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10 ways to make your website more social

10 ways to make your website more social Jeff Ragovin

As social media is now the number one online activity, according to comScore, it's crucial that brands have a social strategy that is tightly integrated across all of their digital presences. Unfortunately, instead of integrating across all of their web properties, ecommerce sites and social presences, brands are too often employing strategies in silos, and not maximizing integration.

It's time for that to change.

Social sharing continues to account for a large percentage of activity on social networks. According to Facebook statistics, there are 60 billion "likes" and comments globally each month, and 250 million photos uploaded to the site each day. According to YouTube statistics, 100 million people take a social action on the site each week ("likes," shares, comments, etc.) While the focus over the last few years has been on the social networks themselves, brands that maximize social across all things digital will win. On that note, below are 10 proven ways to make your website more social. Use this as a guide to go from goal to implementation, and turn your websites into social powerhouses.

Determine your social objectives

This critical first step is one that is often overlooked. Make sure you don't jump in blindly without setting objectives. Before you start to make your websites social, figure out what you want to accomplish. Set benchmarks for traffic referrals and sales or conversions that are delivered via social sharing.

Choose your social networks wisely

I'm sure you've seen websites that have 100 share buttons, many of which lead to social networks that you haven't even heard of. Chances are, if you haven't heard of most of these social networks, your customers probably haven't either. So why not make it easy on them? Before implementing a social strategy for your site, think about the social networks that make the most sense for your business. Which networks are already driving the most traffic? Which have scaled to an audience size worthwhile for your brand to invest? Which networks are your competitors using successfully? The ones that pass this test are the social networks you should implement on your sites. 

Create sharable content

What content has generally resonated most with your community? For some brands, it may be a sneak peek of a new product, while others may find great traction in a helpful "how to" blog post. Meanwhile, other brands might have a knack for creating viral videos. Focus on the content you want to be shared and make it as simple as possible for people to share it. You can have the best social infrastructure the web has ever seen, but if your community is uninterested in sharing what you have to offer, your efforts will prove futile.

Remove the hassle of sharing

How can you make it as easy as possible to share? One way is to fill in concise, sharable meta-data for sharable content. If a user wants to share something to Facebook and there is no clear description, most people will get confused. And don't make people search around for a share button, either. Place your share buttons in easy-to-find places on your site where people are already active and engaged. When possible, use content that automatically prompts users to share, so that the default option is to spread content around, rather than making it an extra step in the process.

Use social calls to action

Use text, images, or videos to specifically point out the ways in which people can share content to their social networks. For instance, at the end of a video highlighted on your site, place more than just the social network icons. Instead, explicitly tell people to share content out to their friends to make sure they understand what you want them to do. Make it simple and spell it out.

Keep your theme and aesthetic similar across digital presences

Your social networks and your website are all a part of the same organization, so why not give people the impression that this is the case? You are encouraging engagement between your online entities and social networks, so rolling out a matching aesthetic and theme will ensure a seamless experience for anyone who moves from one property to the other. This will help maximize the time spent on your sites, while minimizing any confusion or questions of legitimacy. Keep consistency across the board. 

Remain Flexible

The art and science of social media is both exciting and daunting to many marketers, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer for brands. That's why it is important to stay flexible when trying to make your website more social. Though you've already set your objectives before getting started, you must constantly monitor your effectiveness. If you're making progress toward your goal, it doesn't mean you should stay stagnant. Instead, look at the tools that are helping the most and optimize their presences on your site. If things are failing, be prepared to tweak or overhaul if need be. There's no shame in trying and not succeeding immediately. It's better to simply "do" and then tweak, rather than waiting to perfect a campaign. Instead, have contingency plans ready and do not hesitate to pivot in order to better utilize the social capabilities of your sites.

Incentivize sharing

If you aren't getting the social traction that you desire on your site, then perhaps you need to provide a compelling reason for people to share. Using an incentive as a reward for users sharing may not be the most organic way to make your site social, but can still prove effective, and will ultimately expand your content's reach. While everyone loves a sweepstakes or a giveaway, the incentive does not need to be monetary or prize-based. Instead, offering something as simple as a behind-the-scenes video or sneak peek at a new product, in return for a certain amount of social sharing from your site, is a great way to get people in the habit of sharing content out to their social networks.

Start and continue a conversation on your site

Actively encourage participation in the discussion on your site, and then jump into the fray to keep the conversation going. Using the "Facebook Comments" plugin gives users a familiar context to engage in conversation. Additionally, a default checkbox can encourage users to share their comment back to their own Facebook news feed as well. Experiment with moving around the comments area on your site, and ask different questions of your users to spark conversation.

Be social by design

This is the most important part. The idea behind "social by design" is to design all elements of your digital presences to amplify or be amplified by social media.
Ask yourself questions like: What content and topics will make people want to share? How can I make it easy for users to send content out to their social networks? Is this content encouraging sharing, or is it leading to a dead-end on my website? By making sure the answers to all of these questions promote sharing on your site, you can immediately begin to connect your website to the social graph, all the while significantly expanding the reach of your content. 

What ideas do you have that I missed in this list? Let me know in the comments.

Jeff Ragovin is co-founder and chief strategy officer for Buddy Media.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"In my portfolio" image and "Social network, communication" image via Shutterstock.

Jeff Ragovin has over a decade of experience building expansive brand relationships at major technology and marketing firms. He comes to Salesforce.com through the August 2012 acquisition of Buddy Media, where he served as co-founder and chief...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Jeff Ragovin

2012, March 20

thanks Gary!

Commenter: Gary Bembridge

2012, March 20

Great tips, thanks!