Social networking sites account for the most referral traffic to all websites just behind organic search. So you better be optimizing for more sharing. But it’s not just slapping a Tweet button and producing link-bait content that people will Like and Retweet.
Here are 5 fresh user experience ideas for boosting how much your site gets shared:
1. Package Bite-Sized Content That Can Be Easily Shared And Tweeted
People are happy to share (good) content. Social networks have made it generally frictionless with instant publishing via distributed share buttons. But it’s up to you to also package (not just produce) content that people want to share.
It’s one thing to write a detailed, insightful blog post. It’s another thing to allow visitors to quickly Tweet specific insightful quotes from your post, or tweet out the best comments from the discussion. Users already do this manually by editing default Tweets with the content they want to include. But imagine if that work were already done FOR users, and they knew sharing would be a work-free experience.
TED has innovated on this principle by enabling sharing of memorable quotes.
Notice how TED gives you unique content by just repackaging the speaker’s words. Also, observe the placement near the bio (where a user is already engaging with the speaker) and subtle button background on “Share quote” that helps maintain the toned down aesthetic but still draws attention.
They know that aside from the videos, quotes are one of their best assets (and a type of text people love to share). So by pulling out a quote like the one above, TED has cut friction and created a new reason for me to share their content (without them creating any new content). Indeed, I may even end up Tweeting this page twice given the high quality video and the thought-provoking quote, which wouldn’t necessarily come across in a Tweet with just the video link.
2. Tailor Share Options Based On Where Users Visit From
Custom landing pages driven by outbound sales campaigns have been around forever. However, nowadays customers are publishers, too. So now we must be prepared on inbound pages to tailor messages whenever a user comes from any publisher (read: your other users) out there.
Showing a “Hey – thanks for visiting us from Twitter. Why don’t you Tweet about us, too?” is novel and allows you to delay or kill the overwhelming effect of 5-6 different social share buttons.
A great example of this in action is with Twitter Bootstrap 2. For its latest release, I discovered a link on Twitter through Hacker News.
Here’s the Tweet with the link to Twitter Bootstrap 2 that would trigger a unique message on the Bootstrap 2 page.
Lo and behold, when I arrived at the page that had been linked from Twitter, I was welcomed appropriately with a highly tailored message.
After clicking on a link from Twitter, this black-background alert faded in gradually, fixed at the bottom of the page.
Let’s take a closer look. Notice how straightforward and action-focused the messaging is. It also seems personal and casual with the use of the “I” pronoun and the exclamation mark.
The alert is clean and to the point, which shows exactly the intent of the customer with something that is differentiated from the overwhelming set of a countless social share buttons.
It is possible that customizing messaging like this can be disconcerting for your audience, who might wonder about how you know the referral source. But in the long run, tailored messaging will go a long way in causing people to want to share your content. After all, it is more personal, and it facilitates the action a user is most likely to take, rather than blasting them with less relevant options.
3. Give Your Users More Value When They Sign In Through Facebook And Twitter.
People visit Facebook and Twitter more than they do your application. Therefore, they may prefer to receive certain information your product offers via those channels most relevant to them. With Facebook Likes, you can propose an exchange to a user: “Like” our content; and get updates where you want them.
It may cannibalize some traffic. Be warned and decide whether you want to be optimizing for short term traffic or greater virality that may or may not lead to high quality traffic.
For example, take March Madness, the major college basketball tournament that happens every year in the US. Fantasy sports leagues acknowledge how obsessive fans are, so how can they trade updated content for virality? Trade updates delivered via Facebook for a “Like.”
Not only does their product become more valuable when you connect socially, but they even give you a glimpse of what the alerts look like, since they probably realize how spammy alerts can be perceived.
Products that figure out how to tie additional product value to users opting in to social sharing and connecting will be well positioned for social sharing. Making virality so central to the product unlocks inherent reasons to share, beyond many of the other surface-deep reasons.
4. Give Evangelists Free Product In Exchange For Shares
It’s obvious. Give people free stuff for sharing your site. But even that can be easily ignored, so how do you suggest to visitors the value is so high that turning away without sharing would be foolish?
A clever marketing tactic is to offer an incredibly significant reward that lures everyone in, but 99.9% of all users will not do enough to earn. So you won’t be hurting from (hypothetically) giving away a ton. DollarShaveClub (DSC) advertises that you can win a lifetime of free razors. This catches everyone’s eye.
DollarShaveClub’s members will probably never refer 1000 friends, but there’s no doubt that the distant hope of achieving free blades for life is enough to spur at least a handful of Tweets
The catch is that you have to invite somewhere on the order of 1000 friends and have them become customers after you Tweet and share your custom link. Fortunately, DSC still rewards you for each incremental converted invite. So it’s not a bait and switch in which they get 999 invites out of you and you get nothing in return. Being honest while still incentivizing shares is an important balance.
It can even be free product that is free to you, too, such as extra licenses for your SaaS application, or a Retweet of that user’s content to show them some brand love. Get creative about what you offer.
5. Make It OK For Users To Brag
People (actually) don’t like to brag. It makes them look bad. People like to communicate, and feel, superiority. But the act of brazenly saying you’re superior in some way, and people consequently disliking you, is rationally undesirable.
Applications can deliver the sense of superiority to users through social media without users having to feel the negative consequences. This lets users feel good but takes the dislike out of the equation.
For example, Klout welcomes each user when they arrive for the first time in a day with a message like the below, ready for you to share widely.
Notice how Klout prominently features your achievement and immediately gives you 3 very comprehensive options for sharing
It strokes anyone’s ego to know their influence score went up, regardless of whether or not they “believe” it.
The Twitter pop up that Klout shows enables users to share achievements without seeming pompous.
I would never take the time to share this information myself, or craft a custom Tweet to share the same exact Tweet. But because Klout offers this to me on a silver platter, I’ll take it.
Finally, if you’re going to use this bragging method, be sure to let users opt-in to this service first!
To boost the likelihood of your visitors sharing your content, remember these five tips:
- Give them free, unique stuff (and more of it, if their shares are good)
- Package shareable content to reduce friction
- Customize share options based on referral sites
- Boost your sharers’ ego when they share your content
- Make your product more useful the more that people Like or Tweet it
About the Author: Jason Shah is an entrepreneur and user experience designer who advises a handful of early stage startups. Follow his blog for tips on optimizing what your users see, feel, and think and catch his latest updates on Twitter.