Today I almost forgot to write my Twitter Friday column. Why? I was so preoccupied with the new relaunched StumbleUpon version. To make it short: SU attempts to compete directly with Twitter and Google. This might sound ridiculous but they really do. Theoretically it would be possible: SU exists for several years and has collected tens of millions of web pages in its “index” together with millions of reviews with new sites being added very quickly. Isn’t this the ideal social search engine? Isn’t this the perfect way to determine which websites really do matter in real time? Sadly, no.
Now this is the Twitter column so I won’t compare the new StumbleUpon to Google. Let me explain though why
StumbleUpon is not Twitter and can’t compete with Twitter.
StumbleUpon does not allow business usage of its site. Yes, you can get banned solely for submitting your SEO company website to SU.
StumbleUpon both prohibits self promotion and stumbling of commercial services. I’ve seen many legit and prolific SU users and bloggers outside of SEO getting banned for stumbling sites containing a small commercial aspect.
You must understand that before using SU. Many new users assume they can act like on Twitter and
You can’t do it unless they have changed the TOS with this new version and they haven’t as far as I know. The only allowed business features of SU are stumbling sites dealing with business topics or paid advertising (sponsored stumbles) on the site.
I repeat: You are not allowed to present your own services on StumbleUpon.
There are many reasons why you aren’t: First off SU is an old school social site, meant for private users and not businesses. It’s similar to all the social sites of the first generation like Digg, Reddit or even Delicious who consider business users trying to promote something spammers by definition. Also these sites are not opt in so indeed it wouldn’t work. On Twitter only people who actively decide to follow you get your updates so you won’t have anybody complaining about you tweeting about SEO.
Instead of complaining Twitter users can simply unfollow you and never again read your Twitter updates.
While StumbleUpon is not the stupid one size fits all social news site Digg and Reddit still are on SU people see your stumbles via the toolbar who haven’t subscribed to you. They have subscribed to a topic not a person. You can subscribe and befriend people too but the toolbar stumbles are send to strangers as well. They get sent to friends of friends of friends. It happens automatically behind the scenes.
Twitter on the contrary is “what you see is what you get”, no shady sending random stuff based on proprietary schemes. Don’t get me wrong: I love the way StumbleUpon sends me stuff I might like and I often do, nonetheless I also get some content theft “funny images” blogs served etc.
There are people on StumbleUpon who will really hate you just because you submitted something they don’t want to see. Just read the angry reviews of many sponsored stumbles. Twitter in contrast is much more civilized because people choose to read about your business.
There are two more huge problems with StumbleUpon: It heavily relies on a flawed categorization and your friends don’t count.
On Twitter you tweet about a certain set of topics and corresponding people follow you: For instance people interested in SEO follow me. These people appreciate my SEO tweets plus they tolerate or sometimes even like my occasional off topic tweets. On SU it’s not that simple. The people who subscribe to the same categories as me (SEO, search, marketing e.g) might get my stumbles via the toolbar). When I stumble something about bicycling, Asia or cell phones the same people will not see it at all unless they subscribe to these categories as well. This would still work fine but it doesn’t as roughly 50% of all stumbles get miscategorized. I have seen the most bizarre miscategorizations.
Often the category is based on some word in the headline. Articles containing the word “improve” often end up in the “self improvement” category even when they describe how to improve your wireless network. So
many stumbles don’t get attention at all
because the wrong people see them who either don’t care for the issue or even hate the topic. You can’t really fix wrong categories. I send several requests each day to change them but most never get changed as the small SU team obviously has to deal with the reports manually. Even if it does change it takes ages and by then the initial stumble power has disappeared. The faster people stumble the more popular a submission gets usually.
Twitter is straightforward: You follow and befriend people and the more of them or the better your connection with them the more people you reach. On SU your friends votes don’t count. Only if strangers vote for you as well you get real traffic. So in a way the more friends you have in a niche the smaller your chances to get popular are because the less people who care about the topic get their vote counted.
So all in all StumbleUpon is the opposite of Twitter and not suited for business usage.
From the business perspective it can’t compete with Twitter at all. From the SEO perspective Twitter already sends more traffic in many cases than SU, especially if you submit stuff dealing with SEO a topic only a tiny group of users on SU has subscribed to.
In the new SU design you can see the number of “views” any submission has. This just reinforces my impression that most of them don’t get any views at all. Just look at screenshot above showing my discoveries. Please note that I’m a SU power user for more than 2 years and having 800+ subscribers. The SEOptimise post on the screenshot is an exception, I shared it with my friends via the toolbar so they had to see it.
In 2009 you can’t ignore or ban business users, the most succesful social sites allow both business and private usage.