Top Ten Lists?

We’ve all read at some point that if we want to write some really good link bait, all we have to do is slap together a top ten list. We’re told that StumbleUpon and Digg users just eat that stuff up, so, if we want to manipulate them, all we have to do is spend five minutes on the list and BAM! we are going to have to upgrade the ol’ hosting, because our pipe’s just aren’t big enough to hold all the traffic. Or not.

Top ten lists don’t work as a rule. Blogging doesn’t work as a rule. Most things don’t work as a rule. In that way, the “secret” to social networking success isn’t a quickie “top ten” list — it’s deeper than that.

The key to success with anything online is good content, and that certainly includes lists. Lists can be done incredibly well, but only if a lot of time and work is put into it, or if it’s simply ingenious. For example, the Mashable’s 100+ ways to make money online was certainly an incredible success, but it certainly wasn’t fired out in 5 minutes.

Of course, resource lists and “Top x” lists can certainly work — but they have to be well-crafted. A well-created list recognizes the need of his basic viewers and then gives a supply to that demand. The best top lists are the lists that make themselves, not the lists that are consciously forced into existence. If your number-one priority is thinking about the social networking sites, your focus is off — focus, instead, on providing resources that serve your base audience, and the traffic and links will follow on their own.

Your subscribers trust you. With their subscription they are saying that they trust your website to produce content that is quality enough for them to dedicate time to read — pumping out “Top x” lists doesn’t just get cheap social networking traffic — if the content isn’t there, you lose your trusted subscribers. In the same way, if a potential subscriber is reading your articles and is considering subscribing, a set of cheap looking posts doesn’t just not help your trust — it can destroy it.

In the end, the old principle still rings true: Content. Content. Content. That’s the best social marketing strategy of all.