In the past week we have seen the announcement of the Google +1 public launch, the Twitter Follow button, and the LinkedIn Job Application button. So if the dozens of other social buttons out there were not enough for you, get ready to get dizzy.
Social buttons allow website owners to encourage certain actions and make those actions as easy as possible for their visitors. Deciding which buttons to use can get complicated quickly.
You COULD put all of them on your website. DON’T.
Or you could use services like ShareThis and AddThis to allow your website visitors access to almost all of them. I would caution you against this easy solution. You will see more action from your visitors if you give them fewer and focused options.
What Is Your Goal?
Social buttons help visitors with 4 main types of actions:
- Bookmarking and sharing links
- Subscribing to content
- Link endorsement
- Volunteering information
Some buttons span multiple categories. The Facebook Like button spans all the categories in fact, plus they use it as an onsite endorsement of content.
But you should be considering what your goals are, how your website content works towards those goals, and how social media buttons can help you increase your most important visitor actions.
1. Bookmarking and Sharing
This is the most common use of a social button. To ask your website visitors to both save your content to consumer more of it later and to share your content or products with their larger networks. If your business has a large focus on content marketing, these can be very useful resources.
Simply saving a link or an action for later is a simple social action. Delicious, one of the older social bookmarking sites, has a simple “bookmark this on Delcious” button. StumbleUpon, a site used for both bookmarking and sharing link, has their own Stumble button.
And location based app, Foursquare, has one of the more unique bookmarking buttons, allowing you to add items to your Foursquare to do list. In effect a real world bookmark of places to visit and things to do.
The Like button, Twitter share button, and Digg buttons are some of the more common social buttons designed to make it easy for your website visitors to promote your content to their larger network. LinkedIn also has their version of this content sharing tool that has seen some steady adoption among some business focused sites.
- Consider 2 to 4 of these buttons on a single web page.
- Test the top options, track where your best conversions are coming from, limit to those share options.
The main benefit here is being able to subscribe to your social networking accounts or an email list without leaving your website or having to fill out a form. Clicking Like (for a Facebook Page) or Follow (for a Twitter account) or using Facebook Connect to subscribe to an email list.
- Use Facebook Like and Twitter Follow buttons more prominently than links to social account so website visitors do not have to leave your website to connect to your social accounts.
- The Facebook facepile and likebox widgets encourage visitors to like your page by showing them avatars of friends that have already done so. This social proof is recognized quickly.
3. Link Endorsement
An extension of sharing buttons that saves your actions with URLs. Both Facebook and Google are using this information to assign to users and improve their search customization. Beyond just Liking a website or blog post, you can also Like a product on a shopping site.
The future of this type of button action is pushing customized ads to users who have clicked these buttons. This is already possible with Facebook users who have clicked the like button on a URL or product. Google can’t be too far off from offering a similar functionality.
- Separate these buttons from sharing buttons on a web page. Place these buttons at the top of the page or where you would put email opt-ins: the top of a sidebar or at rest points like the about page, bottom of blog posts, or the website footer.
- Include subscriber numbers with or near the button to give social proof to website visitors that their peers are already subscribed.
4. Volunteering Information
Making it easy for someone to give you their information is an important action online. When you are growing a community or building an email list, getting someone to offer up their contact information is a challenge. Once you have converted them, it is important that you make it easy for them to volunteer the info you need.
There are many buttons that accomplish this: Yahoo and Google offer sign on options. Facebook Connect and Twitter oAuth are common social media accounts that serve in this capacity. And LinkedIn recently announced a new type of button with their job application button making it easier for employers to gather job applicant information.
- Use Facebook Connect where you have email opt-ins to make the decision even easier for some website visitors.