Use Social Media Arbitrage to Drive Traffic with StumbleUpon

Everyone knows social media sites like Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon can drive massive amounts of traffic to your website. IF you can get on the front page.

The problem is that most submissions drop like an anvil through the new queue without getting more than one or two votes.

I can’t tell you how to become a power user on Digg or Reddit. I’ve had some luck with those sites but no consistent success, and I have a feeling it takes more effort and social networking than most webmasters want to do.

What I will tell you is how I’ve used StumbleUpon to drive nearly 80,000 visitors to this website without dramatically changing my web browsing habits or pestering people to vote for me.

Although StumbleUpon doesn’t create peaks as high as Digg or Reddit, it does offer two significant advantages:

1. Consistency – When you make the front page of Digg or Reddit you get a huge surge of traffic for about a day with some lingering effects the day after. Three days later you wouldn’t know it ever happened (aside from the wonderful incoming links). StumbleUpon continues to drive traffic to your site for days, even weeks, after the initial surge.

2. Pageviews – Digg and Reddit users generally read an article and leave your site immediately, viewing an average of 1.20 pages (according to my stats). The average Stumbler views a significantly higher 1.80 pages. Apparently those curious stumblers read more articles and are more likely to become regular readers.

Social Media Arbitrage

Now that I’ve told you why you should want use StumbleUpon to your advantage, here’s how to do it. The method is relatively simple and I’m sure many others are using it. It stems from two observations:

1. The Social Media Snowball – I noticed that when a post becomes popular on Reddit, it is basically guaranteed to take off on StumbleUpon as well. When a post becomes popular on one social site, it’s odds of doing so on another site dramatically improve.

2. Great Content Gets Around – All the major social sites have unique communities with varying tastes. But that doesn’t stop them from loving the same content. An interesting article is an interesting article. If you can find a post Digg users love, there is a great chance Reddit users will love it too, and vice versa.

These two observations led me to the strategy of Social Media Arbitrage. Arbitrage is defined as, “The purchase of securities on one market for immediate resale on another market in order to profit from a price discrepancy.” For social media, this means going to the popular pages of Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon, and submitting popular stories to other social sites where they haven’t been submitted yet.

It sounds too easy to work and this is partially true. It doesn’t work well for Digg or Reddit because 1) there is too much competition to submit to these sites. Most pages already are already submitted. And 2) the number of incoming submissions is so massive that even great submissions (from average users) are often ignored.

But fortunately, it does work well for StumbleUpon. If you always wanted to become a respected user but had no idea where to find great content to submit, this is the answer.

Becoming a Power Stumbler

I wrote this post because today I became a newly minted Top Stumbler. If you go to the Top Stumbler’s Page (as of 4/17/07) you’ll see my ugly mug, probably on the bottom half of the page (username: pickthebrain). All I did to get there is submit newly popular stories from Digg and Reddit as well every great post I find during casual feed reading. The StumbleUpon toolbar makes this incredibly easy.

To drive traffic, I also Stumble many of my own posts. Without fail, StumbleUpon sends at least a few hundred visitors over the course of the day. My friends with blogs have reported similar results.

Most people view social media as a form of entertainment and not much more. But if you’re already using it, why not expend a bit more effort and use it to drive traffic to your website?

Now that you know how it’s done, get out there and take away my competitive advantage!

Update: Alas, someone has read this post and I’m no longer a Top Stumbler.

61 Responses to Use Social Media Arbitrage to Drive Traffic with StumbleUpon

  1. Great post, John. It gives me new insights on how to better use StumbleUpon and social media in general. The idea of Social Media Arbitrage is cool.

  2. John Wesley says:

    Thanks, Donald. Now if only I had a better strategy for the other sites.

  3. Leo says:

    Excellent post, John. I have been doing similar things at Zen Habits and have found a lot of traffic from StumbleUpon as well, so I can testify to what you’re saying.

  4. Speaking of social media arbitrage, have you seen my site?

    We launch on Monday. We will start by selling Diggs, and we may expand to StumbleUpon in the future.

  5. John Wesley says:

    I’ve read a few stories about this before, but I hadn’t seen your site.

    I wouldn’t put this in the same category is social media arbitrage, at least as I defined it. All I’ve done is legally submit stories that I think will become popular. StumbleUpon probably thinks this is a good thing.

    It’s a tempting idea and something that is probably inevitable because of the enormous traffic power at sites like Digg.

    Obviously it’s completely against the rules and could result in the permanent banning of your account. For that reason I’d never consider doing it and I’d advise readers of this site not to either.

    Still, I’ll leave your link there for the sake of discussion and because people might want see an example of how social media manipulation works.

  6. Chris Wondra says:

    Great post John,

    I’ve struggled with how to use StumbleUpon myself. So this is great insight.

    In fact I’ve struggled mightely wrapping my brain around the whole idea of social media. I think it’s a great thing–I just don’t want to spend a ton of time on it.

    I love the StumbledUpon tool bar and have done a lot of “Thumbing,” just not a lot of submitting. None to be exact–other than my own posts, which I know is totally lame–and isn’t really working for me anyway (despite knock-em-dead content) :-).

    So I really appreciate these tips.

    I also just recently discoered MyBlogLog–which looks interesting (and easy), and saw a headline today that ebay just bought StumbleUpon–so Google (who was also bidding) is coming out with their own version of the Stumble toolbar.

    Anyway, great post.

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  8. John – thanks for making me aware of yout post. I was actually planning on writing something similar but you beat me to the punch.

    I’ll reference this in my blog once I get a chance…


  9. John Wesley says:

    That’s great, Michael. I’m glad you found it interesting.

