Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should know by now that social media is more and more of a driving force for marketing online. If you have a website, and you aren’t using social media – you’re missing out on traffic that your competition is snatching up. The clincher is the fact that Google now counts your social media interaction in as much as 30% of your online “authority” score (used to calculate the search rankings for your website).
Big brands must get it, because social media use is up more than 600% in Superbowl ads this year. In fact, Twitter was mentioned in more than 50% of Super Bowl commercials.
Today’s tutorial will be partly about social media, and how you can use it in a web marketing strategy. It will also be about how you can intergrate and expose social media inside your WordPress website.
What does “Using Social Media” Mean?
There was a time websites were nothing more than business cards or brochures on the web. Now that online media and marketing have matured, what website owners are looking for a results. If you don’t get ROI or “return on your investment” – why even have a website?
A website is mean to elicit some type of action. In fact, in the web designer / developer world there is a role that designs the “user experience” (or what we call UX). The UX designer tries to get the user to funnel or “convert” into an action for the website owner.
Social media can definitely help that process, when it’s utilized properly. Much like the website was the “business card on the web”, many businesses signup for Facebook and Twitter to merely spam people with products and services. Your website won’t benefit from this at all, and will turn off any potential customer base as well.
Social Media Defined: social media is the act of connecting with people on the web. Connecting is defined as “interacting with potential customers on a personal level”.
The best way to convince people that your business is of value to them is by making an emotional connection, and the best place to make that connection is where they are every day: social media.
The businesses that are able to have the most impact in social are the ones that send their “business embassador”. The one that knows all the customers by name, the one that networks and stays connected, the one that listens and cares. The businesses that are least effective are the ones that feel more like a cold steel nameless faceless brand that just wants your money.
Based on that, you can see where social media can level the playing field for small businesses online. Companies are often more nimble and able to quickly respond in social, where corporations cannot (often due to staffing, support, or legal issues).
Do I have the time / staff for social media?
While social media is almost a “must have” necessity for business in this day and age, someone still has to do it. If you find that you can’t post regular updates to your website, you’re already in trouble. Many websites have tried their hand at blogging, only to find out that new posts become more and more sparse over time.
At least with social media, the advent of the Twitter/Facebook “status” requires much less effort than a full blog post – AND much of it can be done casually from a smartphone (or any web connected device). Even so, someone has to post regularly and cultivate the audience.
What social media is relevant to my website?
This is the first question you need to answer. What services are compatible with your business? Can you connect with and build a Twitter following? Or do you already have a base of friends or network of people on Facebook to work with? Maybe your company could easily grow a following on Pinterest?
Integrating Social Media in WordPress
Integrating social media into a WordPress could be as simple as installing a plugin for some “share” buttons. If that’s all you want – then by all means install the add to any share buttons plugin, and you can quit reading right now. Like many trends online, those little chotchke widgets were popular at one time – but they don’t make much sense anymore.
If you want to truly “intergrate” social media in WordPress, you should understand what options are available to you – and then make choices based on the needs of your visitors. You absolutely DO NOT need dozens of sharing options – you probably need 3-5 at most (the ones that are most relevant to your audience). Then intergrate those services into your website that allow people to interact in a way that makes sense. A simple social button leading to your “profile” for them to connect to isn’t going to do much.
Getting basic social interactions: instead of leading to your “profile” page – offer a more immediate option. Give the reader the ability to “tweet it”, “Pin it”, “like it”, etc.
Simple code for social buttons:
FACEBOOK “LIKE” – you can simply visit the Facebook developer like button page to get the code to add a like button to any web page (there are some simple options to configure).
Once you get the code, just copy and paste it where you want the FB “like” button (header, footer, content area, widgets, etc.). If adding the code to your website is too advanced for your skillset, we’ll talk about plugins anyone can use a bit further down in this article.
PIN IT – Pinterest has a page devoted to Pin it button code. At the bottom of that page you’ll find the code to add a Pinterest follow button, or “Pin It” button.
BEST PRACTICE: when integrating basic social interaction buttons, tastefully add them in places where they might be used – by a product, service, testimonial, special, contest, image, etc. Often you can externally solicit interaction by posting “like us on xx page for a chance to…[enter incredible reason or value here]”.
WordPress social buttton using plugins
If you prefer the simple route, consider adding a plugin like AddThis to add like, Tweet, and Google +1 butons quickly and easily.
Sometimes website page loading can be hampered by waiting on external calls to social websites. Consider an option like Lazy social buttons to load the sharing buttons after the actual page content loads.
Advanced Facebook WordPress interactions: Facebook has a wealth of capabilities available on it’s Facebook for Websites page. Everyone has seen the “like” buttons, but you can do much more if someone is logged into Facebook (and a great majority of your visitors will be). You can show recent Facebook activity for a visitor, or personalized recommendations on Facebook as well. To do either, you’ll need to get a Facebook App ID as a developer.
