Nov 082010

When it comes to Facebook (Facebook), if you’re uncertain where and when to place a “Like” button on your site and when to use “Share,” you’re not alone. Social sharing technologies have evolved significantly in the past several months, but it’s not as complicated as it may seem. Used in concert, “Like” and “Share” are some of the best tools around for driving referral traffic from social networks, opening new communication channels with customers and prospects, and building relationships with your best advocates.

Here are three best practices for applying them together.

1. Design for Both “Like” and “Share”

Rather than choose one or the other, sites that combine “Like” and “Share” into the user experience see the greatest level of success in terms of driving referral traffic, building relationships and learning more about their customers and visitors. Why? Not only do “Like” and “Share” have different strengths and different applications, they actually drive the most value when used in concert. Let’s drill into the specifics to illustrate.

The “Like” button has many benefits:

  • When clicked, an item is published to the person’s Facebook feed, driving referral traffic to the website. If the user is already logged into Facebook, this is a one-click process.
  • “Liking” adds data to the user’s profile on Facebook.
  • “Liking” is an easy way for users to make a connection with the things they have an affinity for — just a single-click user experience.
  • “Liking” opens a new communication channel for publishers that can subsequently share news to the feeds of Facebook users who have “Liked” that item on their site.

Facebook recently released data on the value of a “Liker” which provides compelling reasons for engaging them:

“People who click the Facebook Like button are more engaged, active and connected than the average Facebook user. The average ‘liker’ has 2.4x the amount of friends than that of a typical Facebook user. They are also more interested in exploring content they discover on Facebook — they click on 5.3x more links to external sites than the typical Facebook user.”

So where does the next generation of “Share” functionality fit into this picture? Enabling “Share,” in addition to “Like,” enhances both the overall user experience as well as the power of the “Like” button for the site:

  • Sharing provides a way for people to express themselves and share with friends when “Like” (or “recommend,” which is another form of the “Like” button) is not the appropriate sentiment. People typically “Like” things or social objects, but share activity. For example, if someone makes a comment on an article or reviews a product, they are more likely to want to share their point of view with friends rather than “Like” it.
  • When a Facebook user clicks the “Like” button, the website hosting the button does not get access to information about that user or about the “Like.” Integrating sharing into the site — via Facebook’s Open Graph API — effectively closes the data loop by asking a person to connect with a website the first time he or she chooses to share something. Once a user connects, his or her “Like” data is available to the site owner, enabling a more personalized user experience outside of Facebook.
  • Example of an Effective Application of Both “Like” and “Share:”

    Specialty outdoor retailer Giantnerd recently published data showing how social sharing has doubled traffic from Facebook. The number of those consumers coming from Facebook who actually place an order has jumped 30% and the average order value has risen 50%. In the example below, Giantnerd enables members to “Like” a specific product, and to “Share” a question about that product’s features.

    “Like” the helmet:

    Share a question about the helmet:

    You can also drive more referral traffic by enabling your site visitors to share to multiple social networks simultaneously, as Giantnerd does in the example above.

    2. Use “Like” and “Share” to Build Relationships

    As we touched on in the first point, today’s sharing technologies are based on the concept of first establishing a relationship between the user and the site, wherein the user connects his or her social identity to the website via an explicit permission or authentication step. Most people associate authentication with registration or log-in, but the process can be woven into a variety of social activities, from sharing to community features, creating far more opportunities for any site to make that connection.

    This is an enormous win for marketers, as a connected user typically comes with rich social network profile data, including a pre-validated e-mail address and a slew of “Likes” from across the web. This data can help a business personalize the site experience and communicate with that person more effectively.

    The “Like” button also provides an opportunity to build relationships. While the site does not have information on any individual user, the entity that was “Liked” can publish relevant activity to the “Likers” as a group. For example, a children’s apparel retailer could promote an end-of-season sale to “Likers” of its winter coats. A publisher could share new content to people who “Like” a particular op-ed author or piece.

    3. Optimize Your Content for the Facebook Feed

    While some content may be intrinsically more interesting than others, one thing is certain: Presentation counts when it comes to driving referral traffic. Optimizing all the elements of what is published to a user’s feed is important for both “Likes” and “Shares.”

    There are two different “Like” button implementations, and while the iFrame version is easier to implement, the XFBML version gives you more opportunity to optimize. According to the Facebook developer documentation, “The XFBML dynamically re-sizes its height according to whether there are profile pictures to display, gives you the ability (through the JavaScript library) to listen for Like events so that you know in real time when a user clicks the Like button, and it always gives the user the ability to add an optional comment to the Like. If users do add a comment, the story published back to Facebook is given more prominence.”

    Prominence on Facebook means it’s more likely that the Facebook algorithm will actually display a “Like” to people in the user’s network, so taking the time to use the XFBML version with commenting enabled is highly worthwhile. Optimizing “Likes” for the feed also involves adding Open Graph tags with information that Facebook can pull when someone clicks the “Like” button. To optimize for the feed, in addition to information that categorizes each item within the Open Graph, sites should also be sure to specify the image and text that will show in the feed item, as in this example:

    Facebook ImageShared items should similarly be optimized for maximum exposure. One of the advantages of the latest generation of sharing technologies is that you have full control over the image and body text for shared content, as well as the hyperlinks that appear at the bottom of the feed item. In this example, the item published includes a photo that supports the content, text that moves a user to take action, and a link at the bottom that specifically drives more people to the original site to take the poll:

    Facebook Share ImageThe benefits of combining “Like” and “Share” are big, so don’t sit back and wait for a final iteration of the platform; these technologies will continue to evolve, and so will the size of the opportunity.

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