Many clients come to me in the midst of a website project to ask how best to add Social Media features to their business website. The truth is, there are many ways to integrate Social Media on your website, and different businesses prefer different approaches. I will outline two approaches and list tools in this article to get your started.
There are two distinct approaches to adding Social Media tools and content to a business website. The first camp tends to have the goal of “Make My Website a Social Media Hub,” while the other camp tends to say, “Let Social Media be Social Media.” The first camp would use as many of the tools below as possible to help not only provide basic tools on their site, but bring the experience of Social Media into their website. The second group of folks would use tools sparingly on their website in order to simply provide the minimum technology for their site to function well within Social Media while engaging more directly with customers natively in Social Platforms.
Neither of these approaches is wrong, but it comes down to what User Experience you are seeking to provide and how those goals contribute to your ultimate digital conversion goals. What activities do you expect customers to engage in on your site and what activities do you want them to keep in Social Media platforms?
There are other concerns such as what kind load time, design impact, and technical requirements you might need to keep up on if you add more Social Media elements to your website. Let’s look at 8 ways to integrate Social Media into your business website so we can evaluate which might be most valuable to your customers.
8 Ways to Integrate Social Media into Your Business Website
The starting point for any website would be to add social sharing icons to the top or bottom of your website. Give your audience a way to connect to you outside of your website. These links should be immediately recognizable, easy to find, and should launch in a new browser tab or window to keep folks on your site while allowing them to connect. There are many ways to add social icons to your site from WordPress plugins to custom icons which proliferate on the internet. I personally prefer utilizing an icon font like Font Awesome because of how well it renders on different screen sizes including retina displays.
Social Sharing Buttons
The most commonly requested feature for Social Media integration has long been the social sharing buttons below blog and news posts on your website. From native Facebook like buttons to custom plugins like Add This, these buttons make sharing your content to the social network of your users’ choice a breeze. Be aware that these plugins do add some load time to your website. The good plugins will use what is called ‘asynchronous’ loading to make sure the page doesn’t experience significant delays in displaying your important content while waiting for social buttons to load. Once again, there are many implementations of this, so focus on what will appear in a logical place for good User Experience and what blends well with your site design. Bad or duplicate sharing buttons are a quick turnoff for blog readers.
Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social networks support methods for embedding social content right on your website. Whether it is a single tweet, a twitter timeline, a Facebook business page timeline, or a video—there are many ways to add this rich content to your website and blog posts. (WordPress Embed Features) You can even embed a button to tweet out a specific embedded quote from your blog post. Once again, use sparingly and in a way that enhances User Experience rather than hampers it.
Blog comments are become less common as people realize the the venue for discussion on the internet has moved largely from forums and blogs into Social Media. I usually recommend not trying to replace Facebook with your website, but you can instead integrate Facebook comments in your content. This creates a cross-pollination between website and social network that can be a virtuous loop for your customers as you engage with them.
Platform Specific Options
Open Graph Meta Data
If you have ever had problems linking to your website from Facebook because it picks up the wrong image, you are likely missing Open Graph Protocol in the code of your website. Many WordPress plugins make this possible and even automates it for you. This code on your website will become as important as SEO data moving forward due to Facebook’s growing emphasis on search.
Facebook Instant Articles
Facebook is taking similar steps to Google to improve the navigation experience for mobile users. Their concern is that sites designed for desktop users will hamper the user experience on mobile devices. Enter, Facebook Instant Articles. Facebook has provided a set of requirements to enable the lightning fast loading of article content in the Facebook environment by pulling from your pages rather than linking off to a page that may or may not be mobile-friendly.
Twitter Cards are used similarly to Open Graph meta data in that you provide rich markup on your site to put elements of your content (usually blog posts) into a machine readable format specific to the Twitter platform. This makes the movement between Twitter and your website a little more seamless and helps connect folks who share your content to your Twitter account.
There is a big difference between a link to a blog post with a recipe on Pinterest and one that includes things like the ingredients on the Pin itself. That is thanks to Rich Pins. Setting these up on your website will help your Pinterest content to be much more shareable. Pinterest seems to follow some different rules when it comes to content format that other networks, so it’s worth specifying Pinterest specific data.
Now that you are armed to the teeth with methods of integrating Social Media into your business website, you’ll need to go back to the strategy. Can you draw on a white-board the path you expect your audience to follow from your website to Social Media and back? Or from Social Media to your website…and then where? How do you convert these eyeballs to qualified leads? How do those leads convert to paying customers who drive the bottom line? It’s easy to lose the forest for the trees once you start engaging with Social Media as a business.
Be smart, be creative, and get in touch if you need any help with the items above.