What is StumbleUpon? It’s a discovery-oriented website, where members submit and rate the site's content, determining which content is served up most frequently to other users with similar interests.

After signing up for a free account and installing a toolbar extension, a StumbleUpon user chooses topics she's interested in and begins “stumbling” to discover Web content that's highly recommended by other users who share similar interests.

StumbleUpon then shows the user the top-ranked relevant content recommended by like-minded members. The user can vote either “thumbs up” (I like this) or “thumbs down” (no more like this) – and continue stumbling to discover more relevant content to experience and vote on.

Over time, the user's votes help StumbleUpon show her Web content that's increasingly targeted to her unique interests – which is why most members agree that StumbleUpon is extremely addictive. Members often spend hours at a time stumbling and discovering fascinating websites.

StumbleUpon says its goal is simple: “We help people discover interesting or informative Web content that they wouldn't have thought to search for.”

Many people also find StumbleUpon to be a very useful tool for research and Internet
searches, as well as for social bookmarking and social networking.

Why Should You Consider Using StumbleUpon?

1. For traffic. StumbleUpon can send potentially tens of thousands of targeted visitors to your website or blog. And unlike some of the other Web 2.0 sites, StumbleUpon's “discovery” approach tends to spread out the traffic it sends you over a longer period of time – usually over several days or weeks, and often permanently. Because StumbleUpon's users find your website by voting for the type of content they want to see, they're much more likely to be closely targeted visitors – who'll subscribe to your newsletter or RSS feed, and return to your site.

2. For high-quality incoming links to your website / blog. StumbleUpon visitors who are interested in your content often link to or blog about your site, or trackback to your blog posts.

3. For doing your own online research. As we'll discuss in a moment, StumbleUpon can be a fantastic tool for discovering relevant content that you'd never find with a Google search.

4. For connecting with other people who share your interests. Looking for a potential JV partner? An interesting person to interview? A source for particular goods or services? StumbleUpon is a good resource for networking with other people in your niche.

5. For bookmarking all the great content you discover as you stumble.

TIP: Many StumbleUpon members also use other social bookmarking and social networking websites. That makes it very likely that your high-quality content on StumbleUpon will wind up being submitted by other members to more Web 2.0 sites.

How Does StumbleUpon Work?

To help you discover interesting new Web content, StumbleUpon uses a combination of other members' opinions plus “smart” technology that learns what each user likes and dislikes.

As it learns more about your interests, StumbleUpon shows you an increasingly customized selection of content that other like-minded members have recommended and voted for. In fact, the more you “stumble” and vote on the content it shows you, the less you'll need to vote “thumbs down” - because StumbleUpon also quickly learns what you don't want to see.

Your votes also help StumbleUpon connect you with other people who share your unique combination of interests, if you choose to use the site's social features. Content that receives a high proportion of “thumbs up” votes is shown more often. Meanwhile, content that receives more “thumbs down” votes receives fewer views and is eventually dropped out of StumbleUpon's database.

Other tools StumbleUpon uses to personalize your stumbling include:

• a list of about 500 topics from which you can select your interests
• inherent filtering out of spam and junky websites, thanks to the voting process
• your stumbling history, so it won't show you the same sites again.

When targeted StumbleUpon visitors stumble across your website, a significant percentage of them are likely to be interested in your content, and may travel around through several pages of your site. Often they'll submit and vote for more of your specific pages, giving you an additional traffic boost.

StumbleUpon's Toolbar

Your easy means of using StumbleUpon is a toolbar extension that's available for either FireFox or Internet Explorer web browsers.

Although you'll have to sign up for a free account at StumbleUpon in order to use it, you can install the toolbar for either web browser from here: http://www.stumbleupon.com/download.php .
StumbleUpon doesn't use the toolbar to collect personal data, but to serve up increasingly customized content that you haven't already seen, by keeping track of your stumbles, votes, etc.

For more information, you may want to see StumbleUpon's privacy policy, including how it relates to the toolbar: http://www.stumbleupon.com/privacy.html .

Another common question potential Stumblers ask is whether this toolbar contains any spyware, adware, etc. Fortunately, the answer is no – it does NOT contain any malware. It is possible to use StumbleUpon without the toolbar, but only on a limited scale. You'll be able to use the Forums, send and read PM's (private messages), etc. - but without the toolbar you won't be able to stumble (discover new content) or vote on anything.

How StumbleUpon is Different from Other Social Media Websites

StumbleUpon is unique among social media sites in many ways. If you understand its differences, you'll be able to use them to your best advantage in getting a nice flow of targeted Stumble traffic.

Here are some of the ways StumbleUpon is unique:

Users see content targeted specifically to them. Instead of showing all users the overall top-ranked content from the entire site, StumbleUpon is set up to show each user a selection of content that's customized to his particular interests. This “personalized content” model reduces the fierce competition, spamming, and aggressive commenting that exist on many other Web 2.0 sites.

It also makes StumbleUpon interesting and useful to a more diverse array of people. The emphasis is on surfing and discovery. Also different is StumbleUpon's emphasis on being a “discovery engine” instead of a news source.

While the content of many Web 2.0 sites focuses on breaking news stories, StumbleUpon's content tends to be evergreen. It's skewed heavily toward feature stories, reference sites, the arts, entertainment, hobbies, how-to's, photos, etc. - in other words, content that remains relevant to members' ongoing interests. That's one of the reasons why StumbleUpon tends to deliver sustained traffic over a longer timeframe, instead of in one rapid, server-crashing blitz.

Users interact more with landing page sites. Another difference is that StumbleUpon users often stay and explore several pages of the websites they stumble across. Since they're already targeted to the sites they stumble on (thanks to StumbleUpon's content-customizing process), they tend to be more interested in browsing further into those sites, following links they find within the sites, etc. StumbleUpon users also tend to be more likely to bookmark and return to sites they find by stumbling, as well as to subscribe to newsletters and RSS feeds.

In contrast, a major portion of other Web 2.0-directed traffic tends to “bounce” onto the landing page, skim it quickly, and bounce back out – without exploring, clicking, or subscribing. Even when they're somewhat interested in the landing page's content, they aren't necessarily interested in the rest of the site. Users focus on one site at a time. On other social media sites, users see links to all of the content at once – and have to scroll and choose what to view. StumbleUpon delivers one content item at a time, allowing the user to focus on it without being distracted by competing content, and decide how to vote on it before continuing.

As with all of the Web 2.0 utilities you use to help grow and market your online presence, you'll get the best results from StumbleUpon when you:

• use moderation and common sense (in other words, don't spam)
• submit, vote on, and comment on other people's high-quality content (not just your own)
• keep it real by genuinely participating in and contributing to the value of the site on a regular basis.

Author's Bio: 

Jack Humphrey is the author of The Authority Black Book and the editor of the Friday Traffic Report at www.jackhumphrey.com. Join Jack's social marketing community.