Tag Archives: social-tagging

Using Delicious to understand customers

As any social media expert will tell you, part of “Future Business” is improving the dialogue that you have with your customers.  There are a great many tools that have been and continue to be developed which allow businesses to get a sense of how people feel about their products.

But, one crowd sourcing idea that I have not seen mentioned is the technique of monitoring Delicious tags.  If you are not familiar with Delicious or other social bookmarking apps, this post is not going to make much sense to you.  If you are already familiar, read on.

 So, here’s how you can use del.icio.us to understand your customers:

  1. Sign-in to Delicious and select the Look up a URL feature in the top right
  2. Type in the URL of your website’s home page
  3. Right there you can learn a lot.  How are people tagging your business?  What comments are they making? Positive? Negative?
  4. Now, select one of the tags that seems to be used a lot or that is particularly appropriate for your business.  What other sites are listed under that tag?  How many times have you been tagged that vs. other sites?  Are your competitors there?  Are there any sites that you were not aware of in your space?
  5. You can continue this for other tags that people are using
  6. You can also try other popular URL’s within your site that you think people might bookmark (eg. login page).

Hopefully this review will give you some insight into the people that are using your site.  Remember that the sample may skewed in a few ways

  • People using delicious might be more technology capable than your average customer
  • The people that take the time to bookmark are probably more positive about your business than your average customer.  After all, bookmarking means they want to remember to come back.

Keep these items in mind and learn about your customers.  If you have other interesting ways to use delicious, please feel free to share them as comments.


Social Tagging

Social bookmarking (eg. Del.icio.us) is one example of social tagging. IBM’s internal Fringe application (also called Bluepages+1) is another example that goes beyond social bookmarking to tag people rather than web pages. In this author’s opinion social tagging is the most valuable feature of a corporate whitepages.

Social tagging is merely the ability for multiple people to describe a single object with free-form words. It is far superior to author/creator tagging because it allows those who are making use of the item to be the ones who are describing it. Thus, the descriptors are likely to match the way that the target audience perceives the item and its value.

A pretty academic discussion of social tagging is available from a British journal called Ariadne or the more colloquial version is available from Wikipedia under the topic “Folksonomy”.

I will leave the discussion of free-form tagging vs. structured hierarchical taxonomies to another post, but having created structured taxonomies for multiple businesses in the past, I know there are many difficulties/drawbacks to doing so. Tagging is much more organic and scalable though it does have some drawbacks.

One of the most difficult elements of creator only tagging is that the incentive to tag is purely altruistic (good of the firm) or recognition based (I want people to find this so they know I am the expert). Social tagging introduces an additional incentive. In tagging something/someone, I am creating a breadcrumb back to that item. At any time I can recall the items I have tagged with a particular word. Also, not only am I creating a better sense of the item I am tagging, but my tagging act is helping to describe me. A view of my tagging words helps to understand me in the same way that perusing the bookshelf in my home would.

Even the number of tags on an item tells us something about that item. An item with more tags may be more popular. We have to be careful with this until social tagging is mainstream because there will be a skew towards the naval gazing of web2.0 type topics.

As with anything the social tagging user interface is ever important. If it is cumbersome to enter tags, users will not do so. The Fringe example from above was ideal because one generally looked up another user for their phone number and then while you were chatting to them could multi-task to attach some tags to them about the topic being discussed.

One of the most important factors in social tagging is the long tail. While many people will not social tag, there will be enough people in the long tail who derive personal and altruistic value from the act of tagging that they will tag a large portion of the items in order that the masses can better search.