Perhaps you are redesigning your website or maybe it’s just time for a few updates. There is no question that either endeavor requires that you keep the social community of your readers at the top of your mind. It’s likely that you already know this, but how can your website become the hub of that social community? You want to leverage the power of social media to support your community of readers, but not take them away from the home fires of your website. Where do you start?
- Tell them where you are. The most basic rule of a socially designed site is to make sure readers know what social platforms they can find you on. Make sure the design of each page includes visible follow buttons for the social sites you are on and make sure they are in the same place on each page (header, footer, or sidebar). The more people see them, the more they will use them.
- Use the good, old call to action. It’s not enough to have follow and like buttons on your site. Ask people to connect with you via those social platforms. They will be more inclined to use all the social buttons if you prompt them to join a discussion or follow you on your preferred social site.
- Be shareable. Clearly, you have to start by creating content that people will want to share, but you also need to make it easy for them to like and share that content (or do whatever positive action the social platform calls for). Aside from follow buttons, make sure individual articles, blog posts, slideshows etc. can be shared or liked.
- Don’t underestimate the power of visual integration. Yes, it’s important to give social media and community dialogue a prominent place on your website, but make sure it complements your brand—the style and feel of your site. This goes a long way in fostering a unique, seamless user experience on your website—one that catches the eye and deepens engagement.
- Embrace the social log in. More and more readers log into websites using Facebook and Twitter. It’s not only important to make sure this is easy for your readers to do, but also that you recognize that internal sub-community and use it to share targeted content with that group. It can also help shorten the registration process on your site—which translates to more time spent in the community.
- Leverage the dynamic content offered by social interactions. A dynamic homepage or landing page is a sign of a vibrant, active community. When people find your site, they want to know you are there, right now. Using social feeds, blog feeds, topic bars, reviews and news can bring your website to life in a way that invites engagement, right off the bat.
- Celebrate video. YouTube, Vimeo—whichever social video site holds your audience rapt—should be considered in your website design. Make it easy to embed videos anywhere on your site. It will guarantee higher search rankings and longer engagement times.
One last thing: being social is about knowing your audience—their habits, their preferences, their humor . . . so make sure your website design supports strong, cohesive data collection and analysis capabilities. The more you know, well, the more you know.