Reg Saddler is the co-host of The Drill Down, a popular social media podcast, along with Andrew Sorcini (Mr. BabyMan), Muhammad Saleem and Lidija Davis. He is well-known for being the #4 Digg user of all time- until he was abruptly and arbitrarily banned last September, along with several other power users. That hardly set him back, as he’s currently rising to the heights of popularity on other hot social sites. These days you can find him on Twitter, Mixx and Facebook …
What do you do for work? And for fun?
“My background is in IT consulting. More recently, I’ve been exploring doing some social media consulting with companies. Now… that doesn’t mean I’m promoting or submitting stuff for people. I’ve seen many people try that and it doesn’t work – for long. Instead, we’re showing them how to make content that will get popular on social media sites: how to make stuff people will want to share.
I’ve got a wife and kids I like to spend time with. So these days, I mostly hang out at home and play with my computers and watch movies and stuff.”
Serious video & sound: Reg’s 73″ home theater system.
Are you an information junkie?
“Yeah, I’m definitely an information addict. But I’ve noticed there’s different kinds of information addiction. For instance, my wife subscribes to thousands of RSS feeds and she is really patient. She goes through all these stories and reads every single one of them from beginning to end. I subscribe to thousands of RSS feeds, too. But me, on the other hand, I just go crazy. Scan through stories and try and find something good enough to submit. Something that might make the home page. I have a much, much faster pace.”
Too much information for one brain to handle! image: Martino!
Do you think social media is evolving our thinking or shifting human consciousness in a new direction?
“Actually, I think it’s dumbing us down. I think people are no longer reading stuff like The Great Gatsby, they’re just searching for quick answers on Google. You don’t have to know how to add, multiply or do any research – it’s all just there floating around on the internet at the push of a button. It makes things too easy.
Reg in his home office.
Here’s an example: I used to be really organized and collect all kinds of media – but now that information is floating around out there everywhere – I just kind of pull it out of a cloud and will download whatever I need to. So in some ways, this isn’t really evolution.”
Do you think social media could be a mainstream influence in the 2012 election?
“Yeah, I could totally see social media being a huge part of the next election. Even now, it has a lot of power. During the election, I submitted a Digg story: “Sarah Palin Wants Harry Potter Banned.” I kind of figured that the story might not be true, but I loved the headline and I submitted it anyways. It hit the front page, and the next day the McCain campaign responded to the story. I got a kick out of that. I’m fairly sure it was because of the Digg story – cause it wasn’t really reported anywhere else, nationally.”
You were a very hardcore Digg user… you dugg over 130,000 stories and had 1,566 submissions hit the home page. What drives someone like you?
image: Computer Choppers
“A lot of people play video games. Xbox. PS3. World of Warcraft. Social media is an outlet like that for me. Not so much as a toy “game” – I take it seriously – but I do take a (video) gaming-like approach. I get a sense of joy. Just like when you’re finishing a level of a game… I love to get on the home page. Not for an ego sense, but I do enjoy getting to share some stories that I think are amazing and have a lot of people see the same content.”
Any metaphors that you use when you think of Digg?
“One thing I think that most people don’t consider that Digg is a business. Kevin Rose and Jay Adelson had a really cool idea, but they set up as a company and it has to make money. It has advertisers and legal policies and stuff like that… ”
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on Digg?
“First, look for the sites that top Diggers are submitting content from, and also submit content from there. Then spend some time getting to know the site and understanding how it works socially.
Second. I’d say there, maybe, a pool of 1,000 or maybe 2,000 people who submit content on an active basis. We know them all – we know who is active and who is on vacation. If you get to know maybe just 20 or 30% of these active people by just befriending them and digging their content – only the content you like – they reciprocate. They will notice you. They’ll say: ‘This is a new person, and they like my stuff, let’s see if I like theirs!’
Also, you should have to have a very visual icon. Pick one and stick with it – don’t change.”
Who is one Digger who really impressed you?
MakiMaki hasn’t been on for that long, but he’s really passionate about Digg, he has a popular blog, and he is really incredible at finding good news stories. He’s the best, actually. That guy must not leave his computer. I watch what he’s up to… and I learn a lot from him.
I’ve never seen a picture of Maki or spoken with him. Have you talked with him?
Andy (MrBabyMan) has spoken with him. So has Oboy (JD Rucker). We’ve analyzed him – cause we’re hardcore, die-hard users – and he’s for real. There’s no way that a team of people could be submitting his stuff. It’s not just about finding the content… a lot of it is re-crafting the title to make it hot. He’s a master at that.
You’ve recently had a meteoric rise in popularity on Twitter. What’s your philosophy?
For me Twitter is a lot like Digg – without an algorithm. I can post great content to Twitter, but instead of getting thumbs up or dugg up… I get retweets. I’m not hyper-aggressive, not using some kind of script: I’m manually finding new people. If they like my stuff, they stick. .and if they don’t.. they de-friend me. If you look at some of the top guys like Chris Pirillo, Guy Kawasaki, Jason Calacanis, Kevin Rose or Scoble… they’re posting top content. It’s content – mostly – and you build a great following from your content.
What people like — just like in a newspaper – is diversity of content. I post stuff about space, politics, science – you name it! An easy way to do that would be to go to the front page of Digg, find the best story and tweet it. Right when Obama got inaugurated, I found some really great photos of the event and it was hot on Twitter.
Conversations are also a huge part of Twitter… I try and reach out to people, ya know, join the conversation. I don’t want to be a Twitterati that doesn’t say anything. If you ask Kevin Rose a question, chances are he won’t get back with you. Ask Scobleizer, and he might – and that’s how he builds his following. I’ve got 23,000 followers, so I try to engage with as many people as possible.
When you have so many followers, how do you possibly keep track of it all?
I use Tweetdeck. I can’t read every single message from the raw flow of my followers, but I do read the @ replies and the direct messages. I also set up groups in Tweetdeck to watch followers whose tweets I want to see… or those I have to, because they’re business partners and colleagues. I also watch certain hash tags.
There’s other good tools like My Tweeple – where you can go in and see who hasn’t been active in a while. SocialToo is amazing. It gives you an automated response when people follow me on Twitter – saying “Thanks! Check out my Facebook profile (or blog)“… and if someone follows you or unfollows you – it can do the same thing back. It makes ‘people management’ soooooo much easier. It can be a real pain to do it all manually.
What’s happening at Mixx?
Mixx is cool because you can make your own customized homepage – where you only see the content you care about. Also, Mixx aggressively listens to their user base. If they hear about a problem, or if people suggest a new feature that might be cool… Mixx is a lot more nimble. There’s only a small number of people who are highly active in social media…. maybe like 2,000 who are on Digg, Mixx, Reddit, Twitter and stay active on every major social domain. Mixx understand this, and rather than ostracizing the power users… they’ve embraced them.
Digg has 28.7 million dollars in funding, but they’re laying off people and they don’t have a direction. But Mixx is Chris McGill and his team – and if you ask them for a feature, they’ll try it out for you. (Mixx) doesn’t send 100k visitors to your story. But CNN understands the value of Mixx, it’s the main social voting icon on their site. And so do their investors. I think they have some groundbreaking ideas that I might not be able to wrap my head around yet.
You do really well at building an audience. What do you want to use your influence in social media for?
During the presidential election, I used my social media capital to push Barack Obama. I’m going to use my position in the future to push worthy causes. I also want to have a successful social media company and be a strong player in the industry. I do want to make a lot of money, but if I can push eyeballs to a story about starving kids, or to help after a disaster like New Orleans – I’ll always do that.
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