| Social Media, Web Design

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I’ve done a number of presentations about social media and branding, and one question I usually get is how do you find time to keep up with social media. It can be a struggle to figure out how to have meaningful interactions on social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter without it sucking up all your time.

Making time and space for social media

As a designer, I also see another potential “suck” of social media. The fact that small businesses need to throw a large number of social media icons and contact info into everything from their web site to their print ads or other marketing materials.

Yesterday, I was listening to the radio and heard an ad for a local garden shop. Out of the 30 seconds, a full one third of the time was getting out all their contact information. It started with their physical address and phone number, then went on to the URL of their web site, their Facebook page and finally their Twitter handle.

I see a similar crush in things like web site design.

Small business owners often feel that their web site design must incorporate a way for viewers to “like” their company’s Facebook page. In addition, they may also display other friends who’ve liked their page. Viewers may also have the opportunity to “like” pages within their web site. Finally, they may show a feed of recent Facebook activity. Beyond Facebook there are Twitter handles to share and Twitter feeds. And don’t forget LinkedIn, YouTube or Pinterest!

It can be a real challenge for the web designer to get all of these elements into the design and not look cluttered.

When is it too much Facebook?

I had been thinking about this topic and writing this post for a while, when I saw this headline on the Mashable web site. I took a screen shot because it really illustrates my point.

Working Facebook like buttons into your web site design
Can you get too much Facebook into one web design? Example from Mashable.com

Social media I love thee, let me count the ways

  • Viewers can click “like” in the lower left corner. I’m guessing this is to “like” this particular article, which will have it show up as a status item in your own timeline on Facebook. You can see three more similar like buttons on each different article up there (ie Confirmed: SpaceX Dragon… and the others in the horizontal bar).
  • On the lower right it shows that more than 800,000 people have liked Mashable on Facebook. This means they’ve clicked on Mashable’s Facebook page and hit like there. If you do that, you’ll see Mashable’s posts show up in your own timeline (how frequently depends on many factors).
  • In the top right, you have the option of “signing in with Facebook”. If you are doing something on the site that requires logging in—posting a comment for example—you can use this feature to make the sign-in process quicker.
  • Finally, near the middle top they are enticing readers to try their new “Social News App”. I haven’t tried this, but they put the Facebook logo there one more time for good measure.
  • Beyond Facebook they also suggest you connect with them, or promote them via: Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Pinterest and StumbleUpon.

Then, the irony of this screen shot is that the headline of the story suggests that nearly half of Americans think Facebook is a passing fad.

What about for your small business web site?

It’s important to realize that Mashable calls itself “The Social Media Guide”. It is highly engulfed in the prominent social media channels and they are central to Mashable’s mission.

A small business web site, on the other hand, probably wants to tone this down. As I described above, there are now many different ways to post, like and interact with Facebook and it’s probably best to start by limiting it to what your web site viewers are comfortable with.

I’m going to wager that many, many people think that by hitting any “like” button on a corporate site they’ve essentially “liked” that company’s Facebook page, even when that is not always true. They may be just liking one page of web site content and posting it to their own timeline.

At this point, I think it’s best to start with this traditional way of sending viewers to Facebook to “like” your company page. This, ideally, puts your ongoing Facebook posts into their timeline.

But this is a quickly evolving space. It seems like just as the masses get used to something in Facebook it all changes. And you may be forced to adjust your web site links. Also, think about the channels that mean the most to your audience. If they more heavily into LinkedIn or YouTube, than position those links most prominently.

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