Social Conversion Points And The Sharing Of Content
In general, most sites aim to convert visitors into sales, subscriptions, registrations and requests for quotes, but there's one more conversion point that I think is often overlooked in web design and interactive strategy. That conversion point is sharing. Sharing is crucial to online success, not only to bloggers and other "social media" types, but really to most people doing business online. In fact, most bloggers over emphasize other conversion points such as subscriptions, and leave the potential for sharing largely untapped.
Some of the best examples of sharing options as conversion points are the major video sites Youtube and Vimeo. These sites have developed platforms based off of sharing, and their visual, easy to find, and easy to use options are a good model for building shareable content across the board. Of course, building shareable content and building for content to be shared are two different things. The echo chamber is full of people saying that they key to online success is making great content. Well, what is great content?
Content differs from niche to niche. Making content can mean writing an interesting blog or developing useful software, but those are actually not the best, nor the easiest, ways of creating good content. One of my favorite restaurants produces content in the form of a casual newsletter. Every Friday Peter Madden sends out e-mails about what he is cooking that weekend and what the specials are. And? And his specials always sell out. The key here is that the information he provides is valuable. I don't imagine that there's anything a restaurant could send me that would be more interesting than knowing what's getting cooked this weekend. Great content is valuable. It doesn't have to be crazy or funny, and it doesn't have to go "viral". Your content could be a white paper, it could be a newsletter, or it could be an actual product. Madden's restaurant serves as a great example of how to build content. Ask yourself "what do my customers and potential customers want?". Then give them what they want. Sometimes it's simple and timely information, sometimes it's entertainment, and sometimes it's an experience.
Once you've built content that your customers will want it's time to begin implementing the content into your website and interactive strategy. Set up the content in a way that makes it so easy to share that it's hard not to share it. I also think that you should do some research and find out which sharing venues are the best for you. Some users will be more prone to use e-mail, some are on the bleeding edge and using Twitter (yes, for the general public Twitter is still the edge). I think "share this" buttons and other all-encompassing options are useful tools; however, they often present an overwhelming amount of options. You don't want the user to have to think about which social outlets they use and which one they should share your content on. You want to remind the user that they have an account on say, delicious, and that bookmarking it would be smart, or that e-mailing this to a friend would be nice.
Have some thoughts you'd like to share with us? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below or on Twitter.