Social Linking (some call it "social annotation") is when one person tells another person about a Web site, not by email or IM, but rather by using a third party service like Backflip or Del.icio.us.


Millions of people have accounts at services like these, and they are growing faster than you can say "user generated content."
It's fascinating to watch. The power of this type of link cannot be understated.... When thousands of people encounter a link to a site recommended by someone who's opinion they trust, well... you do the math.
Also fascinating is the new crop of tools that help speed the process of social linking. Have a look at Socialize It! Better yet, click this and you'll see what I mean in real time. Socialize it!
That link I just gave you is what I call a "Link Tic Tac." It gives you a way to impulsively submit a direct link to this page to all the various bookmarking services at once (as long as you have an account). Just like when you are waiting in line at the grocery store and you grab a pack of Tic Tacs.
The analogy is a little misleading though, because link Tic Tacs are a lot more powerful than the candy is. You have likely come across or even clicked a link Tic Tac after reading a good article or news item somewhere on the Web. They are showing up everywhere. Even the MarketingProfs Daily Fix is getting into the Tic Tac game, as they now add Technorati tags (another form of Tic Tac) to each new post.
The idea is to encourage readers to tell others about the site at the exact moment they might be most willing to do so. It only takes a spilt second to click a link Tic Tac, and done. Your site is now available to thousands of users of the various social linking services.
In some ways, this a natural evolution of the old "email this page to a friend" approach that has been around as long as the Web has. But who needs email when there are a hundred social linking services, tools, toolbars and plugins, and it takes literally 1 second to bookmark a site it for all to see?
Another brilliant example of these new tools is The Social Bookmark Link Creator. I use that one on my URLwire blog here. See all those Tic Tacs at the end of each new announcement? All done automatically by the Social Bookmark Link Generator.
So if this is fascinating and powerful, why is it dangerous?
Sadly, the spammers didn't take long to learn the power of social linking. When you simplify the process of seeding links, you encourage spammers because it's so easy. Look what happened to Digg.
Whether you consider that a form of spam or not, the danger is that once everyone starts socially bookmarking every site they know about, work for, built, consulted to, or otherwise are affiliated with... well, then the social link services and databases are no better than a search engine index. It's just a question of time.
For now however, game on. So add those Tic Tacs to your site. Encourage people to share, digg, add to del.icio.us, and even diigo (a fantastic new one) your site.
In fact, why not do it now with this article? Socialize this wonderful article!!
But hurry, before the social link spam ruins everything.
Happy linking,
Eric - http://www.ericward.com
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Eric Ward

Eric founded the Web's very first online publicity and linking services, NetPOST and URLwire, in 1994. Eric's expertise is in helping companies generate links, publicity and buzz for their Web content. A hands-on practitioner, Eric also offers training and seminars that teach companies how to do it in-house. His client list is a who's who of online brands, from Amazon.com to PBS.org.

Eric has written for for ClickZ and Ad Age, and he won the 1995 Tenagra Award For Internet Marketing Excellence. In 1997, he was named one of the Web's 100 most influential people by Websight magazine. A well-known speaker at the major industry trade shows, Eric will soon publish The Ward Report, a monthly "how-to" newsletter on the art of link building and publicity for Web content, with commentary on the newest trends and practices.

A native of northern New Jersey, Eric has lived in Knoxville, Tennessee since graduating from the University of TN. Eric's wife Melissa and toddler Noah say "bye daddy geek" every day when he leaves for work.

Eric can be reached at eric@ericward.com