My server had no trouble handling a recent burst of traffic from Digg and Reddit to my home recording blog. The site is busy, so I’ve long ago tweaked it to handle the load.

But between responding to comments, ignoring the hate mail (!), and reassuring my ISP that the traffic was temporary, I realized there’s also a level of psychological preparation required to manage the Digg effect. Since I haven’t seen this addressed among the myriad tutorials on technical preparation, I thought I’d share my experience in the form of 5 tips to prepare yourself mentally for a social network traffic flood.

1. Remember Why They’ve Come

Folks who visit your site from a social network do so because a headline caught their attention. They’ve come to either:

  1. read the article, return to their community, and comment on it, or
  2. kill some time.

So don’t feel bad if you get 10,000 visitors, and only 2 new comments. Digg visitors get in, and get out. Unless the article in question is actually about you, they won’t even know you exist! Remember that, and you shouldn’t be surprised when they don’t behave like your regular visitors.

2. Don’t Expect Them to Stay

Social network traffic might lead to more RSS subscribers, but don’t count on it.

My site’s bounce rate hovers around 55%, but for social network traffic it’s a much higher 85-90%. Your blog is probably similar. And this makes sense: People find sites organically when searching for topical information that the whole site provides. But Diggers and Stumblers visit to read a specific article, and they leave when they’re done reading.

So if your subscriber count doesn’t leap up after a traffic flood, don’t sweat it. There are other benefits, such as the boost in incoming links you’ll see as other bloggers find your site.

3. Remember Why You Wanted the Traffic

Everyone likes to have their efforts acknowledged, so it’s easy to feel put-off when your server’s cowering under a stampede of traffic and no one’s saying thanks. But if you took any steps at all to attract these surfers, you did so for a reason. Maybe you wrote about one of your passions, or a pet cause. Maybe you’re announcing an event. Or perhaps you simply wanted exposure for your site.

Whatever the reason, keep it in mind, and remember that the traffic surge was your goal all along.

4. Don’t Take It Personally

If Digg users can get upset about cute pictures of animals, it’s practically guaranteed that your site will offend someone. You might even receive hate mail or comments.

But don’t take it personally. Anonymity emboldens even the meek – though most trollers wouldn’t dare spout off to your face. And more importantly, as I mentioned above, the visitors you receive in a traffic flood don’t think about you personally. You may incite their rage with something you wrote, but since they don’t know who you are, they’ll hardly hold it against you.

Besides, in my experience, hate mail senders number only 1 or 2 every 10,000 visitors, which really says more about the goodness in people.

5. Be Ready for the Come-down

It’s thrilling to watch your hits climb past 10,000 or 15,000. Especially the first few times you experience it, the rush is almost euphoric.

I suspect this is driven by our basic human need for social approval. But whatever the cause, one thing is certain: Eventually, the traffic will let up.
And when it does, and you watch your blog slide back to obscurity, you’re bound to feel a little deflated. This is completely normal.

It’s also normal to crave more traffic! So channel that energy. Collect yourself, and think about what you’ve learned and what you might do differently. Ask yourself: Did the traffic flood take you by surprise, or did you work hard to drum up attention? Did you worry too much about your server’s ability to handle the traffic? Did the hate mail get your blood boiling, or did you manage to shrug it off? Did you enjoy the attention?

Use the answers to better your blog, and your mind. Then, of course, get blogging again, and brace your psyche for the next mad rush!