I’m often asked by clients to work with their web designers/developers to ensure their new website is going to be built and presented in a way that ensures social media tech plays a part in the user’s experience. Usually I’m asked to do this after jumping up and down a lot and ramming home the importance of thinking social when it comes to websites! It’s very important that social is taken into consideration at a very early stage of any web build or revamp.

I may be about to make some enemies with this next statement, but here I go – a huge slice of web designers/devs are still not thinking social when it comes to the sites they create. When I’m working with a client on their digital marketing/comms strategy, I always consider their site as a key portion of the social media section of that strategy. I often bang on about the importance of creating a social media hub, somewhere that social media activity (at times) leads people back to – the official site is often the best hub you can hope for, but it has to be a two-way thing, people who arrive on your site first/not via social media should be able to easily see your social media footprint and get involved from there. Read on for some tips on making your site more social media friendly.

Create a social media widget

You may well be operating various social media platforms. It makes sense to devote a portion of your website to pulling all of these together. Take this example from shoe brand, TOMS:

Image from toms.co.uk, annotated with Skitch

Image from toms.co.uk, annotated with Skitch

They have a nice, simple widget that displays latest updates but also leads the site visitor easily to their social media assets. Click the image to expand and read my notes. This sits on the bottom of their homepage. It doesn’t filter across all pages of the site, however they do use social network icons in the footer across the site – I would like to see the widget spread further than the homepage, or at least portions of it. They don’t have any direction to their social in the top sections of their site – this is something I’d recommend implementing on any site, just do it in a subtle manner. One final pointer on widgets like this – make sure your social platforms are actually active! They look terrible if there is a distinct lack of updates!

Create a content hub

A blog is the perfect example of this. Running a blog doesn’t just mean written articles, it of course can include video and imagery. Holding this within a well-designed blog section of your site gives the user one place to visit to catch up with your brand’s latest brilliant (you are creating brilliant content right?!?), get involved with it and (hopefully) take an action via it. Like TOMS, point people to your latest blog posts via a widget. I do this on the Velocity site with a very simple feed in the site footer:

Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 12.02.57

Make sure your blog design is as simple and clean as possible – focus on the content. I’m seeing more and more blog designs that just perplex the user with fancy panels and tiles. Us humans prefer a simple interface that allows us to easily absorb the content we are viewing.

Sharing is caring

Share buttons can be a real pest, never use them in an obtrusive manner, but always make sure you’re making it as easy as possible for the user (user is such a horrible term for a site visitor isn’t it!?!) to take your content, page etc and share it across social. There are a lot of off-the-shelf options out there, but I would recommend ‘hard-coding’ share buttons, this tends to allow you to mould them to fit better with your site design. Tech blog, The Next Web does this very well:

Image taken from thenextweb.com. Annotated using Skitch

Images taken from thenextweb.com. Annotated using Skitch

Images taken from thenextweb.com. Annotated using Skitch

A very simple approach that works. Always be careful to think about what social media platforms you should feature. For example, a business to business based organisation would want to give priority to LinkedIn, but not so much to Tumblr. Think about your audience and where they would want to share your content and where you would like it to be shared.

Never forget about the user’s overall experience!

While social should be a key consideration for your site, never, ever let it get in they way of the key functions of your site! In most cases, social media should supplement your site, not dominate it!

Have you got an example of slick social media integration on a site? Please do share in the comments below. Got a question about integrating social on your site? Feel free to ask in the comments, or contact me.

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Mike McGrail

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