The Basics of Social BookmarkingIf social media was a family, who would be the ugly cousin?

When you think of social media, you certainly think of Facebook and Twitter, and the hundreds of success stories you’ve heard from affiliate marketers who have developed followings, generated traffic and increased their commissions by posting and tweeting.

But it’s likely you haven’t thought much of social bookmarking sites such as Stumble Upon, Digg and Delicious—which in the past year have unfortunately—and undeservedly—become the social media family’s ugly cousin.

Well, if you’re not including social bookmarking as part of your backlinking strategy, you’re missing out. It’s one more way to develop your audience, get more traffic and yes, sell more stuff.

For today’s post, I’ve assembled a few essential tips you need to know to get the most out of social bookmarking. Ignore these tips and you risk missing what affiliate marketers need most: free, quality traffic.

1) Pay attention to your headlines. Make your headlines catchy. Without a catchy headline, you’re article simply won’t be read.

2) Content is king. Write great articles and make them great enough for others to share. Don’t skimp on your content.

3) Your first paragraph matters. If your first paragraph is great, and sets up the rest of your article in a way that draws readers in, you’re likely to keep those readers who clicked your headline on your site.

4) Submit at the right time. The time of day can make the difference between an article that goes viral and an article that’s ignored. Posting earlier than 11 a.m. U.S. Eastern time isn’t useful. You’ll get the best results when you post around 4 p.m. Eastern.

5) Check your facts. And your spelling. Make sure your articles are free of factual errors and typos. Why? Because it undermines your credibility and gives people too much of a reason to give you a negative vote.

6) Join the community. If you’re setting up a profile and submitting content, be sure to participate in the conversation. Tag, favorite and comment on other people’s content, and they’ll be more likely to check out your content and return the favor.

7) Build a real profile. While you want to, and should, promote your own content, if you’re only posting about yourself, people are going to get bored. In fact, they might ignore you altogether. Share lots of content in your niche and make your profile valuable and interesting.

8) Don’t use automated submission tools. You’ll see offers for cheap and easy social bookmarking submission tools. Just say no. If it seems like it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Most social bookmarking sites will ban your account if they find you using these tools.

9) Respond to comments. Make sure you stay active in the community by responding to comments on your stories and commenting on the stories of others. In addition to being a great way to build your authority, you might learn something by reading all that content.

10) Get your servers ready. The thing about social bookmarking is that you never know she your content is going to take off. Getting listed on the front page of Digg could mean a spike in traffic off 200 to 500,000 visitors in just a few days. Make sure your servers won’t be overwhelmed by a sudden increase. If you’re using shared hosting, talk to your host about what you can do to optimize your site.

Are you using social bookmarking to drive traffic to your site? Tell us about your success in the comments!