Web 2.0 and Social Media: A Practical Guide to the New, Live Web
Part 2: Sharing
by Deltina Hay
Sharing in the live Web can mean offering your content easily to others through blogging indexes, feed services, and media communities; sharing your Web experience with others can mean tagging the sites you find interesting on social bookmarking sites or developing mini-applications like widgets or mashups that others can use.
The main thing to keep in mind is that media is media is media—everything can be shared—and that some kind of media community exists for anything that can be posted to a Web site, be it an image, a piece of text, an audio clip, or a video clip.
Here’s a quick look at tools you can use for sharing via the Internet.
RSS Feed Submission Sites and Services
RSS feed syndication is relatively new, so indexes, directories, and services crop up almost daily. As a result, they are particularly difficult to define and categorize. You will find them referred to as RSS feed search engines, indexes, and directories; as well as blog, podcast, and vidcast directories. For simplicity, I will refer to all of them here as RSS submission sites, since ultimately, what you want to do is submit your feed (be it a newsfeed or a blog, podcast, or vidcast) to as many of these sites as you can so you can gain better exposure.
RSS submission sites are similar to Web search engines in that users can search them for newsfeeds, blogs, podcasts, or vidcasts on topics that interest them, and subscribe to individual feeds directly from them. Each site will have different submission guidelines, and you need to submit your feed information accordingly.
Once your feed is submitted, make sure that the submission site is “pinged” (i.e., notified) every time there is a change to the feed. Many of the sites crawl feeds automatically looking for changes, but not all of them do so. If you are using WordPress, there is a way to ping all feed sites each time there is a change to your blog. Another way to make sure you are getting your pings out is to use a ping service like Ping-O-Matic (pingomatic.com).
Feed services like Feedburner (feedburner.com) can simplify the process of managing your feeds, including submitting and pinging. These services also allow you to check the stats of your feeds, including how many subscriptions a feed has and who is resyndicating it. And software—such as RSS Submit (dummysoftware.com/rsssubmit.html)—can assist in submitting your feed.
Who should use them. Anyone who has a blog, podcast, vidcast, or any RSS feed should take advantage of these submission sites.
How to use them. Go to each site and follow its submission guidelines. Many of them will also allow you to add descriptions and “tags” for your feed. These tags are like keywords—terms people use to search feeds for the topics that interest them. Therefore, it is important to choose them as carefully as you would choose search-engine keywords for your Web site.
Where to start. Here are a few submission sites to get you started.
Google Blog Search (google.com/blogsearch)
Blog Pulse (blogpulse.com)
Apple iTunes Store (apple.com/itunes/store/podcasts.html)
Instead of allowing search engines to give us the supposedly best matches for our search terms, we can go to a social bookmarking site, search using those same terms, and up will pop the top sites tagged by users just like us.
You can pull up a site—let’s say your site—on one of these bookmarking sites, and have access to everyone who has tagged it, and, if they have made their bookmarks public, you can look at all the other sites they have tagged. There is no end to the types of resources and readers you can gain access to via social bookmarking.
Who should use it. Anyone who wants to tap into a tremendous networking and resource-building tool, especially authors and publishers dealing with hot or trendy topics.
How to use it. Instead of bookmarking your favorite sites using your browser, you add them (usually with one click) to your favorites on a social bookmarking site like del.icio.us or Technorati and tag them with keywords that will help you find them later. It is a good idea to have a few different accounts if you are going to use these services for both personal and business reasons. Your business account should contain only sites relevant to your business or your book.
Where to start. The most popular site for bookmarking blogs is technorati.com. And the most popular site for regular Web sites is del.icio.us (type it just like that into your address bar — no “www.”). Also, do a search on the term purpose built del.icio.us page and read more about how such a thing can build readership. You may have noticed that I listed Technorati as a blog directory above and as a social bookmarking tool here. That is not a mistake; it serves as both, which gives you some indication of how important it is to maintain an up-to-date listing there.
A media community is a place such as YouTube or Flickr where you can upload and share your media content in a public space, media meaning multimedia—images, video, audio, and so forth. Just as with the bookmarking sites, you can give each piece of content a description and tags that can help others find it.
Who should use them. Any multimedia content can ultimately lead people back to your site or book, so if you have images, video, and/or audio, you should consider posting to one or more media communities.
How to use them. To post and share images, get an account with Flickr. Once you have that account, you can upload images of your book cover, your readings, and so forth, and then tag them with keywords, give them descriptions, and develop your profile so others can find your Web site easily or email you if they are interested in your message. The same process applies to posting and sharing video on YouTube.
Where to start. For images go to flickr.com; for video go to youtube.com. There are other services, but these are the most popular.
A Webcast is essentially an online broadcast. The technologies available for Internet broadcasting have become very easy to use, and a number of services stream content. Using collage tools or Webcasting services, anyone can have an Internet broadcasting channel. Collage tools easily incorporate all types of content, including photos, audio, video, links, RSS feeds, and PDF documents to create Webcast channels.
Who should use it. I recommend Webcasting to clients who are performers, entertainers, artists, or professional speakers. To be successful, these channels or broadcasts should have regular episodes, so the time commitment should be taken seriously.
How to use it. You can broadcast using something as simple as a Webcam or as complicated as a professionally produced video. Once you have the content, however, streaming it is a lot easier if you use a service.
