Three Steps to Add Social Technologies to Your Site

Applying on-site social technologies is the next major source of competitive advantage for online businesses, driving traffic, engagement and revenue. Is your e-commerce site ready?

Social is fast becoming as large a source of traffic for Websites as search. In March, Facebook moved ahead of Yahoo and Google to become the #1 most popular Website, according to tracking service Hitwise.

Nearly 20% of social consumers are now using social networks as their core navigation tool. Rather than using search engines or content hubs such as Microsoft or Yahoo, these consumers are looking for content within social networks and clicking from there.

What does this trend mean for e-commerce? First, it’s an opportunity to enlist site visitors to help drive more potential customers to your site.

With the advent of social feeds—a live stream of friends’ activity shared on social networks like Facebook and Twitter—consumers can more easily rely on trusted personal relationships to determine what’s worthwhile to read, watch, play and buy online.

With the latest generation of on-your-site social technologies such as Facebook Connect, Sign in with Twitter, Yahoo Open Strategy, and LinkedIn, among others, your e-commerce site can allow customers to interact and share with friends. Customers can also register using an existing identity, making the on-site experience as seamless and social as it is in the physical world.

But to achieve these goals, you’ll need to meet rising expectations that a relevant, real-world experience will be available to people whenever they shop at or visit your site. Fortunately, the social networks all view this as the future and provide the necessary technologies. It’s just a matter of applying them effectively.

Here are three steps for applying social technologies for real-world advantage:

Connect your site to multiple social platforms
Connecting your site to all the popular social networks helps maximize the number of users who register and share by making the social experience accessible to the greatest number of site visitors.

Data across our client base shows that providing multiple social network connection options significantly increases the number of participating users vs. a single option. Facebook typically comprises about 50% of all connected users, with other providers varying by site type.

Implementing and managing one or several connections can be resource-intensive and complex, so consider using a vendor to manage social network connectivity.

Design the connected experience for participation
The connected experience is that part of your user experience that taps into a users’ connection to their social network. Just as you optimize your current user experience for participation, conversion or other key metrics, you must optimize your users’ connected experience to drive social participation.

The elements of the connected experience include:

  • Registration: Enable your users to register or sign-in with an existing identity–just like in the real world.
  • Sharing: Make it easy for users to share with existing networks of friends–without ever leaving your site.
  • Engagement: Bring friends into your user experience. Show users what their friends are doing or saying on your site.

The data available from a user’s social network profile is rich and valuable, and can include everything from name and e-mail address to gender, age and interests. Look for ways to apply it to personalize the site experience, streamline the registration process and merchandise your site to make it relevant to each individual.

Optimize through analytics
Web analytics systems such as Omniture or Google Analytics are essential tools for optimizing site SEM and SEO performance. Similarly, businesses should test and measure changes in connected user activity by social network, and optimize the connected experience for their users based on that data.

Some of the key performance metrics that sites should be tracking for socially referred traffic include monthly and yearly growth in traffic referred by social networks; referral traffic by users sharing content from the Website, as differentiated from marketing efforts originating on social sites; completed shares (messages, status updates) per connected user, by social network; referred visits per shared item and by referring social site; interaction and engagement with social features; specific site content and activities that drive the highest volume of sharing activity.

Start with a snapshot of where you are now. How much traffic is coming to your site from the social networks today? A good minimum goal is 15%.

David A. Yovanno is CEO of social media applications provider Gigya.

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