Sharing: Not just for toddlers anymore
Last month I talked about adding a search function to your website to help your visitors easily find what they are looking for without sifting through a bunch of pages. Now I’ll talk about making it easy for your visitors to share that information once it’s in their hands (or at their fingertips, as the case may be), potentially scoring you an expanded audience of interested readers.
“No, no, we share our toys [and great internet finds].”
You were paying attention in preschool, right? It’s not nice to keep fun stuff all to yourself. But sharing should not stop at the sandbox. If you find a great pair of shoes that you know your sister would die for, what do you do? You call her up and tell her to rush over to DSW before someone else snags them. And if you come across a newspaper article that mentions your best friend’s start-up, you don’t read it and toss it in the recycle bin, do you? Of course not. You clip the article from several copies and mail them out to everyone you know.
Thanks to a few lines of code, the same type of sharing etiquette can be applied online. With the simple click of a button, your visitors can instantly share specific pages from your website with friends, family and colleagues via email or their favorite social networking sites. The outcome to this sharing frenzy? The original site visitor feels good for having discovered something awesome, and gets props from his friends and colleagues for having shown them the way; the new site visitor is pleasantly surprised at their newfound information; and you sit back and relax while your site visitors do your marketing for you. Now, I call that a win-win-win.
Sold! Sign me up.
Good news — hopping on the share bandwagon is neither a complicated nor expensive endeavor. There are a bunch of free services out there, so talk with your webmaster about which might work with your site. Many are simple to implement, with custom options for advanced users. You can start by playing around with www.addthis.com, www.sharethis.com and www.addtoany.com to see which features suit you best.
You may choose to have a share button with a dropdown menu that lists many of the popular social sites, or you may decide to select the top two or three that your visitors are more likely to use, and display only those icons. Most services offer some level of tracking so you can see how often the share tool is being used, from which pages, and through which social avenues. (You can always refine your choices later, based on the data.)
Don’t forget to include print and email icons as well. While some people will take the plunge and slap your link right on their Facebook page for all to see, others may want to share your site with a specific person, without broadcasting it to their entire networks. Give those folks the option to use the email feature. And, of course, there are still some people who like to print information and file it away in a real physical folder (or mail it to their grandmother who doesn’t have internet access).
Where to share?
There are a few options to think about when placing your own personal share toolbox. You may wish to have it appear at the bottom of your text so that a visitor can easily click it right after he finishes reading your article. But what if he never gets to the end of the page? Then, though he may have enjoyed the first half (the part he had time to read), he never even saw the option to share it with friends.
With this in mind, another location to think about is at the top of your content, somewhere around the main headline of the page. This gives page-skimmers an up-front opportunity to share the information without having to read or even scroll to the bottom. Just make sure it’s near the top of the content; not necessarily the top of the entire site’s design, which may also include navigation, photos, a logo, and search function. Be sure to keep the share icons near the crux of what will entice someone to share, i.e. the information.
Or, you can opt to have it in both places — and you’d be in good company. CNN.com places their share buttons above and below the content of each article.
Stop being selfish; start sharing now!
Take a look at the top and bottom of the content area of this page — you can see my share buttons hard at work. If you found this article helpful, feel free to use them.