Enabling User Sharing—Best Practices

2 04 2010

As companies begin to overcome their initial hesitations for pioneering social media initiatives, the focus then becomes figuring out the best way to allow their users to interact with their content. Facebook, Twitter and the newly-emerging location-based social networking services seem like ideal ways to encourage people to share content online. There are hundreds of online social applications that allow users to share content. Website designers should focus on making sharing as easy as possible for their users. Mashable—The Social Media Guide offers some suggestions for making this happen.

Simple Social Design Tips From the Masters

“With so much content competing for users’ attention, it’s important for content creators to have websites or applications that are accessible, clean and interactive.”

  • Mashable’s first tip is to keep things simple. More specifically when a website tries to get their users to interact with their content on other platforms they should ensure that their links and buttons are conducive to this process. For example, filling up a website with many buttons to enable sharing may actually make it too confusing and overwhelming for users. Obviously creating confusion for users may actually inhibit the purpose and process of social sharing. Their suggestion for this is that designers should mainly focus on spreading and promoting their content on the most popular platforms. This screencap is from a blog I follow regularly. On every news story they have buttons for sharing their stories. Hovering over this button shows about 10 different outlets for sharing their story on. It looks like this.

However, clicking on it expands the window to give the user over 250 different outlets for sharing. But this is only available should the user click on the “More” button. I think this approach is probably the right one for enabling them to spread their content. Only after clicking on the window is the user presented with many more options for sharing that content. The majority of these services are very much niche market applications. They appear to cater to specialized interests and markets. Everything from fashion-minded websites, to smaller and less popular news sharing websites, some of which have particular topics with their stories; politics, for example. With this approach this blog is making their content easy to share for the majority of their users. Thus someone wants to share a post on Twitter, a relatively mainstream service; they can easily do so, just by hovering over the Share button. However if a niche user of a news sharing website like Style Hive, then a click of a button will easily enable this as well.

  • Of course these efforts are worthless without having the right strategy. Jeremiah Owyang’s web site Web Strategy discusses what would be the next step in this process: Developing an appropriate strategy for any social media endeavor. Having these buttons and links is important but without a strategy it will inevitably “send traffic away”. This article lists seven possible strategies for social media strategists to keep in mind as they develop their strategies. Each approach has positive aspects and drawbacks. They even list a possible approach that companies may want to delve into in the future.
  • A more effective way to integrate these efforts with a company is to allow them to interact with the company through Facebook and/or Twitter. According to the web strategy article this “widens the marketing funnel”. In other words, users are interacting with a brand on their own terms. By allowing them to use the familiarity of Facebook or Twitter they can interact with this content on a platform that is familiar to them. At the same time they are able to use features from these services, for example Facebook status updates and tweets.
  • These are some of the strategies that go into enabling a social media strategy that builds a connection between a company’s website and the social networking sites that users know and love. In many respects these efforts are more important that simply creating fan pages or Twitter accounts. Instead they allow these efforts to go a step further and truly allow companies to embrace the benefits of the Web 2.0 era. They allow a more complete experience for users. Most importantly they allow an incredibly easy way to enable word-of-mouth marketing. In the future more companies will continue to adopt these efforts we will see this continue to be an increasingly significant for companies to expand their presence and remain relevant online.
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