Learning How to Share

A few days ago, my colleague wrote about the effectiveness and Return on Investment (ROI) of adding social networking links to your site . Are your users clicking them? Are they driving traffic to your site? In reading his post, I could see years of frustration in implementing these kinds of share links. There’s so much to do – figuring out the link styles, getting the right icons, picking the right networks, changing out the networks when one becomes passe and another comes into vogue. It’s enough to make anyone ask, "are you sure you really want this?"

Luckily, the days of this kind of implementation being limited to the domain of the tech-savvy few are over. Thanks to services like AddThis and ShareThis , adding this kind of functionality on your site can be a simple half-hour operation. It’s important to consider the pros and cons of using these kinds of free services (their branding will appear on your site, limited customization and integration, the service getting your data, and the possibility that they could go out of business). But if you can stomach the cons, there’s no reason you can’t easily implement a social networking bar on your site.

Here are some of Tim’s points, rebutted:

  • Statistically, not a lot of site users use these social networking bars. This is true. Statisically, not a lot of people look at your press releases from December 2005. But do you remove them from your site? No, because it’s not an effort to keep them, and some day, someone might need it. So if some of your users want to link to Twitter, why not make there lives easier? And while the overall numbers for social networking may not look that impressive over the entire site, I bet if we drilled down to the campaign level, we’d have a lot of promising numbers.
  • Most users don’t know what to do with a social networking bar. I can’t argue with this one. I find myself dizzy going through all the Social Networking icons, trying to figure out what’s what. But, if I know I’m on Facebook, I’m pretty sure I’ll recognize the Facebook icon. And if I can’t figure it out, this is a perfect opportunity for you to educate your audience on the wonderful world of Social Networks. One of my favorite examples of this is the AFSCME Web site . Right underneath their social networking bar, there is a link to explain what it is, and how to use it. AFSCME Social Networking Bar
  • Since most people don’t use the social networking bar, you won’t learn much about your audience. It is true, that if you get 150,000 visitors a month, and 100 of them use the social networking bar, you won’t learn a lot about 149,900 of those visitors. But you will learn a lot about 100. For starters, you’ll learn what social networks they use and what content on your site interests them most. And that’s important, because those 100 users are your super-users – they love you so much they are willing to spread your message for you. These are people worth knowing about.

Tim’s advice on contemplating the use of a social networking bar on your site is good advice. But don’t let him frighten you. If you think there’s any value at all to be had in social networking links, go ahead and give them a try.

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