(photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid)

As regular readers will probably remember, Gerald made a post at the end of October that was titled 5 Social Media Sites That You Must Explore. In this post, Gerald provided an overview of five popular social media sites (Twitter, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, Technorati and Plaxo). In addition to discussing all five of these websites, Gerald also promised that a detailed look at each one would eventually be published on this blog.

Since my personal favorite out of these five websites is StumbleUpon, I thought that I would kick off the series of five detailed posts with a look at why you should start stumbling today (if you haven’t already).

So, what exactly makes StumbleUpon such a special social media website? If I had to identify one characteristic of StumbleUpon that really makes it great, it would have to be the level of personalization that it provides to its users. When you first sign up for a StumbleUpon account, you will be asked to provide some basic information about your interests. Once you get everything setup, you can start Stumbling. This involves pressing a Stumble button (which will take you to a random page that matches your interest), and then rating the page you are taken to with a Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down (this used to require a Firefox toolbar, but StumbleUpon now allows you to also Stumble from within a web browser). You can rate any webpage you visit with a Thumbs Up or Down, and you can also leave a written review for any page or website you visit. Over time, you will find that as you rate more pages, StumbleUpon will get even better at providing you with content that you are really interested in.

(photo by dannysullivan)

While I’m sure this all sounds great to you, since this is a search engine marketing blog, you are probably asking yourself “how can StumbleUpon bring traffic to my website?” This is a very good question for any Internet marketer to ask, and I have several good answers to provide you with.

Although Digg gets a lot of attention for having the ability to send large amounts of traffic, the problem with Digg is that it will send a big burst of traffic, which will quickly fizzle out after only a couple of days. On the other hand, not only can StumbleUpon send traffic from the beginning, but it can also send a very steady stream of traffic over a long period of time. To give you a real life example, I wrote a blog post that was Stumbled over two months ago, and StumbleUpon is still sending traffic on a daily basis as a result of this one post (in fact, the most recent review was written just five days ago).

In addition to getting traffic flowing organically through StumbleUpon, one really cool feature is the ability to buy advertising. For $0.05 a person, StumbleUpon will insert the piece of content that you want to promote into their natural flow. When a visitor is Stumbling and sees your page, they won’t be aware that it is actually a paid advertisement. In fact, because users can review and Thumb your content, if people like what they see and rate it well, you can actually begin to attract organic StumbleUpon visitors instead of only paid visitors.

(photo by Si1very)

From all of the reading I have done (and personal experience), you don’t need to waste your time trying to game StumbleUpon. Since it provides lots of networking features (including friends, messaging and profiles), you can build up a strong StumbleUpon network by being active and genuine with other people who are interested in the content you are trying to promote. When you combine this with creating some interesting pieces of content, you will definitely be able to see an increase in traffic coming from StumbleUpon.

If you need to kick start or expand your StumbleUpon network, feel free to connect with Gerald or myself.

Whether you just started using StumbleUpon or have been using it for quite some time, please leave a comment below and tell us about your experiences with it so far!