We talk a lot about building user-friendly web sites and SEO-friendly web sites, and both of those are things we should be talking about because they’re vital to long-term online marketing success. But we don’t talk as much about building a site that plays well in social media.
That’s a mistake.
Consider this Forrester research from just two months ago: “Social technology adoption increased tremendously this year. Three in four US online adults now use social tools to connect with each other compared with just 56% in 2007.” Here’s more: Big social sites like Facebook show their growth stats (“2.6 billion minutes are spent on Facebook each day”) and smaller social sites like Mixx are also experiencing dramatic growth. And do we even need to mention Twitter? I hope not.
So your site might already be SEO- and user-friendly, but is it social media friendly? Here are my seven traits of a social media-friendly web site, and you’re invited to add more in the comments.
Social Media-Friendly Web Site Traits
1. Social media-friendly content.
This hasn’t changed in years, and probably never will change: People love lists, tips, how-tos, guides, and so forth. This type of content is very social media friendly. As far back as 2005, Darren Rowse wrote why lists attract more traffic, and one look at PopURLs.com shows that this continues to play well on all the social media sites.
Check out the list at right of stories that were popular on delicious yesterday: 10 of this, 40 of that, 21 of the other thing. People love lists. Photo galleries and videos are more types of social media-friendly content.
2. Ability to share content.
The content itself is only part of the equation. You should make it easy for social media users to share that content. For a blog like mine, that means I use the Sociable WordPress plugin which lets me choose the social site icons/links I want to show at the bottom of every post:
“But, Matt, we’re a small retailer. No one is going to bookmark our product pages!”
Well, to a large degree you’re right. Pages selling green widgets don’t often fare well in social media. But, people might still share your product pages with their friends and family. So, if you’re a retailer, you could skip the options listed above and just make sure you have a prominent, easy-to-use “Tell-A-Friend” tool on each page so that Jane Shopper can email her husband to say “This is the widget I’ve been looking for!” That’s the e-commerce equivalent of social sharing.
3. Great headlines.
You can’t underestimate the importance of a great headline in your articles, blog posts, and other content. Social media users aren’t known to be patient; a bad headline will turn them away immediately. And if they see the bad headline linked from another site, they won’t bother clicking through to read the article on your site. Brian Clark’s Five Common Headline Mistakes and How to Avoid Them is a great resource. And don’t miss Rebecca Kelley’s description of How a Good Title and Description Can Make or Break Your Social Media Submission.
4. Eye-grabbing photos.
Just like a great headline, a striking image in your article can also help grab attention. When social media users are deciding whether to bookmark your article or vote it up, they often make that decision within the first few seconds after seeing your content. A compelling image can be the difference between success or failure. Muhammad Saleem wrote about this in terms of StumbleUpon users, but it’s true for social media in general: “StumbleUpon users seem more likely to be drawn in by the smart use of images, and there’s no better placement for a great image than at the top of your article.”
5. No ads, or the ability to disable ads on your pages.
Generally speaking, social media diehards don’t like to see ads on the content they’re reading. This is especially true on digg, and less true in other social media venues. If digg success is your goal, you should remove all ads from the article(s) being submitted. If that’s not possible, minimize them as much as possible. What many social media marketers do is submit the ad-free content to digg, and then put the ads back on the page either right after the content “goes hot” (i.e., hits the home page) or a week or two later when the traffic and links have died down.
6. Social community elements on display.
Community is a big part of social media success, and showing that you’re involved in some of the well-known social media communities is part of having a social media-friendly web site. It’s not a must-have like some of the other items listed here, but having things like a MyBlogLog widget, Facebook Connect, or Google Friend Connect widget is a way of showing that you’re engaged in social communities.
7. A blog.
Social media is also about conversations, and there’s probably no better way to encourage conversations on your site than a blog. It can be the place where numbers 1-4 on this list are housed. You can still have social media success without it, but a strong blog will become the hub of your social media efforts and can make your web site social media-friendly.
Your turn: What else makes a web site more social media-friendly?