  10. George says:

    Are you saying that stumbleupon is giving your sites better traffic, because you are submitting so many popular articles that when you submit articles from your sites stumbleupon gives them more credit and therefore more pageviews?

  11. John Wesley says:

    That’s exactly what I’m saying. The more authority your StumbleUpon account has, the more people see your submissions. This applies just the same when I submit my own pages.

  12. George says:

    That is really cool. Nice job figuring that out. I will have to let my readers know about your post.

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  16. I’m not surprised that your account got banned and while I do feel sorry for you, I doubt it had anything to do with this post that caused this to happen. The typical Digg user is completely irritated by headlines that promise “Breaking” relevent and humerous news only to be led to an affiliate landing page loaded with about 75000 banners and advertisements. These web 2.0 sites are ALL designed for you to submit your own articles. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these sites totaly ban the re-submission of articles altogether. These web 2.0 sites can be a wonderful tool if used with respect but one will always need to ask themselves the following three questions. 1) Is this a relevent article? 2) Why am I posting this article? 3) Will anyone be irritated by my post? John, I find it quite interesting that you managed to become a top stumbler and i’m not suggesting that you did anything immoral or wrong here, but always keep in mind that if you are going to be borrowing something from the community (such as the use of a community site) then you need to be sure that the community is behind you on your course of action.

  17. John Wesley says:


    I should make it clear that my account has in no way been banned. My picture was just taken off the Top Stumbler page. This might just be coincidence, I have no idea. I really don’t think it matters. Visitors are still coming.

    You make a good point about community, but in a world of self interested individuals people will always try to make use of the system.

    I never submitted SPAM type sites, they were all good content and many were things that I found very interesting. The question is, would I have taken the time to submit if I didn’t think it could help direct traffic to my site?

    Maybe, but not nearly as often. Self interest helps social sites, it makes users more dedicated. That’s why many sites make a point of giving status to Top Users, to motivate people.

    There is definitely a large gray area between altruistic usage and exploitation. I enjoy the StumbleUpon service immensely and would never want to harm the community, but at the same time I’m inclined to experiment and see how things work.

  18. Ponn Sabra says:

    Hi John.

    Just trying to understand SU and their competitors a bit better.

    For the first time I was StumbledUpon Thursday, and they continue to be my #1 referrer to my blog post right now 3 days later.

    Knowing the traffic is hard to convert, I was curious what’s considered a short or long-page view. I’m getting visitors ranging up to 5 page views…with an avg. 1.9 views. So, I’m curious how this all works out. I’ve been working hard on my pillar articles surrounding my ‘big campaign’ post on Thursday, so I’ll see how if I can convert them into readers or not.

    I can’t agree with your enough about sharing experiences, and letting others determine to stay or go. Either way, you make your point and have followers nor not. I don’t want those who ‘waver’ around…for the first time I pointed out some dishearting views/observations today…and curious for comments or action on my readers’ part.

    I’m sure you’ll be a Top Stumbler again soon (if that’s what you want to achieve or not–of course :-) )

    All the best always,

  19. John Wesley says:

    Ponn, thanks for your kind words about the design. Regarding SU, I’m not totally sure what converts, in fact I have no idea. At the moment I don’t run ads so it’s all in the air.

    To me the most important thing is user experience and community.

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  23. anonymouse says:

    Another tip — share the love and maybe you’ll get some love in return, e.g. Stumble sites that link back to your site. If they get a “Stumble Storm” perhaps you’ll get an increase in click-throughs back to your site because of their increased traffic.

  24. John Wesley says:

    That’s a good idea. I’ll start doing it.

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  26. Marla Evans says:

    Thanks for the article, John. I’ve just started using StumbleUpon today! We’ll see how it goes….

    Marla & Mike Evans
    Be a Mentor with a Servant’s Heart
    Our Blog
    Our Web Site

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  31. Jenny says:

    I don’t mind them reading my site, I want comments too!! 😀

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  35. good idea. I was wondering how the top stumblers was calculated. So part of it must be the submitting of stories that get lots of stumbles. Not sure it will work any more – but I’ll give it a shot.

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  39. while I do agree with you Mr. W. it seems to me that the traffic I get (and the traffic I get for clients) is only good for Alexa rank. SU does not have a great conversion rate, near zero. I would totally stop if it wasn’t for the fact that seconds work gets 700 visitors.

    I am far from being on the front page at SU (congrats to you on that) but I do stumble a lot. When I have a pause, talking on the phone or some other reason to not commit 100% of my attention on something.

    Heck, I thumbed up here!

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  43. top blogging says:

    Great advice!
    You’ve made my day…

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  47. Sergey Belov says:

    Here is tips for how to drive traffic to your blog –

  48. Great post.Well written.

  49. Joel Gray says:

    Thanks for sharing these helpful advices. You are indeed an expert. I will try to adopt these tips to my site. If you get the chance, feel free to hit me up.

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  51. Great info, certainly a treasure for a newbie..thanks for sharing this :)

  52. It is a hot social discovery site that continues to rapidly increase in popularity.

  53. moviesberg says:

    thank 4 the aritcle

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  55. sanjay says:

    Thanks for info…!

  56. Neil says:

    Thanks for this post. It’s really hard to get to know how these top social media sites **really work** without spending hours of your own time getting to know the communities too. I’ve found that Reddit is an interesting place, and I don’t mind hanging out there. But it still acts as an enigma – some of the content I post flies (relatively speaking) and some of it dies. And it’s normally the stuff I think will do well that bombs and the “filler” posts that fly… 

    Anyway, good to know how to use some of the time I spend on Reddit to boost my stumbleupon popularity too!

  57. Are you ‘liking’ posts in a particular niche or category or just stumbling any page or post that is popular on Digg and Reddit? 

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