button (or “Stumble” if you’re already logged in), the first screen that appears will ask you to select the topics you’re interested in. Do that. If you don’t see that screen, login and edit your settings.
- Account Settings: Be sure to select “Show age on my profile” because it’ll make you seem more real to your subscribers. Plus it gives your subscribers a better idea of the type of travel interests you’ve got (sorry to stereotype).
- Customize Profile: Be sure to write a bio in the “Introduce yourself” box. This is key to getting subscribers. You can insert some HTML coding in here as well, so I’d suggest adding a link to your travel blog.
- Manage Interests: This is the fun part! Start checking off boxes. This basically defines your soul in as few categories as possible.
- Profile Picture: Put one up or else you won’t seem legit. Probably should match your Gravatar/Twitter pic for branding purposes.
- Now that you’re all set up, start stumbling! Open a new tab in your browser and click “Stumble!”
Play around for a few days/hours/sleepless nights while you surf the net finally with some control. By clicking “I like it!” you’re basically adding the site to your Favorites feed. You should add reviews as often as possible because it means you’re actually taking time to look at sites, not just clicking like a monkey.
“Alright, great. Now what about promoting my blog?”
As far as I can tell, this can be tricky. Don’t go stumbling all your blog posts and pages just yet. If you do, StumbleUpon will find out and then find a way to punish you. Probably by reporting you to Google (aka Internet police) and then they take your Internet away (hyperbole here). First things first, let’s see if you can get some of your readers to stumble your travel blog for you. That’s more reputable, right?
- Hopefully you’re hosting your blog with one of the major content management systems (WordPress, TypePad, Blogger etc.). You probably want to include a “Stumble” badge at the bottom of your posts. If you aren’t already using a plug-in that already automatically does this for you, StumbleUpon graciously provides the code for you. The link is kinda hidden on their site; I couldn’t find a link from the home page, but you’re just looking for the buttons found here. Follow the steps and it tells you how to insert the code based on your CMS. (Quick caveat: I couldn’t get this to work for me. I ended up having to modify the code because it was missing the <img alt=”StumbleUpon” src=”http://www.stumbleupon.com/images/…” border=”0″ /> line of code which inserts the image, not a text link.)
- Now you can stumble 1 or 2 of your favorite posts, but not all at once. Again, do not stumble your site very often. From what I’ve read, Stumble downgrades your status and will send less Stumblers to your posts. Best to do it every few weeks and just hope your readers do it for you!
- Best way to get people to stumble your site? Make sure you’ve got a button on every post and occasionally ask (or just cross your fingers) for readers to click it. How can you beat those odds, though? Go and subscribe to other travel bloggers’ stumble sites. Like mine! Again, it’s similar to Twitter in this way, so see who other people are subscribed to and then subscribe to those stumblers as well. This is where using your same Twitter user name comes in handy because you can search for your favorite Twitter followers by their user name more often than not. Branding’s pretty useful, isn’t it?
Wait! There’s more ways to use it to your brand’s advantage!
More? Yes. StumbleUpon is actually a pretty robust feature. Here’s a few more ways to get the most out of it.
- Remember that Firefox toolbar from earlier? If, while on your own blog or a random site you found through Stumbling, you decide you’d like to share your sweet finds and/or blog posts on Twitter or Facebook, there’s an incredibly easy way! Just click “Share > Facebook/Twitter”. The first time you do this, you’ll have to authorize either or both of those accounts to access the su.pr application.
- With the su.pr application, you can share your stumbles on Twitter & StumbleUpon at the same time. But that’s not even the best part. You can schedule when to post the tweet to your Twitter feed. I don’t know about you, but I think this is extremely useful. I find myself communicating with different people in different time-zones all the time and managing all of that on my own gets tiring. Being able to schedule a handful (don’t overdue it) of interesting tweets (whether links to my own blog or interesting sites I come across gets me more exposure. And that’s a good thing.
- BONUS! If you’re ever on a computer where the StumbleUpon toolbar isn’t already installed, just go to the web site: http://stumbleupon.com/su/ which allows you to log-in and share using the same features.