When you successfully encourage a visitor to share content they discover on your website, that action strongly recommends your website to that visitor’s friends, extends its reach, and increases its visibility in the search engines.
That same visitor may also be persuaded to make a long-term connection with you or your business, forging an incredibly valuable bond with you or your brand.
For these reasons, the structure of almost any contemporary website should advance the goal of converting casual visitors into engaged participants.
For Twitter sharing a resource directly from its source takes the form of tweeting about it, and for Facebook by liking the item. The opportunity for ongoing engagement comes when a user follows a Twitter account or likes a Facebook Page (formerly, and still usefully, known as “becoming a fan”).
These four actions – tweeting, liking, following and becoming a fan – are not the only social engagement conversions a site owner can encourage, but given the reach of Twitter and Facebook, they are arguably the most important.
There’s no shortage of advice on how to encourage the sharing of content and how to attract followers and fans (a phrase search for “how to get more followers” on Google currently returns 580,000 results).
For sharing ,this advice tends to revolve around what sort of content is most likely to be Tweeted or Liked, such as effective headline formulas.
Tips for building followers and fans are typically tactical in nature, like how to leverage contests to attract Facebook fans or use @ replies and retweets strategically.
Manipulating specific content and undertaking socially-focused activities are great ways of increasing engagement, but in this post, I am looking exclusively at structural methods of increasing a visitor’s interaction with your website and brand.
What I call engagement conversion architecture is the optimization of web pages in order to convert passive visitors into active participants, and especially the optimization of web templates. What structure works best for 1,000 blog posts? 10,000 news articles? 100,000 product pages?
The bigger your site, the bigger the stakes, and all the more reason to finesse your site and page architecture in support of visitor engagement opportunities.
Before we get into the explicit tactics in the following pages, let’s review the seven general approaches (and most important things to remember) when integrating social conversions into your website.
1. Use proven tactics
Lessons learned from email campaigns, landing page testing, product page optimization and other situations where you have been measuring conversions can all be helpful in crafting messages and creating designs that will maximize social conversions.
- What wording has resonated with your customers?
- What calls-to-action have been the most effective?
- What mistakes have been made that you should avoid replicating?
2. Limit visitor share options
This discussion is limited to Twitter and Facebook, but there are of course, a multitude of sharing mechanisms available. Sociable displays 99 services on its selector page and AddThis boasts 300+ services.
Don’t display the kitchen sink to your visitors: the more sharing options you display the less likely a visitor will be to click on any one of them. Include only networks and services that you think your visitors will use, and drop any that see little use.
3. Don’t hide visitors’ share options
While less frequently encountered these days, it’s still not uncommon to see a global “share” button that, once clicked, displays different sharing options. This represents another hoop the user must jump through before tweeting or liking, and so introduces a potential fallout point.
For both functional reasons and to maximize click-throughs, keep the Tweet and Like buttons as distinct elements, and add an additional share button if more than another couple of services are required.
4. Clearly distinguish sharing and joining functions
It should be apparent on any given page whether clicking on a button will share the item (tweet or like it), or lead the visitor to a Twitter profile or Facebook Page. This is especially true for Facebook, where identically styled like buttons may reference either the resource the visitor is viewing or the site’s Facebook Page. When a user is uncertain what action will result from a click, they’re less likely to click at all.
5. Focus on the best choice for your market
In the online content realm, Huffington Post stacks the Like button above the Tweet button, whereas Mashable puts Twitter on top. All ten Huffington front-page articles I sampled had more Likes than Tweets, and all ten Mashable front-page posts I looked at had more Tweets than Likes. Coincidence? I think not. Give more visual weight to the network that is most commonly used by your visitors.
This really should go without saying when it comes to making conversion improvements, but it bears repeating. Without testing, you will be guessing, and unless you’re very lucky, you’ll be missing out on opportunities to improve the level of visitor participation with your site.
There’s very little publically available data on the testing of Twitter and Facebook elements on a page, but test results that have been published illustrate that dramatic conversion lifts are possible.
7. Take a holistic approach to testing
Where there are other conversion events that may be impacted by the addition of Twitter or Facebook elements, be sure you measure them as well. Increasing the amount of likes your average product detail page receives by 10% should not be achieved by suffering a 15% decrease in cart additions.
Extending Engagement Conversion Architecture
Many of the optimization techniques used to encourage Twitter and Facebook engagement can be applied to promote engagement on other social networks and bookmarking sites, and can be extended to help build page structures that encourage the addition of user generated content, subscriptions to syndicated content, and even improve the performance of long-standing sharing functions like emailing to a friend.
The challenge in optimizing for engagement in is honing in on the social targets that are right for your site when so many choices exist.
Twitter and Facebook are certainly sensible targets for the vast majority of sites, and optimizing your site for Tweets, Likes, Followers and Fans is an excellent place to start work on turning spectators into participants.
Read on for the 5 Explicit Tactics To Increase Your Twitter & Facebook Engagement:
- How To Convert Visitors To Tweeters
- How To Convert Website Visitors Into Twitter Followers
- Plus: How To Use “Direct Following”
- How To Convert Website Visitors To Facebook Likes
- How To Convert Website Visitors Into Facebook Fans
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.