Social Media

Hello all! My name is Chloe Trammel, and I’m an independent graphic designer currently working for Southern Virginia University’s communications department. Brett has asked me to share some of my opinions on web design and design in general on his blog, and I’m happy to do so.

One thing I’ve been asked by some of my co-workers and clients over and over is how to use social media to promote their website or business. The use of social media on a website affects the visitor’s experience greatly; in this day and age, it’s become a very lucrative variable in building a business, blog, or other online endeavor.

Social media is a part of daily life for most people, and is their first stop for entertainment, education, news, and often commerce. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Tumblr, and others spread information like wildfire, and many major corporations are tapping into this resource. Mobile apps like Gowalla, SCVNGR, and Foursquare use GPS devices on cell phones to “check-in” to a certain location and complete challenges for real-life rewards. Video sites like YouTube and Vimeo reach literally millions of viewers a day. All of these sites are free to use.

It’s easy to go overboard, though. Sometimes, social media can prove to be a double-edged sword for your website. Incorporating some bulky social media applets (i.e. Twitter feed, Facebook comments) can crowd the site, and most of the social media applets out there are eyesores to begin with. Too much information can be a bad thing. However, when incorporated and designed correctly, they can be a powerful tool to help spread the word about your site/product and gain a loyal visitor-base.

Here are some things to consider when looking at incorporating social media into your site:

Know your audience. As you probably know from experience, web developers asks themselves this question all the time when they are drafting their design – Who’s my target? What are their interests? How do I grab their attention? When you are deciding what age group/generation you’re designing for, decide if social media is a good idea for your site.

Know your memes. I strongly believe that in order to be effective in reaching out to your 18-24 demographic, you’ve got to be culture-savvy. If you don’t know what “liking” something means, or how to “ping”, “post”, or “check in”, you’re missing out big time. I suggest becoming a member of some big sites (Facebook and Twitter are two easy ones to start out with) and see for yourself how they work. You don’t have to immerse yourself in them, if you don’t want to – just learn the ropes and know the different tactics you can use.

Steal ideas. Be ruthless! The use of social media is a relatively new frontier for most businesses, and designers and programmers everywhere are sent into think tanks by their bosses to develop new ways for their users to “connect” to their website. Browse around some website of big companies and corporations and see how they do it; see what all the different solutions are. Then get your own creative juices flowing. (Check how Brett does it on his site! Simple as that.)

Here some of my own ideas that I recommend to clients often:

Offer viewers a way to share the link to your site or blog post on their social media accounts. This is often done with a single, tiny, recognizable icon on the bottom corner of a post. Your viewers are familiar with these sites, and will know what it means without having to be told to “click here”. Let them do the work! (All you’ll have to do is add the applet to your site or coding or however you program your site, and voila!)

Share your Twitter feed. It adds a level of legitimacy in the eyes of many to your site if they feel that a “real person” is behind it.

Ask your viewers opinion questions and allow them to respond in a displayable comment box. Questions can be silly things like, “What did you eat for breakfast this morning?”, or more serious questions like, “What’s one thing you can do to change the world today?” Remember, people love interaction, and will gravitate towards the businesses and sites that they feel care the most about their viewer-base. You could also ask questions that help improve your site – “What would you like to see?”

That’s my opinion. Do you currently use social media applets on your site? How has it worked out for you? Have any questions? Feel free to comment and share your ideas with us!

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