The Practical Guide To Content Tagging In Social Bookmarking - Social Media Explorer
The Practical Guide To Content Tagging In Social Bookmarking
The Practical Guide To Content Tagging In Social Bookmarking
Jason Falls
Jason Falls

One of the social media tools I get the most use out of yet see the fewest people adopting is social bookmarking. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to refer to quite a bit. Not only is it my social bookmarking mechanism of choice, but it is the one utility essentially geared for just that — bookmarking. Not voting, or front page-getting or popularity contests. Delicious is about a place to store your favorite sites and share them with your friends along that network if you choose.

Of course, being all social media’d up, Delicious offers several ways to bookmark (copying and pasting the URL straight into Delicious; using a toolbar bookmarklet for one-click access to the entry field; or even zany sync functions with your browser’s bookmarks or favorites, which make no sense to me if you’re going totally web-based, but I digress.) It even allows you (or anyone for that matter) to subscribe to your bookmarks via RSS or — even better — you can subscribe to certain tags applied to your bookmarks via RSS as well. So if I tag a certain number of bookmarks, “rockstar” and you want to subscribe to all the content I bookmark and then tag “rockstar” to indicate that it was written by a rockstar, I’m a rockstar (and vain) or it’s about Rockstar energy drink, then you can subscribe to just that tag and not see all the other crap I save.

At any rate, Delicious kicks ass and I use it in a number of ways. But tagging content, I recently found, is something I’m not very good at.

What you see below are my top Delicious tags as of late Thursday night, granted after parsing quite a few and transferring several client-based tags to a corporate account. (Hence the most popular “for:DoeAnderson”.) A few top level tags standout that make sense for me — PR, blogging, Louisville, bestpractices, advertising. “SME” is the purposed tag I use to populate the “What I’m Reading” side bar on my blog.

Delicous Tags - Jason Falls 1-1-09
Delicous Tags - Jason Falls 1-1-09

But if you look closer, you can see massive redundancy and disorganization. There are tags for brandenthusiasts, branding and brands. Separate ones for forum and forums. And a run of social media related ones that include no fewer than sellingsocialmedia, socialbookmarking, socialmedia, socialmediamarketing, socialmediameasurement, socialmediarelease, socialmediaroi, socialmediastrategy, socialmediatools, socialnetworking and socialnews. Oh, and there are separate entries for business, CEO and corporate.

And that’s just the snapshot of the top 200 tags. If you get down into the minutiae of my tags, you’ll find entries for (and I kid you not): baseballbats, celebrity, coffee, crafts, culturalbias, DIY, forumettiquette, giving, inspirtation, knitting, lawsuits, methanedigester, parenting, sarahpalin, slander, startingablog, TomTom, widgets, wine, WVU, yuwie and my personal favorite, cowfarming.

The reason for all this disorganization is two-fold. First, tagging is free-wheeling, off-the-cuff and can be whatever you want it to be. The concept is simple. Tag the content with a word or a couple of words that you will remember when looking for the content again, making it easier to find in a search. This can, however, often lead to inconsistencies in your tagging habits over time which is the second problem that resulted in my mess. Being inconsistent with what keywords I used to identify, say, social media measurement articles, produced multiple tags for the same essential information. Had I developed either a system, or kept it bare-bones simple from the start of my tagging life, some two years ago, this mess would not have happened.

So, starting over today, and Lord knows if I’ll ever get time to actually fix it all, here are my practical tips to tagging your content:

Keep It Simple

I would recommend using no more than 2-3 tags per piece of content and keep the words very generic. If it’s about social media measurement then maybe tag it “socialmedia” and “measurement”. If you’re ever tempted to get into monitoring, ROI, quantifying success, etc., default to “socialmedia” and “measurement”. And remember that tagging, especially in Delicious, is space sensitive. Thus “social media” will be tagged as “social” and then also as “media.” Be sure to eliminate the space and make it “socialmedia.”

Keep It The Same

If you’re following the Keep it Simple rule, you’ll probably find it easy to follow this one. Remember, inconsistency is what has killed my organization. So you have to keep coming back to the hard fast rules. If you’re bookmarking tax fraud cases in several states for your law firm, then bookmark them, “taxfraud California” and “taxfraud NewJersey” so you have one laundry list (taxfraud) and can then break it down by state with other filters. Don’t go off putting prosecutors names or state abbreviations or other extraneous information you won’t need. Keep it simple and the same.

Periodically Review

To remind yourself of the tags you are using and to help clean out ones you perhaps threw in by accident in your last, late night fit of social bookmarking, you should log in to Delicious periodically and see your mess. If you have hundreds of tags and none of them make sense, you’ve probably done something wrong. If you see a handful of categories that are popping out as the most bookmarked and you can easily filter and find what you’re looking for at a glance, you’re keeping with the program. It’s kind of like your file drawer – the less you look at it, the more it makes you sick when you do. So be a good steward, remembering that the public can see your mess online, and clean up your junk from time to time.

Don’t Bookmark Everything

This one is a hard one for some to grasp, but bear with me. I bookmark fewer and fewer items these days for one simple reason: I subscribe to just about everything I find interesting online via RSS. If I want to find an article I read on Mark Dykeman’s blog a year ago, I can search my RSS feeds and find it. It’s not much more time consuming or difficult than bookmarking it, so I don’t need bookmarking as much anymore. However, there are purposes and reasons for aggregating everything I find on certain subjects, so bookmarking hasn’t lost its relevance. But I only bookmark what I’m going to later need when writing an article on the subject or preparing presentation for clients, etc.

And as a bonus, here are some Delicious tricks.

  1. Use the bookmarklet to add things to Delicious. It’s just quicker and easier. Go here to learn how, it adds an icon in your browser, when you’re on the page you click and the dialog box pops up so you can add descriptions, tags, etc. If you still copy-paste, you need to spend some time getting up to speed on stuff like this. Trust me. it will make your life easier.
  2. To share a bookmark with a friend on Delicious, just add the tag “for:username” – so to share one with me, it would be “for:JasonFalls”.
  3. To subscribe to a certain tag, just select the tag, then scroll down to the bottom of the page. You should see the orange RSS icon in the lower left.
  4. To purpose a certain tag, just create a unique name for the tag and add it to content you want used for that purpose. For instance, I use the tag “sme” to produce the RSS feed of articles I want to appear in the sidebar of my blog as “What I’m Reading.” When I find an article I want to place there, I bookmark it, tag it with “sme” then I take the RSS feed of that tag from Delicous, and format the feed to fit in my sidebar using CSS styles. It sounds more complicated than it is. Ask a web dev type for some help. It’s actually not hard. (And once it’s set up, all I do is tag. Everything else is automatic.)
  5. If you’re editing your own tags, there’s a new Beta version of a bulk editor in Delicious now, so you can change a bunch of tags all at once. However, it won’t allow you to bulk add a “for:” tag, so you can dump all your corporate stuff at once. Yep … I had to transfer over 250 Maker’s Mark tags one-by-one. Sucked.

As always, this is an effort in collective intelligence. What are your secrets for tagging, bookmarking, Delicious or similar. The comments are, as always, yours.

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About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at

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