The Blog

If your site isn’t social you’re not engaging your visitors.

social

According to Nielsen Online, social networks and blogs are now the 4th most popular kinds of online activities. 67% of the world online population are now visiting them and the time they’re spending on them is growing by three times the overall growth rate of the internet. Social networks are now visited more often than personal email is read. Some social networks have grown to such enormous proportions that they rival entire countries in terms of population—if Facebook, for example, was a country, it would be the fifth-most-populated in the world (right between Indonesia and Brazil). So how do you make your site more user-friendly and social media focused?

Engage
Engagement is crucial for the success of any website. You need to make sure that visitors are immediately drawn into your site, either through great content, a compelling call to action, or some other means. Once there users need to know what your site is all about within seconds of reaching your home page. Most people don’t have time (or inclination) to try to figure out what a website is for if it’s not immediately apparent to them. A simple tag line, the use of graphics, your site’s title, or any number of other elements on your home page can serve to provide new visitors with some indication of what your site’s purpose is. Once engaged your home page should present visitors, both new and returning, with something to do. Logging in or signing up is the most obvious thing for visitors to do, but think about other options. Give them the opportunity to explore what the site is all about before they sign up and the reasons why they should sign up before forcing them to. It builds a sense of trust between your site and its users right from the start.

Let Users Express Themselves
Self-expression is one of the hallmarks of social media. Open your blog to comments and compel the user to “like” your Facebook page and “follow” you on Twitter.

Be Dynamic
Dynamic content is the lifeblood of websites. Social networks are no different. Content should change constantly, with the newest, most popular, and most valuable information continually pushed to the forefront for users. If your content isn’t constantly fresh your visitors will “unlike” and “unfollow.” Utilizing a real-time news or blog feed on your home page is a huge convenience for your visitors. At a glance they can check for updates and join the conversation at will.

Communicate
The entire point of social networking is to foster communication. You’ll turn tire kickers into customers and afford yourself better opportunities to upsell. Make it easy for users to have conversations with each other. Whether this is done through social sites like Facebook and Twitter, commenting, or some other method, you want your users to have effective conversations with each other and your company. Make it easy to pull additional people into the conversation, too, to make your site even more dynamic.

Be Relevant
Social networks are generally teeming with information therefore there’s a constant stream of data coming at your users. Don’t compound the problem by sending them even more information that they dont’ necessarily need. Refrain from offering a dozen different options for each action they might take on your site. Simplify the information and choices you give them to make their user experience better. The same principal applies to the volume of information the site itself provides to users. If your site is constantly sending out updates and news announcements, it can quickly overwhelm users. Only send out notifications when absolutely necessary. Set up a blog or news page (with an RSS feed) for posting non-essential information. This way users can see what’s happening on their own terms. Most importantly, on any social network or blog stay on topic 90% of the time. Subscribers follow you with the assumption you’ll supply the information they’re looking for, i.e., they really don’t want to hear about your hobbies, passions and other off topic info. If you veer to far off course you will lose existing subscribers and those you get from SEO will be interested in your off topic conversations (obviously) which won’t help your bottom line.

Filtering
Allowing users to filter out information on your blog and/or news feeds will improve a user’s experience and make it easier for them to see the information they want to see without getting overloaded.

Lights, Camera, Action!
Every social strategy includes actions you want users to take. Whether it’s to join, invite friends, click on ads or sponsored links, or post comments, there’s likely a laundry list of desired activities every site would like to have all of their users perform. The key to getting users to actually take these actions is to make it both easy and appealing to do so. Make it easy for users to find those actions and emphasi which response or action you want users to make.

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