In 2011, the savviest business people know that visitors like to recommend and share content with their own networks. So I have two questions for you:
- Does your website or company blog have buttons on it to give readers a way to share your content on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn? Give yourself a big pat on the back if it does.
- When was the last time you changed those social sharing buttons? If you haven't changed them in over 6 months, then it's time for a tune-up.
You see, the whole world of social media is rapidly evolving. Social media sites themselves change. New options for sharing content and expressing your likes are added or improved regularly. For instance, the ability to share content via a LinkedIn Share button is something that didn't exist a year ago.
Social media sites themselves go in and out of vogue. The most popular sharing site of last year may no longer be hot. It may even be shuttered. And if you use a social sharing service such as Add This or Share This, you may find that there are new improved styles of buttons and new features and functionality being offered for you to implement.
What's more, the pace of change has increased. In the past six months the options for social sharing changed far more rapidly than in the previous 12 months.
Are you convinced that you need to do a quick inspection and tune-up on your social sharing options on your website or blog? Then read on to learn what to do.
CHOOSE POPULAR SHARING OPTIONS
There are dozens of sharing options that may be appropriate for your audience. For small businesses, I recommend 5 sharing options to consider at a minimum:
Twitter: Twitter now offers an official Twitter tweet button that includes a count of all tweets for a page. And there are a variety of widgets that can show how others are sharing and discussing your content on Twitter, or make it easy for visitors to follow your Twitter account. Go here for Twitter resources.
Facebook: Facebook offers a variety of buttons and widgets, to encourage sharing and to help you build a satellite community on Facebook. The Facebook Like button is a popular choice, because it's easy for visitors and requires just one mouse click. Check out the social plugins for Facebook.
LinkedIn: As mentioned above, LinkedIn now offers its own sharing button, so you can share with your network on LinkedIn. If you sell to other businesses, especially to the corporate market, then a LinkedIn share button should figure prominently in your social sharing strategy. Go here for LinkedIn share buttons.
Email: Many people still prefer to share privately via email. In particular, if you serve a business-to-business audience, the email sharing option likely will be well used. Make it easy to email a post or article.
Google +1 button: The new kid on the block is Google's, called the +1 button. If you put it on your site, it will display the number of times people have clicked the +1 button showing they recommend a page. The count also shows up in the Google search results showing others have recommended it. Go here for Google +1 button.
STEP INTO YOUR VISITORS' SHOES
Take a few minutes to experience what it is like to share content on your website. You may be pleasantly surprised – or unpleasantly shocked! Click all sharing buttons, and try them out. Or have someone on your team who is especially socially savvy do it. Find out:
Do all buttons work? It's not uncommon to find social sharing buttons that are improperly set up. Instead of completing a share, they return an error message. Periodically check all buttons because even if they once worked, something could have changed. If they don't work, either go back and read the instructions for installing the button, or contact your tech help. Usually it's a relatively simple issue to fix.
Are the buttons configured to take advantage of all benefits? Take advantage of all the features your button offers. For example, with the official Twitter tweet button, you can add your own Twitter handle automatically to tweets when someone uses the button, if you set it up properly. Also, you can prompt the user to follow up to 2 Twitter accounts of yours, after the tweet is completed. Yet, I frequently see tweet buttons that are not set up to take advantage of either benefit. What a wasted opportunity to build your Twitter following!
Are the social sites you link to still active? By clicking on your social buttons, you may learn that one or more of your social sharing sites are no longer active. For instance, I regularly see buttons for Magnolia and Propeller. Both of these sites have been shut down. Why waste real estate on your website for social services that no longer exist? Besides, it makes your company appear out of touch and hapless.
Are the social sites ones your target market frequents? I often see Digg buttons on company blogs, yet in my experience you must have the right type of content for it to be popular on a site like Digg. Digg users tend to prefer highly controversial, sometimes sensational content. More to the point, your desired visitor simply may not be a Digg user. So why bother with buttons for sites where your content is unlikely to be shared – or where you'll just attract visitors who are not likely to become buyers? Click through to the social site for each button, take a close look at the content shared there, and ask yourself honestly if it's likely your content would be shared at such a site.
EXPERIMENT AND TEST
Even small tweaks can make a difference. We find that certain styles of buttons and widgets, for example, increase the frequency of social sharing. Here's what to look at:
Do you include individual buttons for each social site, instead of a universal social sharing button? A universal sharing button (one that opens up to reveal multiple social sharing options) is certainly an easy and fast solution. However, we have found through experimentation that individual buttons for the top services, such as Facebook and Twitter, bring more shares of them. It's as if seeing a specific social icon for their social service of choice, reminds people to share. Universal sharing buttons such as ShareThis and AddThis now offer button/widget styles that display individual icons – consider one of the new styles.
Are you displaying a count of the number of shares? Proof of social validation is very important. Visitors to your site want to see that others have found your content valuable. Consider using button and widget styles that tally up the number of shares -- such as the number of Twitter tweets for a particular blog post.
Are you allowing visitors to see which friends have shared? One of the neat things about Facebook Like buttons and certain widget styles is that they can display the faces of your visitors' friends who are fans of your business or have recommended content. People often act based on the recommendations of their friends – if they see a friend has already shared something, they may be more likely to share. When choosing styles of widgets and Like buttons, choose the ones that display faces. It makes a difference.
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Hopefully, I've given you enough to do a full inspection of your social elements on your website or blog, and perform a quick tune-up. If you're not already in top social shape, you can be by following the above guidance.