All the recent discussions about the alleged “epic battle” of the Social Networks Google+ and Facebook overshadow the fact that there’s a whole gamut of wildly useful tools, platforms and services besides them.

StumbleUpon is one of these tools that may not get as much hyped attention and yet the total of traffic it generates ranks second worldwide and is even higher than Twitter and YouTube, making up for 18.26 % of worldwide Social Media traffic.

This is amazing because in comparison to No 1 Facebook’s 750 million users and Twitter’s 200 million users Stumbleupon has only 15 million users.

How do they do it?

Discovering Stuff You’d Never Find By Googling

The first reason why StumbleUpon is so successful is that you can use it to discover content you might not find any other way.

Googling is great if you know what you’re looking for but sometimes we don’t.

Sometimes, we just want to be surprised, to discover something out of the blue, that special moment of serendipity.

The quality of the content you get via Twitter, Facebook and G+ is based on the people you follow, friend or circle.

If these people share awesome stuff, you’re lucky. If they just post baby photos and Farmville statuses, then this is what you get.

In other words: What your tribe doesn’t share you don’t see.

StumbleUpon is entirely different.

Here, you select one or multiple topics that interest you and then hit the “Stumble” button. Based on its Recommendation Engine it shows you a website or video that (hopefully) matches your interest. By using the thumbs up and thumbs down button you can tell the Engine what you like and what you don’t so that over time the results get better and better.

The cool thing about it is that you don’t even have to click through websites. Defining your interests and hitting “Stumble” will take you directly from site to site.

They offer a toolbar like you can see in the diagram but it’s not necessary. You can stumble and vote directly from within your browser without installing anything.

And when you’ve found something that gets you excited you can share it with your tribe on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

In my experience this recommendation engine works very well because

  • it shows both breaking news and articles and websites that date back until the early 9oies
  • you can find a lot of alternative information on virtually any topic
  • anyone can introduce content into the engine

How Content-Creators Can Use StumbleUpon To Spread The Word

At first I was only using StumbleUpon to find these pieces of highly unlikely information and share it with people in other networks. It was only later when I found out that StumbleUpon was a perfect way to get my own content out to the right people!

Sure, Google is the obvious way for people to find something specific. But for this they already have to know what they’re looking for. Discovery doesn’t always work like that. There’s always an element of the unknown. Sometimes you only know what you’ve been looking for when it stares you right into the face.

Also, posting something to Twitter and Facebook is great. But it’s very temporary. If the right people aren’t online at the right time, chances are they’ll never see it.

Here’s a screenshot to illustrate:

You see those spikes?

This is when something gets “stumbled”, receiving thumbs ups and views by the StumbleUpon community.

As you can see it tends to double the traffic on any given day and sometimes even multiplies it by up to ten times!

As with discovering stuff (online or offline) there’s a mystery component here, as to what gets stumbled.

But it seems there are a few things content-creators can do to increase the likelihood of “getting stumbled”.

  • write or produce content that is great, not just satisfactory. It should have some novelty factor and be presented in an accessible and direct way.
  • don’t just put every URL you got into the system but only the best
  • select the right keyword(s). Tipp: Research before tagging how many people are actually following that interest. Example: Here’s the page for the Interest “Cyber Culture” http://www.stumbleupon.com/discover/cyber-culture/ You could replace the keyword at the end with any other one or google something like “psychology stumbleupon” to find the given page.
  • use the su.pr URL shortener. It will add a stumbleupon button to the top, making it even easier for people to rate and share the page. As a way of saying thanks for using their system, StumbleUpon will send extra traffic your way.

Apart from the su.pr URL shortner, StumbleUpon also offers other tools for publishers that you should definitely give a try.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for inspiration, new insights or just things that are a bit different from what’s going on in your Newsfeed, Timeline or newspaper of choice, Stumbleupon is a great alternative.

And if you are a content-creator, be aware that StumbleUpon is a force to be reckoned with.

It works differently from Twitter and Facebook. So there’ll be some trial and error at first.

But when you start seeing those spikes for the first time, you’ll be amazed at how effective it can be.

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