If you know anything about Digg.com, you know that while anyone can share a content link, there’s a small group of elite users whose posts are consistently ranked high and rocketed to the top of the list. According to one source, in fact the top 100 Digg users control 56 percent of Digg’s frontpage content, and the top 20 individuals control a full 20 percent. Apparently, that’s partly because those who’ve previously been successful in getting stories ranked highly on Digg get more juice per user vote.
I’m not here to complain about Digg’s sinister ways–though as a marketer I find them pretty frustrating!–but it is worth noting how things have evolved over there. In theory, social ranking of content sounds delightfully democratic, but in reality, it’s hard to create any system which doesn’t have powerful gatekeepers in place. It’s no surprise that Digg (and related content ranking sites like Reddit) create winners and losers. Projects like Wikia Search, an “open source” search engine which allows users directly influence rankings, will also be hard-put to avoid this trap.
I’m not sure how marketers and PR pros can address this problem. If I knew, you’d probably be sitting in a pricey seminar listening to me tell you what to do. But I do think the communications and marketing people of the world are going to have to find ways to reach these new media elites. Unfortunately, standard PR outreach channels usually won’t get to them, and you can’t even embarass them into responding by calling their editor-in-chief. (They’re not usually media professionals!) It’s an extremely sticky problem.