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Integrating social into your website

With such a wealth of tools available to help even the novice put up a page or full-blown site online, it’s never been easier to build a corporate website. Today’s websites are dynamic, and most incorporate e-commerce functions.

However, as many business owners find out (especially small and medium businesses), building the website is only the beginning. The hard part is finding those customers who are seeking to buy, and driving them to your site.

For this to happen, your website needs to be social.

By using the power of the social web, you connect your website to consumers, customers and prospects who are putting out public signals about what they want. As always, it’s your job to connect them to your company and convert the sale before your competitors do.

Integrating social into your website so that they work seamlessly together can be done in a few, easy (but well thought out) steps.

Activate social sharing and provide interesting content
To feed the social beast, you need to ensure that you are meeting your customers’ and prospects’ appetites for content across all media. Understand what your customers want, then give it to them. This may sound easier said than done, but becomes easier (and more meaningful) if you start with data and use insights to discern who you should be talking to and what they are talking about.

Of course, after you have produced the content there is no better validation that you are doing it right than when people want to share what you have posted. As always, make it easy for them to access your value and give your content every opportunity to go viral by implementing sharing options throughout your website.

Engage with your audience
It’s time to remove the fear of engagement. After all, if you have an integrated social-web strategy in place, one that connects your web assets with an audience active on the social web, you have little option but to engage.

The fear is often driven from the top and is based on the concern that users will post negative or unwanted comments that will somehow make the company look bad. We say seize the opportunity to engage in healthy debate – which these days is the stimulus for engagement with your audience.

Take the negative commenters on a journey of support and positive reinforcement – use the opportunity to turn their perceptions or issues into a positive experience with your company and brand.

Keep it ‘real-time’ – maximize your efforts with feeds and streams
Integrating a social media stream with your website can bring valuable traffic to your site.

Publish a blog with the right feed strategy so that it’s being shared by your audience almost before you’ve checked your social channels – remember, your audience engages with the content you create (if it is good) so a much better spend of your time is on actual engagement (not the mechanics of publishing).

Live Twitter feeds add a real-time flavour to your site and provide another area for engagement with your audience.

Give your audience social proof
Social proof eases the mind of worried customers. Whilst social engagement can garner negative comments (which, as noted above, provides opportunity to engage and turn the negative into a positive experience), positive affirmation from happy and content customers will get you more bang for your buck than any of the budget you spend on marketing. It’s real and raw and direct from the user – which is the most powerful source of truth.

Keep going
While establishing your company’s presence in popular social channels such as Facebook and Twitter is crucial to online community building, maintaining that presence needs to be a journey of endurance – a marathon, not a sprint. Once you start engaging (as in any selling scenario) keep going! And with social, you’ll scale a lot faster, and get feedback in real time.

Clare Jolly: Clare is General Manager Operations at DIGIVIZER.