14 Sep 2012

For small businesses looking for a new website, a common question is often asked about the integration of social media.

Social media typically brings about images of Facebook, Twitter, and other related sites. Social media is really just media. The social aspect comes in because on these websites, people are interacting with people they both know in real life or know because of their Web relationship.

The social aspect involves messaging, commenting, article publishing, photo publishing, video, and much more. All of it is social and the real interest in social media for businesses is to have their brand become part of the conversations people are having online.

When working on your new website there are some basic guidelines you can follow to “socialize” your site and become part of the conversation your customers and prospects are having.

Let’s examine these guidelines.

Social Media and Website Integration Guidelines

Integrating social media into your business website has become important. Your customers are likely using at least one social site and likely multiple. The important thing to remember is that the goal of social media for businesses is to become part of the conversations people are having on social sites.

This means that when people are discussing recommendations for products and services with their family, friends and peers they are taking common offline word of mouth and having the same conversation online. When the conversation involves your business you win.

1. Target Customer and Target Social Channel

The first item to determine is what social channels best fit your company. The process starts with a good understanding of your target customer.

Your target customer likely uses a few social channels more than others. One example would be a company that targets journalists. Perhaps the company is targeting journalists because the company offers software that allows journalists to keep contacts and sources organized with corresponding articles. When the journalist needs to cite a source, the linking information and everything else is handy.

A good place for this software company to position themselves would be on Twitter. Journalists are some of the biggest users of Twitter. The social channel allows them to broadcast their stories to large groups of followers.

The software company would want to socialize their site for Twitter where they can become part of the conversation with journalists.

Another understanding to have about social channels is the intent people have when using channels. A common thought is that since everyone uses Facebook then it makes sense for all businesses to use Facebook as well. This is certainly true in some cases, but some people don’t want to discuss business matters and recommendations on Facebook. They simply want to look at photos.

Some people do give recommendations to friends and family on Facebook, though. The key takeaway here is to understand what social channels your target customer uses when they are most likely to discuss your business. When you find this social channel you should join it and include calls to action for your account on that page on your new website.

2. Calls to Action

The social calls to action on your site are important. These are the buttons or images on your site that ask people to follow you or to share your content on the social site.

To understand where these calls to action belong on your site begins with an understanding of each page on your site. Each page should have at least one next step or call to action. Some pages will have multiple next steps, but usually there will be one main call to action.

Take a homepage for example. The visitor to your homepage likely heard about your company from someone or something. They either typed in your URL and came directly to your site or they performed a search on Google.

This new visitor is looking for information about your company. A good call to action on your homepage, after providing a basic company value proposition, would be a link to more information or service information.

The homepage might not be the best place to have social calls to action prominently displayed. After all, this person came to your site and they’re interested in your company. Why send them away?

It’s better to include social calls to action like the “Like Us On Facebook” button in the footer where it is common.

Now, say you have a checkout page or a contact form confirmation page. These pages are ideal for “Follow Us” buttons. The person is ready to leave your site and you have the chance to get them to opt-in to your updates on sites like Twitter and Facebook.

This is where and when to socialize your site.

3. Where and When to Socialize

To expand on where and when to socialize, I thought I’d leave you with some basic takeaways for your new website project.

  1. Add social buttons for following and liking either in your header or footer. These are common areas for people to find the buttons. If a person comes to your site directly and wants to follow you on Twitter, they will often look in the header and footer first. Make the buttons large enough to see if you were looking for them, but not too big to overtake the more important calls to action on the page.
  2. Socialize exit pages. Anytime someone is likely leaving your site is a good time to make social a main call to action. When someone has completed a blog post, ask them to share the post with their friends and peers. When someone checks out, ask them to follow you to keep in the loop. And don’t forget about email. It’s still a social channel and you want people on your list.
  3. New opportunities. More socializing will happen. There are new opportunities all the time to increase the chances of your business getting word of mouth from your customers. Think of a customer writing a review for your service on your website. After they submit their review you could ask them to share it with their peers on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Look for new opportunities and always think of the context of your business in the customer’s social life.

Social media is exciting for businesses. When creating your new website, consider the best ways socialize your site so you can see some return from social media.