13 Questions with Brent Csutoras – Social Media Expert

by Stuart McHenry June 30, 2009

About Brent Csutoras

Brent Csutoras is a seasoned Internet Marketing Consultant who primarily specializes in Social Media, Viral Linkbait and Search Engine Marketing strategies. Known for his work on Weird Asia News, a popular website serving a growing audience of around a million unique visitors a month, Brent has built a reputation as a Social Media expert. You can finding him speaking regularly at some of the largest and well known conferences, such as SMX, Pubcon, SES, and InfoPresse.

He has also been mentioned in Forbes.com, interviewed for Entrepreneur.com, and was recently recognized as one of the Top 25 Most Influential Online Marketers of 2008. You can follow Brent on Twitter here.

Question 1: What did you do before becoming a social media expert and how did you get into social media?

Brent Csutoras: Before I really focused on social media marketing, I was an SEO with a healthcare company, managing a handful of sites. I first starting using social media as a way to build links off their profile pages. It wasn’t until one of my articles hit the front page of Digg, that I realized the amount of exposure it gave my content. I immediately started participating in the top social media sites and building my accounts up so that I could get my content popular more often. Of course, it is important to note that I was not only submitting my own content but actively submitting tons of sources and being an active member in the community as well.

Question 2: What qualities and traits make for a good social media expert?

Brent Csutoras: I think that a good social media expert’s skills depend on their goal really. I don’t think there is necessarily a specific set of skills that make a social media expert because social media is a very broad term and encompasses a lot of skill sets. When it comes to social media aggregation sites like Digg, then I think that in order to be successful, you need to have many of the same skills you need to be socially successful in real life. I often say that ‘social media online, is the same as social media offline’ and I still believe that very much today.

Online social communities are still social communities, where you need to establish a respect and presence before you will earn respect, authority, and the ability to succeed. You have to make friends, carry conversations, participate on a regular basis, and be in tune to what the current conversation points are. The funny thing is, that is exactly what you have to do in any social gathering in real life as well… go figure.

Question 3: Recently we published a list of social media tools that will help save time.  What tools of the trade do you use throughout your typical day and how do they help?

Brent Csutoras: I am not normally a big fan of social media tools, as the majority of the ‘time saving’ tools are actually automation tools. I have tried hundreds and use almost none of them. There are some tools out there that offer information, such as the Digg Alerter and 97th Floor’s Social Media Firefox plugin, and EasyTweets, but all in all, I just don’t have much use for social media tools.

Question 4: I cannot help notice on Twitter how many people call themselves social media experts.  Are they just throwing the title around or are there really that many social media experts out there today?

Brent Csutoras: I think it again comes down to what you want to define social as, but there are always a lot of people who call themselves an expert, and seldom are they ever experts. I think the term expert is something that other people say about you and not something you should have to say about yourself.

Question 5: Some of our readers are up and coming social media experts.  What advice can you give them and how can they get that seal of approval of becoming an expert in the industry?

Brent Csutoras: If you really want to stand out and receive recognition for being an accomplished (expert is a pretty strong word) social media marketer, then you need to be involved in the conversation. You need to blog, network, attend conferences, get involved with the social community sites, and be a leader. I would also really recommend you read an old article I wrote that still applies today called “I know it is social, but STFU already!” and there is a whiteboard we did here.

Question 6: Currently what are the best websites for promoting via social media and why?

Brent Csutoras: It depends on your goal of course, but I would say Digg is still the best site out there for promoting content in social media. Of course, with it being one of the best sites, your content also has to be really good to reach the popular section of their site. StumbleUpon has really exploded and grown so dramatically this year and it is a little easier to promote more niche stuff since it is tag based. Twitter is a great platform for getting the message out as well. Those are the top sites right now for me.

Question 7: What kind of tips do you have in writing stories for Digg?

