The role of social media
There’s little doubt that social media is becoming increasingly important to SEO, especially with regard to G+ and Google’s rumored plans for Authorship and Author Rank are likely to cement that.
But what role, if any, does the designer play when it comes to integrating social with the company website? Well that depends on both the designer and the client, but most sites will now have social media links included as a minimum.
That means that for the designer, the opportunity is there to come up with some great, eye-catching, unique designs when it comes to the images for the links. Add to this the need for branding to be identical cross-platform these days and the opportunity for designers is even more apparent.
Why integrate social?
Social signals, such as the amount of followers a site gains and the content that is shared from a site are important. As you know, in the dark days of post Penguin and Panda, content is even more important than it’s ever been and in order to measure engagement, it’s necessary to measure shares as well as traffic to the site.
Ideally, the client should have a sound marketing plan in place for you to work from. They will know which social platforms they are going to use, if they want to include social logins, and the relevance of placing icons on their site.
This means that the savvy designer can maximize on this and provide not only awesome icons on the site, but also great designs to grace the client profile on each social media site. Facebook gateway pages, for example, are a great marketing tool for encouraging people to give contact details and an opportunity for you to create eye-catching, tempting designs that can draw the user in.
User experience is everything
Well integrated social media channels are essential to the modern web experience and this means that designs should complement this. This can be done in a variety of ways and many of you will have noticed that many clients have moved away from a static design in order to replace it with variable content, which is usually powered by social media.
According to David Carillo, manager at Earned Media: “Implementing Facebook Open Graph and Twitter cards on a Website is the best way to control the presentation of your website (sic) on social networks. And it’s a lot easier to implement from the beginning than to have to go back once the site is already built out.”
Not only this, but the ability to embed content such as YouTube videos and SlideShare presentations means that you have a Google-friendly website in terms of multimedia content too. SlideShare presentations are becoming increasingly popular as a content marketing tool, with many preferring it over white papers now, as it’s a simple but effective way to present content in a form that’s easy to digest.
Tweets, Facebook reviews, LinkedIn recommendations, all of these can also be pulled from social to further boost trust between the client and their users. All of this means that you’re creating a site that is making the very most of social media in terms of usability, SEO, consumer trust and engagement.
Design opportunity and social
There’s nothing to say that you have to be restricted to using social plugins, or icons for each social media site. These can be incorporated into the design to match the branding of the company.
For example, the design below is a good example of using creativity to make branded social icon links, whilst keeping them entirely recognize as relating to each social network.
As you can see, it’s immediately apparent which network matches each button, but the designer has been clever and linked the icons to the style of the website. If we now go and check out the social media sites that are linked, you can see that the fishing company has done well with Twitter and carried on the theme, but failed somewhat on Facebook by just using a logo.
For most designers it’s a simple matter to design Twitter headers and Facebook cover images in Photoshop and the impact it has on the overall brand is well worth it.
Social plugins and logins
Social logins are a great way to include a call to action and create a community without asking too much of the user. These are not just an ideal way of making the site more social by allowing comments and suchlike, but they provide valuable and accurate data that can be used for marketing.
This can then be used for personalizing the user experience for content, product recommendations and more. This is invaluable for a company looking to streamline their lead generation but it can be a little problematic from the perspective of the developer.
Of course, there are plenty of companies out there who provide social login connectivity as a service, but if you want to code your own there’s a good, detailed article on the MSDN site by Andrew Dodson.
For reference, Facebook remains the preferred network for social login across pretty much all industries, so you could begin with that one first. Bear in mind that it’s thought G+ will catch up by 2016, so you could also include a G+ login.
Further advantages to providing social login options with a site include doing away with forms. Social login performs the same function, which is simply to collect user information and build a mailing list, to name but one. Add to that the ability of mobile users to login with a single click, and you’re onto a winner.
With regard to plugins, whilst they can slow a site slightly, they are worth having for sharing purposes, as shares are counted by search engines as being useful.
Get your social skills perfected
In order to give clients the best possible service, every designer should be prepared to integrate social and know the reasons for doing so. The benefits are numerous to the client and include excellent branding opportunities, increased SEO and lead generation, an enhanced user experience and more.
With mobile becoming more and more common when it comes to what we use to browse the net, social can play a vital part too. Many sites are discovered through social media sites and so creating eye-catching designs for social media profiles is another way to increase traffic.
Social also gives a site the ability to host multimedia content and allows this to be shared in a two-way manner between the site and the social media presence.
At the end of the day, there’s no getting away from the social media revolution, so the best approach is to maximize the benefits it can give to your clients and in turn, your own business.