StumbleUpon – The Next Big Thing In Social Media?

By Katie McDonald

Even though StumbleUpon, the service that uncovers new and interesting content on the Web based on user’s likes and interests, has been around since 2001, the social networking platform and its capabilities haven’t been fully understood. With the site’s recent growth and re-branded identity, StumbleUpon is demanding the attention of both casual internet browsers and social media marketers and is growing more popular everyday.

In the past year, StumbleUpon doubled its user base, exceeding 20 million registered users who stumble more than one billion web pages every month.  What’s interesting is that the site’s demographics are almost even across the board with 14% of the user base ages 18-24, 17% ages 25-34, 22% ages 35-44, and 19% ages 45-54.  Male and female users are also split evenly at 50% each. While StumbleUpon’s user base isn’t comparable to Facebook’s 800 million users, StumbleUpon accounted for 50.27% of referral traffic from the top 10 social media sites from March 2009 – August 2011, leaving Facebook trailing behind with a 38.9% market share. capabilities haven’t been fully understood. With the site’s recent growth and re-branded identity, StumbleUpon is demanding the attention of both casual internet browsers and social media marketers and is growing more popular everyday.

StumbleUpon gives brands the ability to casually yet effectively promote themselves, with a proven 50% referral traffic rate from top social media websites to back its success. Not only have other websites noticed, as seen by Mashable’s StumbleUpon link on their homepage, but other brands are now hoping to utilize StumbleUpon’s innovative platform as well.

Last month, StumbleUpon introduced Brand/Personality/Site channels that are currently in test-mode.  These channels allow brands, personalities, and websites to aggregate existing content from the web to their channel, no matter how old or new it may be.  Currently, there are 250 partners utilizing this free service, including Billy Joel, RedBull, ABC News, and Audi. Brand/Personality/Site channels can be accessed from the “Discover” page and will only been seen in users’ stumbles if they are relevant to their “Likes” and interests.

One of the most popular StumbleUpon Brand Channels is Threadless, with 312 pages on content and 4,901 followers. Threadless is a community-based company that prints designs that have been created and chosen by users. While Stumbling the channel, you find that most of the content is directly from Threadless.com, an interesting use of StumbleUpon to “discover” more information about the brand and drive website traffic.  That said, there’s a marked lack of multimedia content on Threadless’ channel, which can’t be said of Chelsea Handler’s Personality channel. With 2,591 followers and 144 pages of content, the author and comedienne showcases the multiple sides of Handler well, with outrageous photos and YouTube videos, comedian blogs and even recipes – we bet a few of them contain vodka! Comedy fits nicely with the playful randomness of StumbleUpon, as evidenced by the success of the Funny or Die Site Channel, which has over 4,000 pages of content and over 5,000 followers.

While these are some examples of more successful channels, currently most brand websites that link to StumbleUpon mainly encourage users to share specific content pieces, such as the A&E news page or General Electric’s press releases. Therein lies the secret of a brand’s success on StumbleUpon – by sharing content, you “Like” it and will most likely stumble upon that brand time and time again in the future.

StumbleUpon is aware of the importance of easy, streamlined sharing on its platform. To make it even easier for users to share a channel’s content, StumbleUpon has created its own URL shortening system, Su.pr, which links people straight to a brand’s channel with the StumbleUpon toolbar, which allows users to share content on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. With StumbleUpon’s more aggressive insistence on being noticed, brand channels, link shorteners, and all, will we start to see more StumbleUpon links on websites that direct users to the brand’s channel in addition to sharing content?

Social media platforms that connect brands are huge not just for social media marketers, but users of all kinds as well.  Facebook, the most popular social networking site, has over three million Facebook pages, with 2,800 of those pages having over one million likes apiece.  StumbleUpon’s Brand/Personality/Site channels have only been around for a month and already show great promise for growth and success.

At the moment, most StumbleUpon channels are celebrity or television related. More brands – however seemingly out of place – should start utilizing the platform, the sooner the better. It may seem difficult for brands to figure out a StumbleUpon strategy, but on a platform where randomness reigns and there have yet to be any set rules for brands, it is easy to figure out what specifically does and doesn’t work for your brand.

A word of advice to StumbleUpon however – always keep the user in mind. It would be counter-intuitive to add and suggest Brand/Personality/Site stumbles that are not relevant to a user’s interests. After all, that defeats the purpose of StumbleUpon in the first place.