Keeping Track of Research with Social Bookmarking

In a previous article, I showed you how to use Google Alerts to automate internet research. If you tried it out and set up some Alerts, you’ve probably noticed that each Alert can include several links. This makes it hard to keep track of the links you want to keep. You can see how pretty soon your research is going to get out of control.

At this point, finding information may seem like the easy part while organizing it and retrieving it may seem like a daunting task. All those links won’t help you very much if you can’t find what you’re looking for when you need it. In this article, I will show you how to organize your research so you can actually do something with it!

For those of you using Internet Explorer (IE) to browse the internet, you probably know to click on “Favorites” to book mark a link. You’ve probably also learned the hard way that your bookmarks “live” on your computer. You can’t access them from any other computer and you can’t share or easily organize them.

Enter Social Bookmarking

Social bookmarking is one of latest internet buzz words. At its essence, social bookmarking is a fancy way to say “a list of links I can access anywhere and share with my friends.” With social bookmarking, you can add links to your list or bookmarks from any computer with internet access and you can easily organize them. The most popular social bookmarking website is http://del.icio.us. (Make note! Do not put “www” in front of del.icio.us. You won’t get there if you do!)

One of the problems with bookmarking links in Internet Explorer is that you have to decide which folder (or folders) a link belongs in before you bookmark it. I’ve found that life on the internet rarely affords you the wisdom to know exactly where things belong and categories that made sense one day can be confusing the next. Research via the internet requires a dynamic classification system that gives you the ability to change as you gather and assimilate new information.

With social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us, links are organized with tags. Tags are one word descriptors you choose on the fly to describe what the link means to you. Each link can have as many tags at you want and you can edit or changed tags later. The primary benefit of tags is that they enable you to put a link in multiple dynamic categories.

Streamlining the Bookmarking Process

I’ve used del.icio.us for over two years and have been pretty happy with it. The only problem I’ve found is that it’s kind of cumbersome to add a link to your del.icio.us account. You have to open a separate browser window, navigate to del.icio.us, then go through the steps of creating the bookmark. I’ve lost track of information I later realized I wanted because I didn’t want to take the time to go through the bookmarking process. I’m constantly telling clients to make their websites easier for their prospects and clients to use and this was yet another example of how we are more likely to do something if it’s easy.

Del.icio.us now has a button you can install on your browser that will streamline the bookmarking process. For those of you using IE, you can add a del.icio.us button to your browser window. Your IE toolbar will look something like this:

The button in the red box will take you to the del.icio.us website and the down arrow next to it will display all your bookmarked sites. The button in the blue circle will enable you to quickly add the site you are currently viewing to your del.icio.us bookmark list. (The red box and blue circle won’t be there when you add the buttons. I’ve added them for emphasis.)

For those of you not using IE, if you haven’t already, you can install the Google toolbar or Yahoo toolbar and add the del.icio.us button to either toolbar. If you use this option, also check out the del.icio.us bookmarkletswhich will help you streamline the bookmarking process.

Let Others Do the Research for You!

The feature of del.icio.us that makes it social is the ability to share your bookmarks with friends, colleagues and clients. You can either invite people to join your network or they can add themselves to your network. By default your network is public but you can make it private.

Links for you enables you to receive bookmarks from other del.icio.us users. The link to it, at the top of any page on del.icio.us, is bold when you’ve received a new bookmark, so you know when to check it. If you start using del.icio.us, let me know your account name! I will send you links I think might be of interest to you.

Subscriptions allow you to get notification of links assigned tags you want to keep track of. After you add a tag to your subscriptions, del.icio.us watches for everyone’s bookmarks saved with the same tag and sends them to your subscriptions page.

Hopefully I’ve piqued your interest in trying del.icio.us. If you’re new to using the internet to your advantage, it can be a little confusing sometimes but del.icio.us has pretty good help files that will show you how to get the most out of it. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call or email me.

Happy researching!


Related Links:
Want to learn more about social bookmarking? Check out the Wired Magazine article
“Social Bookmarking Showdown”.
Learn more about del.icio.us and how it works at http://del.icio.us/help/
Install the del.icio.us button: http://del.icio.us/help/ie/extension
del.icio.us bookmarklets: http://del.icio.us/help/buttons
Google toolbar: http://toolbar.google.com/T6/intl/en/index.html
Yahoo toolbar: http://toolbar.yahoo.com/?.cpdl=iy


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