How to Transform Your Website into a Social Platform

While social media marketing can play an integral part of any online marketing strategy, the cornerstone of all of your SMM activities will be a website that is optimized for user engagement, lead conversion and search engines. A handful of feedback mechanisms are easy to implement and can help to build a community of prospects and consumers. As well, a great website helps you analyze traffic to measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and SMM activities.

Are you engaging with your visitors and prospective customers effectively on your website? The following questions should help you discover if your website is truly a social platform:

1. Is your mission statement clearly stated on your website? It’s important to communicate clearly to your audience who you are and what your organization does. Make sure your customers can identify the need that you’re fulfilling.

2. Is your brand communicated consistently across your site?

3. Do you display your URL prominently on all of your marketing materials?

4. Do you update your home page content on a daily basis? Other pages like your events or news pages should be updated on a regular basis. Long term pages, such as About Us also need a monthly refresh.

5. Do you offer a subscription-based newsletter? A newsletter offers a quick and easy way to connect with your customers, partners and prospects. Visitors should be able to automatically subscribe. Newsletters enable you to track your subscriptions and run campaigns to improve your reach. You can also use a newsletter to launch campaigns and discover what your visitors like to keep them coming back. It’s a great conversation starter.

6. Do you maintain a blog? If you can create and maintain an interesting blog, you stand to significantly increase the interactivity on your website. If your posts are compelling, pose a question, are controversial or incite debate, you can quickly amass a following of readers with an active comments section.

7. Do you offer dynamic content –RSS feeds and news that is updated automatically – on your site? You can keep content fresh by pulling relevant content from other sites using RSS Feeds. RSS feeds deliver aggregated and syndicated Web content to your website. Feeds permit instant distribution of content. Feeds could make your site a highly valued news source in your industry or area, for example. You can also easily use an “RSS-to-email” program so your readers can subscribe to the feed by email.

8. Do you promote your social profiles on your website? Today, companies of any size are creating profiles on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace, and other social networking sites. This is an easy way to add an element of interactivity to your website. Twitter offers widgets that you can easily install on your site to display your most recent Tweets.

9. Do you support a discussion forum on your site? You can use forums to host a moderated dialogue with your prospects and customers. Engaging with your visitors can be as straightforward as installing a program like VBulletin or phpBB. Based on the forum, you can create an FAQ / Knowledge Base section of your website where visitors can submit their questions and access previous Q&As.

10. Do you nurture a community on your website? A VIP members-only portion of your website is a great way to target a captive audience. You can use it to offer value-added access to resources, downloads, expert blogger programs, loyalty programs and more.

11. Do members have access to their personal profiles – pages they can fill out with personal information like education, experience and skill set? People use this information to connect with other like-minded people and this is how self-organizing communities are built. Organizations can use these profile-driven communities to build positive brand experience.

12. Do you use your site to convert happy customers into evangelists or key influencers? This is a great way to lose the typical marketing spin and leverage peer-to-peer influence in grassroots campaigns.

13. Do you offer internationalization or language support on your site? This is crucial if you want to expand into international marketplaces.

14. Do you offer a personalized experience that delivers relevant content to visitors based on their preferences? The future of the web is all about dynamically delivering relevant, tailored and personalized  experiences. This is what the Semantic Web is about: anticipating a user’s need as they feel it. A good example: Are You a New User? Giving newbies pointers on how to use your site. A partners forum and customer care portion of your site are other examples of tailored experiences. Your site should at the very least recognize repeat visitors using cookies to store specific login information (like a  form to download more information).

15. Do you allow polling or rating on your site? Many sites feature questions in a poll box on their home page that change quite frequently. Poll questions can be anything related to your business that your customers or prospects will care about. Keep your polls up to date to keep people interested. Rating, based on a 5 star rating system like Amazon’s, is a great way to monetize user generated content. You can aggregate your most positive feedback (like a 5 star rating on a product) and base campaigns on these. It’s a quick and easy way to engage with customers and their feedback on your products and services.

16. Do you allow User Generated Content (USG) on your website? Allowing user generated content is always a risk, but if you’re confident in your product or service, it can also deliver valuable word of mouth marketing. Of course, you need to monitor content for any negative press you might get.  You can also refute negative press or deal with it, turning bad press into a good PR opportunity. Providing a way for consumers to submit content to your site communicates a certain level of confidence in your brand, your customer relationship management and your customer service.

17. Do you enable registrations for webinars or other events on your site? This is key to making engagement with prospects as convenient and easy as possible. If it doesn’t work quickly and easily, people won’t use it.

18. Are promotions featured prominently on your home page and featured throughout the site, where relevant?

19. If you have customer service representatives, do you offer this service as a chat-based feature? Giving customers the opportunity to instantly connect for a support conversation or to find out more information significantly increases your site’s usability and your organization’s level of customer service. This can also be a great way to capture a name, email address or phone number before people leave your site.

20. Is your site search engine optimized? Search engine optimization (SEO) improves the visibility of your website in search engines via “natural” or organic search results. There are many ways that you can optimize your site within its content – for example ensuring that keywords appear many times on your top level pages and in your title tags. Other forms of search engine marketing (SEM) target paid listings.  More info on SEO can be found here. There are a lot of SEO blogs out there, a favourite of mine is SEO 2.0 Blog.

21. Do you manage traffic on your site using analytics tools, such as Google Analytics? It’s important to maintain profiles of your visitors that includes their web activities, as well as demographic and offline activities. And it’s free! You can also chose to pay for similar solutions like Leadlander, a web-based application that gives you access to real-time customer intelligence analytics reports. This allows you to identify which customers are hitting your site; reading your online product collateral; and researching your products or solutions. Regardless, you should maintain a working database of prospects and visitors to your site.

Speaking of conversations… let’s start one. What interactive mechanisms do you use to engage with customers and prospects? What do you think makes a great site?

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About Elizabeth Chestney-Hanson

With over 15 years of marketing and communications expertise in both for-profit and not-for profit sectors, my experience ranges from providing strategic brand direction for global organizations to developing and implementing fully integrated marketing campaigns. With a strong interest in how social media is impacting marketing today, my objective is to achieve real results for customers by combining traditional marketing programs with innovative and emerging digital technologies, including viral marketing, online community marketing, influencer marketing, and SEO/SEM. I graduated from the University of Waterloo with an MA in Literature and I have taught marketing management at the MBA level at Wilfrid Laurier University. My areas of expertise include integrated marketing communications; content strategy; online campaigns; brand strategy; and social media marketing. Recent projects include the development of a G20 social network for attending media and press and contributions to a technology book entitled, “Managing Content in the Cloud”.
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One Response to How to Transform Your Website into a Social Platform

  1. I always love reading what others have to say about this topic! Great share. I will send back a link to this website! Thank you :)

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