At this point your website is mostly finished, it’s all just growth, content, testing and tweaking from here on out. Today we’re talking about social elements that you might want to consider. This isn’t a social media strategy course, so I’m not going to go into loads of detail here, I’ll share some resources at the end for in-depth social media information.
The plugins add social sharing buttons to your pages and posts. Some of them also create floating sidebars with social media icons for you and dress up a widget to look nicely formatted with icons to your chosen social networks. There are literally over 2,000 social plugins available to choose from in the WordPress repository, and there are hundreds of paid sources out there on the web as well.
What plugin you actually use for social sharing is really just a matter of preference. Some popular plugins to choose from are:
- Easy Social Share
- Get Social
- Social Icons Plus
- Simple Social Icons
- Share-Subscribe-Contact All-in-One
In addition to the usual social sharing icons there are plugins that do other social things as well. You can look around and experiment with all sorts of different things.
If your preferred clients are Twitter based folks, you’ll definitely want to look at a plugin called Click to Tweet that embeds one-click tweets into the content of your article for super easy sharing that includes a quote from the page.
You can set Jetpack (and some other plugins) to “Publicize” your blog posts and automatically send them out to as updates to your social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+. If your plugin doesn’t do that, you can always set it up as automation through IFTTT or Zapier.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to social things you can do with plugins for a blog. There are even plugins that can bring social to your website, like importing comments from Facebook to a blog post or adding your Instagram feed to a page.
There are lots of fun things out there, but it can all be really overwhelming. I recommend starting with just one or two things.
You can even have no plugins. If you’re not blogging you won’t really need the big sharing buttons and fancy extras that plugins offer, you can simply place graphics in a widget to link to your social profile pages.
That brings me to the next thing I want to talk about…
Adding Social Media Icons or Not
There is huge debate in the marketing world about where to put social media icons on service based sites, how big they should be, whether they should be brightly colored or monochrome and blend away, and an even bigger debate about whether or not you should even have icons at all.
It’s actually a very interesting topic overall. Think about it this way. Someone comes to your site seeking services. There are lots of things they could do – contact you, subscribe to something you offer, buy something, click those pretty blue and red social icons, or do nothing at all and leave.
The big question is: Which thing do you want them to do?
Faced with many choices our brain gets overloaded and we often do nothing at all, or we forget what we were doing if we haven’t finished it yet, we get distracted and we move on.
If they click those social icons, even if it opens in a new tab of their browser they’ve gone off your site and now they’re clicking around on Facebook playing Words with Friends and Candy Crush. That’s not what you want either.
All that said, nowadays people almost expect every person and every company and brand to be on social media. They look for those icons and links, they want to like and tweet and follow, and often they want to share and join conversations too. Those are all good things.
So maybe you do want a few select social icons on your site after all.
Next question: Where do you want to put them?
The top of the sidebar seems like a logical place and it’s where a lot of bloggers and podcasters will put their social media icons. However, we’re looking at this from a slightly different perspective.
We’re thinking of our social media icons as social proof that we’re real people out there in the world that is social media, we tweet and share good things with our audience but when it comes to our website visitors we kind of want to keep them to ourselves. We try to bring people from social media to our website to become customers instead of send them to social media from our website, and occasionally we want to use conversations on social media to reengage current customers and clients to bring them back for more.
Generally speaking, when people are looking for that kind of contact information on a business website they check the top right corner and the bottom right corner. (You probably do the same almost every time you’re on a website and don’t even realize it.)
I don’t like to give away that much above the fold page real estate for things that might be a distraction, so I prefer to put the social media icons at the bottom in the footer widget along with the other “expected information” page links like contact, policies, etcetera. You can see that happening right here on this page, just peek down at the footer and you’ll see a set of tiny social icons.
Comments on or Comments Off?
If you decided to blog and add articles to your site, another social element you may want to consider is the comment section. Comments can bring out great discussions that lead to more content creation ideas, they can attract new visitors, and they encourage sharing, but they’re also extra work.
If you’re a one person show, that extra work may not be something you want to deal with. Comment sections can also attract spam and they need to be moderated. You also want to reply to comments and keep conversations going. The comment section can be very time consuming sometimes.
There are a few WordPress settings you can change to help. From your dashboard go to Settings > Discussion.
This will take you to all the general discussion settings, including where you can turn off comments entirely.
If you don’t want comments on your blog posts you simply uncheck the box that says Allow people to post comments on new articles, and the comments will be closed by default. It’s worth noting here that even if the comments are off you can choose to enable them on a post by post basis.
You’ll find this box when you’re writing and editing posts and pages on your site. You can check or uncheck the box depending on what you want to happen for that individual page. If you don’t see this box while writing and editing, scroll up to the top and click on Screen Options.
This will open the Boxes list for you to choose what displays and you check things to show or not show on the editing and writing screens as you prefer.
Back to our Discussion Settings….
You can check a box so that you get an email anytime someone leaves a comment (approved or in moderation) that way you don’t have to constant check to see if comments are coming in.
You can set all comments to be held for moderation so spam doesn’t reach the live blog post.
You can set the comments to automatically close after a certain period of time has passed.
That way old posts aren’t attracting spammers who are trying to slip by unnoticed and you’ll have less work to do when it comes to comment moderating tasks, but you also have the opportunity to discuss topics with visitors while those topics are fresh and new. You can set this to any number of days, so set it to whatever you’re comfortable with.
Changing those few things will help keep spam in the trash folder where it belongs and keep your to-do list short.
The Discussions page is also where you choose the settings for avatars and Gravatars that will show up in the comment section. While not super important, or even necessary, they do brighten up the comment section and they bring a personal element to the conversations that happen in the comment section since most people use the same image for Gravatar as they do on other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
These settings are pretty self explanatory and mostly just personal preference.
And if you have Jetpack installed the last section on the Discussion settings will be whether or not you want to display the option for visitors to subscribe to comments by email.
Creating Sharable Content
If you’re creating content on your website then you probably want people to share it. The plugins we talked about help make the sharing easy for the visitor, but the first step is creating content worthy of being shared.
Not every article you write will gets hundreds of shares or comments, and that’s perfectly okay. Sometimes content we know is useful isn’t necessarily the most popular or the most shared, it needs a little help reaching the right people.
Put your best content out there, share it, promote it, and good things will happen. If you have a great piece that isn’t getting as many shares as you’d like you can try giving it a boost through paid Facebook advertising or even use a free sharing service (with paid options available) like ViralContentBee or JustRetweet.
We’ve covered quite a bit here, and I’m sure we could talk about social elements for days and still have more to discuss. I hope this gives you a few starting points and things to consider for incorporating social elements into your new website. You can do some of these things, all of these things, or none of these things, depending on what your business goals are.
Homework and Action Steps:
- Add social plugins if you want to.
- Include social follow icons if you want them.
- Go out and actually be social on your favorite platforms
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