If you regularly browse social media sites, you’ve almost certainly run into Muhammad Saleem–he’s a power user at Digg, and a navigator at Netscape. I think it’d be fair to say he’s one of the first ever Social Media Celebrities. Somehow he also finds time to go to school, blog for both Pronet Advertising and about social media (as a subdivision of new media) at 901am, and write his own blog, The Mu Life.
Thanks for taking the time for this interview, Mu! Let’s start off with your background–how did you manage to get so knee-deep in social media?
Well Andy, it all started with Digg.com. It’s been a while and I don’t quite recall how I got into Digg, but if memory serves me right, I was looking for some technology-related podcasts, and through Diggnation I found Digg.com. Once I started participating, at first it was a little frustrating since as a new user it is harder to get on the front-page of the site (not because of the way the system is set up, but just because you have to really understand the community and their preferences to succeed). But I kept at it for a while, made some friends that guided me through the process and taught me how to better participate and succeed in the community. In 11 months since joining Digg, I managed to reach #9 on the Top Diggers list. Because of my ranking at Digg, I managed to get a position on Netscape as a paid ‘professional social bookmarker’. Sometime coinciding with becoming a Netscape Navigator, I started blogging about the knowledge that I had gained from an active member of the socially driven communities.
I see you’re involved in a project called Socially Given, “an experiment in socially driven charity.” How is that going so far? Has it been well-received? Any exciting future developments we should know about?
Andy, unfortunately I have gotten very busy lately and have had very little time to donate to this project. Steve Searer, who co-founded the project with me, and a blogger that I highly recommend following if you’re into social media, has really picked up the slack in my absence. The idea behind Socially Given was to get together a group of socially minded and aware bloggers, who aren’t making any substantial amounts of money from their sites (individually speaking), and don’t really care about monetizing their blogs for personal benefit. We get these people together, and when you have 10 bloggers, each of whom are making $10 a month form their blogs (which is rather negligible) and you band them together you have $100 dollars. Then, we take this resulting revenue from the whole network and give it to charity. We have had three goals so far, two of which we have already achieved, and are working on the third one.
(More details are on sociallgiven.com/blog.)
You’re one of the few (only?) people I’ve heard of that can actually earn a living participating in the social media scene (working as a paid navigator at Netscape, and as a paid social media blogger at Pronet Advertising). Number one, is this as fun as it sounds? Number two, how jealous are your friends?
You have no idea how much fun it is. You know how everyone dreams of getting paid to do what they love doing? That is exactly what I have been blessed with. It’s like getting paid to be a part of a pro-gaming team and getting paid to play Halo. I get paid to participate on Netscape.com (and not just participate, I get to kill spammers [oh so rewarding], address the communities concern, redirect duplicate submissions, and really be a part of the development and direction of Netscape in general), and then I get paid to write about my experiences, largely from Digg, but also from Netscape.com, on ProNet Advertising. I think my friends aren’t jealous because I’m just not snobbish about it. Quite to the contrary, since I have joined Netscape, I have talked to our team multiple times on behalf of many of my friends who I thought would make great additions to the Netscape Navigator team, and consequently many of my friends were hired too. Hired not simply because I mentioned them, but because they had the experience and the understanding of the medium and were just waiting to be discovered.
You know, more than anything else, I’m just thankful to the people that gave me the chances. Social media is a still a niche (growing fast, but still a niche) and the people that have taken steps such as Jason and C.K. with paying Netscape Navigators, are really taking a gamble.
“Power User” sounds both impressive and intimidating. Is being at the top of the social media pyramid all it’s cracked up to be?
Being at the top is as much fun as you want it to be. If your idea of fun is to be continuously seen on the front-page of Digg, Netscape, Reddit, well then you can do that. My idea of fun was to take my experiences from being a power user, and writing about them and sharing my experiences and the knowledge gained from that with other people trying to understand social media, what it does right, and what it does wrong.
I had to save this assinine question for last, or I figured you’d refuse to do the interview. Which is “better”, Digg or Netscape?
It’s not as simple as that Andy. To be very honest, I use Digg on a daily basis but I use it for technology-related news. If I want to read political news or opinion pieces, I read them on Netscape. If I want to read offbeat stuff, or humor-related or photography-related, I get them on Reddit. This is just a superficial view on the three sites. All of the communities have their strong points and their weak points.
Thanks for taking time to do the interview, Mu!
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