If you have an AppID, consider getting the official Facebook plugin for WordPress. It’s probably one of the best examples of how intergrated your website could be with Facebook.
Once you install and configure the plugin, you’ll have the ability to mention friends and pages in your posts and pages like this:
Once your post is published, the pages and profiles of your mentions will be linked like this (before and/or after your content):
At the same time, when your post is published, a post is created on those profile and page walls on Facebook linking back to your website like this:
The offical Facebook plugin can also allow you connect with related content that’s popular like this:
There are LOTS of Facebok plugins in the plugin repository, with varying capabilities. Facebook AWD is a popular FB plugin with many uses, but you might like the ability to add WordPress commenting through a Facebook account like this:
If your Facebook profile has pictures – why reinvent the wheel by copying them once again to your website? You could use a plugin like Facebook Photo Fetcher to include them in your WordPress website like this:
The value of all the options we’ve covered in advanced Facebook interactions is the fact that they directly tie your website to Facebook. These options are designed to go far beyond someone just “liking” your content – allowing them to comment, share, and allowing you to interact with people/pages on Facebook at the time you actually publish content within your website (pushing notifications directly to Facebook).
There are lots of plugins that can automatically post to Facebook for you when new content is created, but this definitely takes it to the next level.
Advanced Twitter WordPress interactions: We’ve all seen the “Tweet” button, and “follow” buttons in content. If someone’s interested they may tweet your post, or follow you. What you might not know about are Twitter Cards. Twitter cards makes it possible to attach media to your tweets (more like you would see on Facebook or LinkedIn).
When you tweet a URL that has a “Twitter Card”, it looks like this:
Now, if your content is being shared on Twitter normally what you get is the 140x characters and a shortened URL, with your Twitter handle and profile avatar. In the image above you can see the Twitter card not only is a better visual, but it vertically expands the size of your tweet by 300% in height alone (not to mention the larger visual of the thumbnail image).
Your next question should be, “how can I get that?!?”
It’s as easy as adding the necessary code to the web pages you want to have this rich media capability. This is a sample of what you would add to the head section of your HTML:
<meta name=”twitter:card” content=”summary”>
<meta name=”twitter:site” content=”@nytimes”>
<meta name=”twitter:creator” content=”@SarahMaslinNir”>
<meta name=”twitter:url” content=”http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/arts/music/amid-police-presence-fans-congregate-for-whitney-houstons-funeral-in-newark.html”>
<meta name=”twitter:title” content=”Parade of Fans for Houston’s Funeral”>
<meta name=”twitter:description” content=”NEWARK – The guest list and parade of limousines with celebrities emerging from them seemed more suited to a red carpet event in Hollywood or New York than than a gritty stretch of Sussex Avenue near the former site of the James M. Baxter Terrace public housing project here.”>
<meta name=”twitter:image” content=”http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2012/02/19/us/19whitney-span/19whitney-span-articleLarge.jpg”>
You can see that’s a bit of a chore to manually add to every webpage, and of course in WordPress there’s an easier way. The dead simple way is by installing a plugin like Twitter Cards to get it done. You might also try Meta oGraphr, which is a plugin that enables Twitter Cards, and many other similar options for Facebook and Google+.
Advanced Pinterest WordPress interactions: like other social services, most people add the defacto “pin it” and “follow” buttons for Pinterest (much like Twitter).
In addition to those capabilities, pinterest has the ability to add embed widget from your board on your website. You can easily generate the copy and paste code from the Pinterest business page.
You could also install the Pinterest Tabs plugin to embed your Pinterest board categories in any page or post of your website.
To go a step further, install the Alpine PhotoTile for Pinterest plugin, and pull images directly from your Pinterest board, and display them in your content grid style like this:
That image is the actual demo on this page. If you follow the link, you’ll find that when you mouseover any image you get a “pin it” option for each thumbnail. This is a great way to draw social media interaction right into your webpage content – enciting your reader to do something right then and there.
One thing you may not know is that your Pinterest profile has an RSS feed built in of the last things you posted to your board. If you install a plugin like Pinterest RSS Widget for WordPress, you can create a widget with the last things you posted:
Pinterest is a highly interactive (and addictive) social media medium. The better integrated your website is with your boards, the more usage and mileage you’ll get from them in your website.
Social media is all about interaction. The type of social interaction Google is looking for in terms of boosting your “online authority” for ranking purposes is mentions, posts, shares, likes, pins, etc. As much as it makes sense for your audience, integrate social media into your website as deeply as possible (where it enhances the experience).
Try using a free service like SharedCount.com to see your social standings for Facebook, Twittter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Delicious, and StumbleUpon. That’s a great way to get a simple baseline of social activity. For advanced social stats, track your presence in a more in depth service like Social Crawlytics, or Crowd Booster.