Making Sites Social

We love silos. As marketers, we like to know who is responsible for what and what goes where. Consumers don’t see it that way. Everything online is interconnected and working together. Marketers can leverage this by empowering consumers to share branded content that already exists with their individual social graphs.

This starts with a brand’s online stake in the ground, the website. This is where the brand has the control over the content, the message and the experience from beginning to end. Brands have very few opportunities like this to encourage the sharing of such a brand-controlled experience, but it’s an opportunity often overlooked.

It Starts with the Log-On

Who wants to create another username, another password (assuming they’re creating different passwords for different websites…) and another profile on yet another website? No one. Managing our digital lives is hard enough.

eMarketer released a report that consumers are so reluctant to create new profiles, that 88% of them intentionally use incorrect information to get in the door. There’s no value in that for marketers.

The answer is simple. Consumers want the ability to use social sign-in tools when creating new profiles. These take the form of Facebook, Twitter, Google or other platform login plugins, They allow consumers to instantly link their social media profiles with the website. 77% of online buyers think this is how it should be.

There is a catch. When a brand requires consumers to create new profiles, no one owns that data except the brand. Third-party logins offer the tradeoff of more favorability from a consumers perspective and higher rates of sign-on conversion for less access and ownership over the data. That’s a questions marketers have to wrestle with. But consider the opportunity.

Websites = Social Extensions

The benefit of integrating other social platforms into a website is that it makes the site an extension of your consumers’ online interactions. The website becomes yet another channel to connect with friends, and the content they’re connecting over comes directly from your brand.

Social Login – I discussed this above, but this is the where it begins. A website can’t leverage the social graph unless it has access to it. Allow customers multiple routes to sign on: using social plugins and a brand-owned profile creation tool. Give them the option to choose how they want to connect with the site.

The value for the brand is getting consumers who would otherwise roll their eyes and go to another website to log-in, potentially making them customers over the long-term and giving the brand access to information such as their email addresses, birthdays, genders and locations that can be leveraged with a reengagement strategy.

The value for the consumer is that the website can then use that data from a social sign-on to deliver a better website experience. Brands are able to recommend products that their Facebook friends liked, potentially delivering more relevant recommendations, for example.

Social Sharing – You have them on your website. Now it’s time to give them reasons to share with their social networks. Allowing them to post a product they love to their Facebook profiles, tweet a brand-related how-to video or share a brand’s blog post is content consumers just need to have a reason to share. Integrating plug-ins that allow that to happen easily is just reason enough for many.

Shopping is social. Allowing consumers to invite their social connections into the process is just as valuable to them as it is to a brand. It gives them the ability to share relevant content with their friends, while the brand’s message breaks through the walls of the website into the social space.

Deeper Engagement – Facebook introduced “frictionless sharing” late last year during f8. Brands should view that as a cue to allow more actions to start at the website level. For example, give consumers a set of pre-defined actions that they can share with their social networks. For example, allow them to post that they “gotta have” the latest product featured on the website. Or allow them to share that a new style is “trendy” simply by clicking the action on your website. Brands should be open to making content as easy and seamless to share as possible.

Engagement doesn’t stop with sharing. Customer reviews and social recommendations are integral. Allowing consumers to leave their thoughts on products as well as recommend products and services to friends through the website allows a brand to open the door for consumers and let them feel free to connect a brand’s products with their social connections.

Everything is Social

Our constant connectedness has made everything we do social, and marketers have the power to leverage that very fact. Social isn’t a component of a media plan. It should be ingrained in every interaction a brand has with a consumer to one degree or another, and the website is the perfect place to start.