It’s become commonplace to find social media icons on business websites that link to social networks where the company has a presence.
But why should your site have them and what purpose do they serve?
The answer can be found in a recent report (PDF) from marketing research agency Forrester that talked about four types of social media tools marketers should use, one of which was referred to as “social depth.”
“Social depth platforms help marketers add social tools to their own sites. These tools build social content and experiences into marketing sites, offering the depth that customers seek when exploring products and services.”
The day of static “brochureware” sites is over. People want to interact with a website, and including social media icons is one way to afford them that capability.
I can hear some of you argue, “Why would I want to put something on my website that causes a visitor to leave? After all, it’s hard enough to get them there in the first place. It’s on my site where they best learn about my business, and the products or services I offer.”
That’s a rational argument worthy of a reasoned answer. Here are four responses:
1. Silo vs. Hub
It comes down to how you view the role of a website. It’s either an information “silo” or a “hub” that connects visitors to everywhere you maintain a presence online.
Think of it as the difference between a one-way street and a busy intersection. Which is more active and has more traffic?
In our socially-influenced culture, company websites are no longer the nexus that they once were. It’s possible that the first place a visitor learns about your site is through a social network, perhaps as the result of a post you published or a mention of your company by a friend or follower.
By making your site one part of the chain of shared connections, not only do you provide a path to those outlets from your site, you stand a much better chance of garnering traffic back from them, as well.
Of course, adding social media icons is only one way to make your site more interactive. It can also be a place where people:
- Download your latest product documentation
- Ask a question and get an answer
- Subscribe to an email newsletter
- Comment on your blog
- Subscribe to your podcast
- Share your content with their social networks
- Make an online donation or purchase a product
Your website can perform all of those functions and more! Make it a hub, not a silo.
2. Know, Like, and Trust
Business websites are fairly stock standard in the types of information they contain. People can learn about the company, who makes up its leadership, the products or services offered, and how to make contact. If they’re lucky, they can read some company news or watch a corporate video. That’s all vital information, but not very exciting or all that engaging.
Social networks often tell quite a different story.
Facebook becomes the personality of your business where visitors can find out more about the people who make it up. Twitter can be a news ticker that keeps followers informed about your company on an up to the minute basis. LinkedIn is where professional connections are made, and Pinterest brings story of your company to life in photos and videos.
What does all that add up to? A more complete composite of who you are and what you do that breeds familiarly, enhances likeability, and garners trust. And we all know that people want to do business with companies they know, like, and trust. Adding social media icons is a path to make that happen.
3. Routine Contact
How often do people visit your website? Generally, they only come when they feel your business offers something that will benefit them.
If your online presence is limited to a dotcom site, then it will be very difficult to maintain top of mind awareness. Social networks, on the other hand, are avenues through which information can be routinely updated and where businesses can interact with fans and followers.
By adding social media icons to your site, you gently nudge visitors to follow your social media channels. And it matters not which network they choose; all that matters is that they connect.
4. Social Sharing
Social media icons that link to social networks is one way to add social depth. Social sharing icons such as Facebook’s Like Button, Twitter’s Retweet Button, and Pinterest’s Pin it button are another.
These make it easier for visitors to share your content with friends. There’s no marketing like word of mouth and this is a great way to put your business in front of others, and by friends and family members they already trust.
Don’t Forget Email
Your website is not the only place where social media icons can be placed – email is another.
Email Newsletter Template
Many email-sending platforms make it easy to incorporate social network icons within email templates, so include them in your newsletter.
Email signatures are an often-overlooked marketing tool. A message that says, “Like us on Facebook,” or “Follow us on Twitter” serves as a subtle, yet effective, reminder of your social media presence.
Here are some additional resources to speed you on your way toward incorporating social media tools into your website and turning it into the information hub it ought to be.
Social Media Website Tutorial
Social Media Examiner has an excellent tutorial on the various ways you can integrate social media into your website that goes well beyond just including social media icons.
Social Media Icon Sources
AddThis and ShareThis are two high-quality sources where social media icons can be found. Both sites offer a variety of options and installation is easy.