Where to start. This depends on what type of broadcast you want to produce. A good place to start for a collage broadcast is splashcastmedia.com. For straight video Webcasting, go to bogtv.com, blip.tv, or youtube.com.
Widgets, Badges, and Blidgets
Widgets (also called badges) are snippets of code that can be used to syndicate your content (i.e., RSS feeds) or add simple interactive features that users can drop onto their own blogs or Web sites. Widgets are generally customizable by the user, in terms of size, color, and other simple attributes.
Examples of widgets include tools you can use to post a list with images of your favorite books, or to allow bloggers to “search inside” a book right from their blog pages.
A blidget is a neat little widget coined by the folks at Widgetbox.com for feeding blog posts (RSS feeds) to other sites. It differs from a straight RSS feed in that it can be customized by the user and is more stylish.
Who should use them. If you have a blog, podcast, or vidcast, you should have a blidget to make it more desirable for users to subscribe to your feed. Widgets can be powerful viral-marketing tools if they gain popularity.
How to use them. Blidgets are easy to create using services. Widgets vary in complexity, but are becoming easier to develop all the time. If you go to the trouble of developing these tools, make them easy for your visitors to find on your site, and offer them on other sites as well.
Where to start. To create nice blidgets and widgets, go to widgetbox.com. Another good resource is directory.snipperoo.com. Google recently released an exciting widget-style tool called Open Social; to learn about it, visit code.google.com/apis/opensocial.
Although they are similar to widgets, mashups draw on much more advanced technology. Using them, you can aggregate and manipulate content from anywhere on the Web. Google, Yahoo, and Amazon all have their own mashup tools that allow others to pull directly from their fast-search technology as well as their content. Used in concert, mashup tools become integrated megatools that draw on the combined technologies of the most powerful sites on the Internet.
Who should use them. It may not make sense for authors and smaller publishing companies to use mashups, but larger publishers would be wise to consider whether this technology could benefit their authors and customers.
How to use them. These are fairly new tools and require some knowledge of RSS feed technology. I suggest talking to a Web developer until the technology is simplified, but at the present rate of change, that may not take long.
Where to start: Both Yahoo Pipes (pipes.yahoo.com) and Google Mashup Editor (googlemashups.com) will give you an idea of where this technology is headed. Also, see programmableweb.com.
Deltina Hay, the owner and manager of Dalton Publishing, a literary press in Austin, TX, has worked in programming and Web development for 25 years. Part 1 of this series focused on interactivity and ran in the December 2007 issue; Part 3, which focuses on collaboration, will run next month. To learn more about social media, visit Deltina Hay’s site, socialmediapower.com, and look for her upcoming book: Don’t Get Caught Dead in the New, Live Web: A Survival Guide to Social Media Optimization and Web 2.0.
Examples and Resources
RSS Feed Submission Sites and Services
Here are some extensive lists of RSS submission sites and feed services:
Some additional social bookmarking sites:
And a few good lists of social bookmarking sites:
My Album (myalbum.com)
Google Video (video.google.com)
Lists of media communities
Hosting your own gallery
Gallery (gallery.menalto.com) is a way to build a photo-sharing community, in addition to a nice image gallery of your own. Here is a beautiful example of Gallery in action: ricwilliams.com.
Some good examples of Webcasts:
meettheauthor.com/home.html uses splashcastmedia.net to create its Webcast, then streams it on its own site as well.
Here is a nice example of using a Webcast to create buzz: youtube.com/user/BookOfSecrets.
Widgets, Badges, Blidgets
For an example of an Amazon widget, go to the home page of daltonpublishing.com. I have grabbed all my titles and made a gallery using one of Amazon’s widgets. There are many more to choose from; see widgets.amazon.com.
Flickr calls its widgets badges, and for some reason they do not make them easy to find; but here is how to get there to make one: flickr.com/badge.gne. Of course, you will need to have an account with images in it already.
Flickr also integrates nicely with WordPress, so there are many gallery plugins that can pull your images directly from your Flickr account. My favorite is SimpleFlickr; you can see a good example of it on this site’s gallery: garykentfilmmaker.com.
You can build an HTML badge as on owenegerton.com,
or a flash badge as on lesmcgehee.com.
To make a custom widget, go to widgetbox.com. If you have the knowledge, you can build your own; otherwise you can contact one of the contributing developers. The best way to choose a developer is to find a widget similar to what you want, and contact the person who developed it. Once your widget is developed, you can make it available for anyone to use.
Even though Widgetbox is my favorite, it is not the only game in town. Here are some other sites that can help you build custom widgets:
Spring Widgets is similar to Widgetbox: springwidgets.com.
Google code requires a bit more expertise: code.google.com.
Widgipedia is a good resource for widgets: widgipedia.com.
Go to socialmediapower.com for two examples (on the home page).
First, you can get a blidget of the Social Media Power blog by clicking on the button that says, “Get my blog as a widget from Widgetbox.”
Second, on the right sidebar, there is an example of what a blidget looks like when one subscribes to it—look under the heading “Our Sister Site” to see a blidget of the blog at empoweredbywordpress.com.
To make a blidget for your blog, get an account with widgetbox.com. All you need is the URL to your blog to build one.
Another perk is that you will also get placement in the search engines for your blidget. To see what I mean, do a Yahoo! search for “social media power” and notice that the Widgetbox blidget for Social Media Power shows up very near the top.