For so many web design projects, the pressure of needing to get maximum value of the new site can lead to overuse, misuse, or just plain ineffective use of social media. Here we look at some more considered approaches and methodologies when it comes to social media integration for your site.
1. Respect the Brand
Let’s dive straight in with what I’d consider an easy win – when using social media assets (images/icons etc.) on your site, it’s important to respect the brand guidelines of the platform in question. This is probably not too popular a suggestion right now, with each passing week showing how big tech/social media companies are avoiding taxes or failing to tackle disinformation or hate speech, but bear with me.
We have to reframe this a little by asking what use of social media on your site says about your organisation.
Why should I care about the visual identity of other companies?
Visiting a website that has the archaic Twitter wordmark or old-style Facebook “F’s” with gradients all over them is not just damaging to their brands, but more importantly, it can also make the user question what else has not been updated on the site.
If the site is still sports social media icons from 2013, does that mean the site hasn’t been maintained at all since then? Out of date social media assets contribute to that feeling you get on some sites that it’s ‘old’. In turn, this can negatively impact on one of the key aims of any site – to convey credibility to users and instil in them a sense of trust.
2. Be subtle – Don’t lose your visitors
If you’ve put the time and the leg work into attracting consistent traffic to your website, you don’t want to lose those users as soon as they land on your home page.
The Leaky Bucket
Borrowing an analogy from the ‘leaky bucket theory’, you could view your website like a bucket that fills with water that represents your users. The more holes you have in the bucket (i.e. ways for your users to leave the site), the more users you’ll fail to retain.
So, what causes the holes? Well, having imposing, prominent or abundant off-site links is a major one. Giving users many ways to leave your site, or making the ways to leave your site really prominent, will result in an empty bucket pretty fast. Poorly designed social media integration is a common offender here.
With that in mind, consider the following:
- Don’t make external links too prominent
- Avoid using big, vivid social media icons that distract users.
- Put social media/affiliate/newsletter links in the footer – they’re sufficiently out of the way here and users are used to this common placement.
3. Have a social media integration strategy – put your site at the centre
Going a step further, you can think about a more general strategy of funnelling users from your social media, to your site, then to specific pages on your site where you want your users to carry out a specific action.
I’ve read some articles that refer to this as the Homeland-Embassy approach. Here you can imagine your presence on various social media platforms as little embassies, helping your users get back to your site.
With this strategy in place, it’s easy to see where some sites go wrong. When you’ve put in so much hard work to get users to your site, you don’t want to encourage them to leave with various distractions.
Embedded Twitter feeds on sites are the worst offender here – why encourage your users to go off doomscrolling on Twitter when you really want them to stay on your site and read your content? (actually, the absolute worst is when this strategy is half-implemented – you’ve got a carefully curated social media feed that funnels users back to your site, that you then display … on your site..)