Social media A-lister Digg.com is a wondrous diversion for those times when you have 15 minutes to kill. It’s better still for media owners that happen to be on the receiving end of Digg love.

Digg can deliver a serious traffic spike, should one of your stories make it to the homepage. I’ve watched in awe as Digg directed more than 1,500 visitors in a minute to an entertainment blog that I run. It’s like turning on a tap.

One of the questions I’m frequently asked is ‘how many Diggs do I need to get my story onto the front page?’. The answer, it turns out, is about 100, but there’s way more to it than that. 

Let’s look at the fundamentals for success, and then some facts and figures relating to Digg. 

To make it to the homepage you need at least six things working in your favour, and a bit of luck:

  • Great content
  • A great headline 
  • A great summary
  • A great Digg network
  • Passionate feedback
  • Great timing
  • A bit of luck

Here’s why…

Great content

Ok, so it goes without saying that you’ll get nowhere without this. Content comes in many shapes and sizes on Digg, including news articles, features, videos, lists, images, and so on. What makes content ‘great’ has been discussed many times already, so I’ll just reiterate the point: quality content is the first step to making it onto the Digg homepage. 

A great headline 

The way you label your submission is also important in capturing attention. Remember that you can rewrite the original headline, so by all means try to improve on it in some way. Be concise, be witty, be descriptive, but whatever you do, don’t throw any curve balls. Certain words may garner more attention.

A great summary

You have some space to expand on your headline. Write a summary, outlining the article, or why it’s important, or outrageous, or funny. There are no rules as such… sometimes a summary is a one-word acronym (“WTF?”), and other times it will simply be the opening paragraph from the story.

A great Digg network

Does a tree make a sound when it falls in the woods? The point here is that Digg receives 20.000+ story submissions every day and has 35m users. Your story is almost guaranteed to become lost in the crowd, unless your network of fellow Diggers can help to propel it into the Upcoming charts and the Recommendation Engine, where it will gain more attention.

A word to the wise: Digg can be gamed, but what’s the point of using a network or paying somebody to spam Digg with useless content? All you’re doing is shining a light on yourself, and Digg users will let you know about it (note the ‘Bury’ button alongside stories and comments). You can repackage shit but you certainly can’t polish it.

Passionate feedback

One of the crucial influencers in making or breaking a story is the feedback factor. Typically you need a balance between positive and negative comments. If you see an article in Upcoming with 10 comments that all say “Great article!” then you can be sure it won’t make the homepage. Anecdotally, it seems that negative comments seem to work better, so don’t worry too much if your Top 10 list attracts lots of bad noise for missing out something obvious. Opinion is what makes the world spin.  

Great timing

In the past week submissions averaged 100 Diggs before they hit the homepage. But this number is misleading, partly because there is no ‘magic’ number, and partly because there is an issue of timing. 

Typically, 150-200 Diggs seems to be the right sort of level for homepage newcomers, and I think the ‘100’ figure is skewed to reflect lower usage at night. Keep in mind that Diggs from the Recommendation Engine appear to be more powerful than ‘normal’ Diggs.

As if to prove a point, I’ve just seen four stories hit the homepage with between 60 and 75 Diggs. As I write this it is 11.00am in London, 6.00am in New York and 3.00am in California (most Digg users are based in the US). As such fewer Diggs appear to be needed during the night to hit the front page. For the same reasons a homepage win during these hours will send fewer visitors to the host website.

A bit of luck

There are no guarantees with Digg. It has a mind of its own. I’ve seen stories with well in excess of 200 Diggs fail to hit the homepage. The Digg team has its work cut out to find the right balance between preventing spam, and the gaming of Digg, and supporting its core users (the Digg algorithm changes frequently). Also, the Recommendation Engine is now a central part of Digg and is “worth its weight in gold“, so try to make use of it.

The facts and figures

A great site to explore if you’re after data on Digg usage is SocialBlade. Here are some of the latest stats. The numbers here represent weekly averages based on when stories hit the homepage:

  • Average number of Diggs = 99.37
  • It takes about 14.71 hours before a story reaches the homepage
  • Diggs per hour = 6.75
  • Comments = 9.2
  • Around 150 stories hit the homepage every day.

Follow the leaders

It is worth keeping an eye on some of the power users.

Andrew Sorcini, aka MrBabyMan on Digg, has submitted more than 12,000 stories and roughly one in three hit the homepage. He tweets here and also lives here

Slate ran a great interview with him earlier this month, which outlines how he wins on Digg, and might help you improve your own homepage hit rate. 

There’s also Muhammad Saleem, who is closing in on 7,000 Digg submissions and has hit the homepage 116 times in the past month, maintains a blog and a Twitter account

Good luck.