Qualities Of Devastatingly Effective Web Promoters

Being a web promoter is not just bookmarking pages on StumbleUpon/Digg and tweeting links in Twitter.  In fact, if that is the extent of your web promotions, it’s no surprise why you’re not seeing results.

Web promotions requires a skill set beyond merely using tools.  It involves networking equally as much as having an eye for good content.  It involves knowing how to work with content producers to help them create material that will be promotable (promotions should not be put in a silo).  It involves having your finger on the pulse of the social web at the micro and macro level.

But for the sake of this post, I want to distill the the qualities necessary for being an effective web promoter to the following four items:

  • Knowing how to effectively share content
  • Knowing what type of content will get shared
  • Being well networked
  • Consistency *and* quality

I’m not going to qualify these in a specific order, because of the fact that you need all of them.  There are too many people playing the promotions game for a half-effort to work here.

Let’s get into the details of what each of these mean:

Knowing how to effectively share content

By this I don’t mean knowing how to submit a story to a social news site.  Anyone can do that.  What I mean is a comprehension of sharing content at the level of a power user.  Things like:

  • Understanding when something should be shared
  • Knowing with who/what networks to share it
  • Knowing how to give it a push/ramp up their network presence behind a piece of content
  • Knowing how to create synergies/multiplier effects in reach/shares
  • Understanding how and why stories go hot on a network of choice
  • Crafting network-specific effective headlines and descriptions
  • Knowing who the players are on any given network
  • Being skilled at positioning content to work within different networks

You’ll learn these things by participating in enough web communities.  While all communities, networks and content-sharing sites have their own nuances, the innate sense you gain in time for rallying groups together behind ideas is a transferable skill.  If nothing else if you can focus enough time to become a power user in one network you’ll understand the path necessary to do so in others.

Knowing what type of content will actually get shared

My friend John Boitnott was destined to be a rockstar web promoter.  Why?  He’s got 15+ years of experience working as a journalist, web editor and media pro with a genuine interest in what people find compelling.  He’s a web geek at heart, but that’s not what matters as much as his eye for good content – that’s his true skill.  You can understand all the tricks, tools and processes in the world, but if you don’t have the type of content people want to share, you’ll never be an effective web promoter.

The best promoters are people we find incredibly valuable.  You read that right – good promoters on the web are those useful individuals who help us find signal in the noise.  The people promoting content that sucks are spammers, not promoters.

Good web promotions can’t make bad content go popular – at least not at any degree of scale.  That’s just not the way it works.  And, the best web promoters won’t promote garbage anyway because even if they can succeed in pushing it, they do so at the cost of their own digital reputation.

Before I go any further:  yes, I’m well aware of the collusion that happens in social promotions – however without good content this can only happen so many times and for so long before the community tires of it or starts to catch on.  Both the content producers and those promoters have something to lose here if they try to game the system and get called out.  There are enough people organically participating that this is inevitable – it’s happened in the past, and it will happen in the future.

Being well networked

Good promoters in the offline world are well-networked.  As the digital world mimics the analog in that they are both organic systems, this is also the case.  If you’re not well-networked with both horizontal and vertical networks you can’t expect to be able to move the needle on promoting content.

Without being well-networked you’ll always be at a disadvantage to others who can rally their followers behind good content to raise it from obscure to center-stage.  Remember that while the amount content on the web itself is growing, the aggregate amount of attention available remains static.  Even if more users are on the web and the long tail provides interest to a staggeringly large number of blogs, a disproportionate amount of attention goes to a relatively small amount content daily.

If you hope to be an arbiter of attention, you need to be well-networked.  There is no escaping this.

Consistency *and* quality

The best web promoters are incredibly consistent.  They’re the ones helping tell a story to different niches daily and are those beacons on the digital landscape helping us find direction.  Some of them are so consistent, it appears they never sleep.  And that’s how dedicated you need to be to sit at the top.

Louis Gray recently wrote that he’s read 20,090 items and shared 766 items in the last 30 days.  In other words:  Louis only shares about 3.8% of what he reads.  Talk about an editorial filter interested in quality.  Automatic aggregators which tap the wisdom of the crowd working in unison to decide what is interesting works, but a singular human filter with an eye for quality can be equally if not more compelling.  If you follow Louis you know that if you click a link he shares, it is going to be interesting.  You might even re-share it, a key to successful promotions.

I’ll go as far to say if you want to be a web promoter and be truly effective, you need to live, breathe and love the web.  There are enough people doing it purely for passion or as dedicated netizens that if you’re not sincerely interested you may never stand a chance at success.  Social communities see right through anyone who is fake, as they should.  It’s their turf, not a place for you to hawk your trash.

Other points to keep in mind:

The most effective web promoters I’ve seen work best in unstructured settings

Due to the nature of web promotions, being organized is good – but trying to overly manage good promoters who understand their craft intimately may limit their capabilities.  The best promoters are agile and able to work with their networks in unrestricted settings.  They’re free to tweak titles/descriptions to make them compelling to the networks they know intimately.  None of the top social media powers users succeed by being micro-managed.

Having a personality and reputation provide a huge advantage

No doubt about it, those with a strong personal brand and recognition behind their name have the advantage in having their ideas echoed or their links stand out in a sea of noise.  Figure out a way to develop your name as a web promoter and not only will you be more successful, ultimately you can forge career security.

It’s not a numbers game

You don’t need hundreds of thousands of friends/subscribers/followers.  Pound for pound, small, yet interested and connected people and communities can run circles around larger, less personal ones.  I’ve personally seen this to be true time and time again.  Ideas that spread aren’t those that are shared by people with hundreds of thousands of followers or subscribers, they are those that started being shared by those with far less reach, yet were well-respected and well-connected.  After that occurred, then those with larger raw numbers picked it up anyway.

The point is your network doesn’t need the whole world following it, just the right people.

Web promotions don’t happen in a silo

Your promotions team and your content producers need to be connected with each other and communicating in both directions.  In fact your promotions team should be writing, and your writing team should also be promoting, at least enough to get an understanding of the other half.  Having both parties walk a mile in each others shoes can be a great learning experience.

Promote yourself least

The best, most respected web promoters actually promote themselves or their own clients/products/company least of all.  And when they do, it is content they know will resonate with the networks they are a part of.  Also, when asked if they’ll promote something internally that isn’t a fit, they provide feedback to their team on how to make it sharable to give it a better chance of success instead of being overly self-promotional.  They are conscious of that fine line and are careful to promote themselves sparingly.


The web is dynamic enough that there is no one effective path to follow for successful promotions.  What I’ve written above is merely my observations of today’s most successful web promoters.  You may find a formula that works for you – and if you do embrace it.  However, it is worth learning from those who are achieving success and paying attention to examples of promotions that the web community embraces.  There are far more examples of communities rejecting web-based promotions than examples of communities embracing them, so there is much to learn from studying the qualities of the successful.

End note:  promotions can’t save poor content marketing.

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