Brent Csutoras: The best tip I can give you is to really go the extra mile when creating content for social media. You need to be creative, interesting, comprehensive, and unique with the way you write your content. Success does not come from writing good content, it comes from writing great content at the right time. You need an angle for your content, yet still keep it general and viral in nature, so being involved in the community and the industry you are writing about will allow you to see the angles that will lead to success.

Use images and line breaks, to separate content and make it easier to digest. Don’t clutter your page with ads or other distractions, and most importantly… don’t try to convert the first wave of social media traffic that comes to your content.

Question 8: Give us one of your best kept secrets for marketing stories on Digg?

Brent Csutoras: Put all the tricks aside and spend your time making real connections. Those are the people that are going to give you the natural and diverse Diggs you need to be successful.

Question 9: I have seen stories go popular on Digg but voted down on Reddit.  What makes these two websites so different at times?

Brent Csutoras: First, it has a lot to do with the audience group. Reddit is not as main stream so its users are much more internet savvy and not so easily appeased with mediocre content. Like any site out there, you need to spend time on the site and learn what the overall community likes and dislikes. A lot of people use Reddit for social media marketing, but not as a real user, like they do on Digg.

Second, Reddit has some huge moderation problems that are better defined by reading Reddit’s Decline in Democracy,  which I wrote after going back and forth with Reddit’s cofounder Alexis for months attempting to suggest solutions and fix their moderation issues. The problem is that Reddit does not share the concerns and figures anyone with a complaint about the way it works is a spammer, in most cases.

Question 10: If you could improve one thing at each Digg, Reddit & StumbleUpon what would that be?

Brent Csutoras: Digg) There is a minor level of moderation at Digg that they should stop using. It is very clear that certain domains become penalized and never have a shot at the front page and sometimes content makes it into the Top 10 in Upcoming for over 12 hours and never goes popular. All in all, I am pretty happy with Digg though.

StumbleUpon) They need to allow you to flush all the pages in queue that were sent to you by your friends. They can add up and keep you from being able to Stumble completely new content.

Reddit) They need to take the power back from the handful of private subReddit admins who take up 50% of the front page of Reddit. They are not bound by any TOS and can moderate how they see fit, which has been proven to be very personal and not related to content submitted at times.

Question 11: What are some of the biggest mistakes that people make in social media marketing?

Brent Csutoras: Trying to spam and self promote their content without making an effort to participate in the community. Again, the same rules apply for fitting into a real social community offline. If you go in talking about me me me, no one will want to talk to you. So take the time to learn the community and become friends with its users before you attempt to promote your own content.

Question 12: We cannot ignore Twitter, it’s popularity is skyrocketing.  What advice do you have for companies that want to use Twitter to promote their business?

Brent Csutoras: If nothing else, register your name immediately to keep someone else from using your name to their benefit. Twitter is one of the fastest growing social media communities where it is ok to self promote, since your followers opt into seeing your messages. I would recommend having a real presence and not completely automating your account, but you have a great opportunity to get feedback, reach new customers, and get your message out through Twitter.

Question 13: You are one of the top social media experts in the world, who do you look up to and turn for advice in this field?

Brent Csutoras: Hah… There goes that expert word. I like what I do and I am passionate about social media, but there are many people way smarter than myself. Take Chris Winfield for instance, who is probably one of the smartest social media marketers I have met. He is constantly teaching me new things and pointing out angles I had never even thought of before. Same with Todd Malicoat who has a ton of affiliate and SEO background that helps change the way he approaches social media. Dave Snyder and Tony Adam are really breaking ground on how to measure success and use the feedback you get from your social campaigns to learn and improve. Greg Finn is my go to guy for social media content and what is going to be viral or not. The list goes on and on, and I am sure to have forgot some people.

I am honored just to be in an industry that is so new, exciting, and beneficial to online marketing in general.

Stuart McHenry
Stuart McHenry is a US-based SEO Consultant focusing on link building, content marketing, local SEO, and reputation management. Follow Stuart on Twitter @smindsrt

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