How to tweak your website to make it more ‘social’

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Social MediaSocial Media Marketing is a buzz phase. Anyone’s an expert and a bunch of agencies are queuing up to take charge of your Social Media campaign with a host of wacky ideas.

As a Lead Generation Specialist, I’m naturally a bit sceptical of Social Media’s bottom line contribution but that’s not to say it’s not worth doing. There are clear benefits to the bottom line.

So if you are going to step into Social Media, my advice is:

  • Have a strategy – what do you want to achieve? Increased traffic? Product endorsements? Increased blog readership through subscriptions?
  • Integrate Social Media with your PR campaigns – recognise that Social Media fuses PR, Customer Service and Marketing
  • Utilise Social Media for Search Engine Optimisation – as part of your link building strategy through blogging, content syndication, etc.
  • Trust your staff and if necessary bring in an expert – work to integrate Social Media within the fabric of the organisation. Every member can help with your campaigns

Empower readers to “recommend” your site

Step one is to understand Social Media’s position within the Marketing Mix – how it complements the work you are trying to do in other areas such as customer retention and brand building. This acts as a springboard to allowing you to define your goals and target the platforms which are best for your business. To help this process you should add a Share Feature to your site that allows your visitors to let their friends know about your offering[s] via their Social Media accounts. Personally I like AddThis as it offers excellent reporting that tells you the platforms your users prefer and which ones bring you traffic through clickbacks (also it’s free which is always good in my book).

From my experiences with the AddThis Share Feature on a regular lead generation site (i.e. non-blog), I found that:

  • Video content, such as TV ads, was predominantly shared on Facebook, Twitter and Mixx
  • Informational pages, such as individual branch information, were predominantly shared on Facebook or Twitter and were frequently Bookmarked or Printed
  • Career opportunities were only shared on Twitter and Facebook

User behaviour started to influence my decision making as to which Share Features I was to make more prominent on individual pages and then back in April Facebook introduced the ‘Like’ button. Almost immediately it became apparent that ‘Likes’ are inferior to ‘Shares’ due to the prominence in user’s News Feeds. Since those early days there have been improvements. If you include Facebook’s SDK JavaScript, it makes it possible to raise the profile of a ‘Like’ in News Feeds so that users are able to include a Comment, making the ‘Like’ more prominent than just a one line statement.

Use Social Media applications to ‘endorse’ your web content

All Social Media sites provide applications that allow you to embed aspects of their service on your website. These fall into two broad categories:

  1. Page specific endorsements
  2. Brand/product endorsements

As mentioned above the Facebook “Like” buttons allow users to Share your content across their social network. In addition it is possible to record these “Likes” in numerical terms to indicate the popularity of a particular page. Similarly with Twitter and Google Buzz, there are applications you can use to indicate how many people have Tweeted a specific page or even display the Tweets relating to that page .

Facebook offers a number of Social Plugins which allow you to place data relating to your Facebook page on your website. If I sell widgets, I can create a Facebook page for free that allows customers to interact with my brand. Customers who like that widget give it the thumbs up within the Facebook network. This registers as a “Like”. If I can build up a significant amount of “Likes”, I can then embed an application on my site that indicates how many “Like” my brand/product which makes users feel like they need to be a part of something.

Get Social in Local Search

Technically an offsite process but still worth a mention in the context of this post. Optimising for local search requires listing your business (offices, branches, outlets, etc.) across multiple directories so as to “confirm” the existence of your business in that specific location. Many of these Directories, like Yelp, for example, have a Social Media aspect in that any comments, recommendations or “Likes” are transposed back to the user’s Facebook News Feed which makes their friends aware of your business.

Taking it one step further Foursquare is an integrated mobile application that allows users to gain from loyalty programs if they frequent a specific venue. Few organisations have really caught onto the potential of this medium as a means of attracting customers. This is definitely a medium to watch and something worth experimenting with.

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About Geoff

I run the digital marketing for the UK division of a global supplementary education provider. To find out what I'm up to join me on Google+

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