By Joanna Lord
A website that’s optimized for social media sharing typically attracts more traffic and sparks more engagement with customers. But what does social optimization mean exactly? Is it simply a matter of adding social sharing buttons to pages? Actually, it encompasses everything from encouraging more sharing on your pages to seeking more feedback from visitors.
To make your website more social, consider these five tips for going beyond buttons:
1. Encourage a more social experience.
There is a belief that people either share or they don’t. Not so. You can encourage sharing and engagement on your website by choosing “emotionally intelligent words.” This means you select words that represent the personality of your brand and appear conversational.
A good example would be changing a “Try it now” link to “Ready to give it a whirl?” This evokes an action and also makes the click more of a personal experience for the user. Making it personal, in turn, can help users feel more comfortable about leaving a comment or sharing on your site.
2. Raise the bar on content quality.
Creating distinctive content that your customers find interesting and useful is, of course, key to any successful online marketing strategy. Without such content, there’s less chance that your pages will be discovered and linked to by other sites.
Improving the quality of your content is one way to make your site more social. Think about it. Are you creating articles, blog posts or videos that are worth sharing? For example, make sure your titles are enticing. Be sure to integrate your sharing buttons closely with the pieces of content.
Content format and length are also important. Infographics, videos and concise blog posts are generally shared more often than long, in-depth pieces because they’re easily and quickly digested. That’s especially important with the growing number of mobile-device consumers.
3. Incentivize when possible.
By incentivizing your visitors with gamification features such as badges, counts and stars, you play to an innate need to compete and win. Ask yourself what can be tweaked on your site to incentivize sharing. Maybe it’s something as simple as ratings or voting.
One example of successful incentivizing is ModCloth’s “Be the Buyer” program. The online vintage clothing retailer invites shoppers to vote on which outfit the company should sell next. Customers are also encouraged to promote the outfit to friends to get more votes. If an outfit gets enough votes, ModCloth will carry the outfit.
This program encourages shoppers to check back often, increasing site visits and potentially boosting sales. The shoppers are rewarded by being able to buy an outfit that isn’t carried anywhere else. It’s a win-win.
4. Actively seek customer feedback.
When was the last time you asked your visitors what they wanted to see next? Whether it’s asking them to vote on the next feature you build or to choose a product they’d like to see you sell, don’t underestimate the power of feedback. Crowdsourcing on your site can help encourage users to be social both with you and each other.
An example comes from conversion and retention analytics company KISSmetrics, which spent its first year asking customers which metrics they needed and where they should go in its app. By relying on customer feedback, KISSmetrics was able to meet customer expectations throughout its platform. This approach helped increase customer retention and the likelihood of future feedback, as well.
5. Track diligently and make adjustments.
You might believe that some brands are just more likely to win in social engagement than others, but that is rarely the case. Success often comes down to a more strategic process of testing and making adjustments.
To boost engagement on your site, test such factors as where sharing buttons go and which kind of messages encourage customer interaction. Most sites have Google Analytics or other research tools, but few are using them to track social media traffic and better understand how people are engaging on their site. Simple changes such as using more direct language can often boost social activity.
Businesses that refuse to test and adjust their social optimization strategies will find that engagement can quickly fizzle and competitors will gladly connect with their former fans.
Joanna Lord is an online marketing expert, startup enthusiast and director of customer acquisition and retention at Seattle-based SEO and social monitoring service SEOmoz.