Social Media Review

Is sharing content across social media sites the “new search” as people are saying?  I’m not sure, but it definitely is becoming more and more important.  I’d like to review the way we leverage social media on our sites to come up with a set of best practices.  We want to make sure we are getting the most from our content.  We want to make sure we are enabling it to have the largest reach.

Roughly speaking, we can divide up our social media strategy into two parts:

  • mechanisms allowing a user to consume our content
  • mechanisms that enable a user to share our content with others.

Mechanisms for Content Consumption

Here is our sidebar widget on Streetsblog.net:

If people click on the Twitter icon, they’ll go to the Streetsblog Network Twitter page and will be able to follow it.  This Twitter account currently has 8875 followers.  Each blog post on Streetsblog.net is tweeted on this account.

If people click on the Facebook icon, they go to the Streetsblog Facebook page.  I’m seeing that no new posts have been made on this page since June 2010.  1530 people “like” this page so if anything was to be posted on it, they would each get that post in their Facebook news feeds.  The Streetsblog SF Facebook page, by contrast, has several posts being made to it each day.

People can click on the RSS icon to subscribe to the RSS feed in an RSS Reader.  Over 11000 people read Streetsblog.org this way using Google Reader.

Finally, the last way people can consume our content without actually coming to the site is by subscribing to our email digests.  For example, 503 people get the GothamSchools digest each day.  Here is an example of the signup for this on the Streestblog SF sidebar.

I’d like to develop a new widget that incorporates all four of these methods for people to get our content pushed to them.  It should be featured high up on the sidebar of each of our blogs and also on the Contact pages.  Each blog should have their own active Twitter and Facebook presence that syndicate all of their content.  Also, new jobs posted on the jobs boards can be tweeted and posted on Facebook on the accounts relevant to the specific job location.

I’d also like to make these buttons more intelligent.  Instead of the twitter button taking you to the twitter stream, it should immediately make you a follower.  Same for the Facebook button, it should automatically make you “like” the page.

Once we have started making use of these practices and see how they’re working, I can consider ways of automating them to make things easier for our editors.

Mechanisms for Content Sharing

The other way of extending the reach of our content is to make it really easy for people to share it with others.  A little while ago I added the ShareThis buttons to our blogs.  See my blog post about that.  ShareThis has improved it’s buttons recently.  Now, once you’ve logged into the service, you can share content with just one click.  The check marks in the image below show services that I am logged in on:

I took a look at the analytics that show how people are using these buttons.  Twitter, Facebook and Email are the most common ways people share.  I was surprised to see that Reddit was also commonly used.  Perhaps I should promote that button to a standalone one instead of having people find it behind the button menu popup (behind the fourth button above).

Another button I’d like to try using is the Google +1 button.  Google’s +1 button is a lightweight way for people to recommend content.  It affects your search results and the search results of people who you’re connected to on Google.  +1′s are also shown in Google’s new social network, Google+.  The +1 button is a relatively new addition to the sharing world but I think it will become an important part of it.

I considered adding Facebook’s Like button as well.  I understand it to be a lighter version of the Facebook Share button, which allows you to add a custom message in addition to posting the article on your wall.  You can see them both at play on Huffington Post.  I think having both available can be confusing to people and is overkill so I think I’ll stay with just the share button.

As we make changes to these sharing options we can watch the analytics provided by ShareThis to monitor how people are using them.  We want to be careful to give relevant options to our users without overwhelming them.

Next Steps

Next I’d like to hand this blog post around to people to get feedback and new ideas.  Then I’ll start implementing the ideas across our blogs and watching the results.  I’ll also need cooperation from the editors to use Facebook and Twitter skillfully to syndicate content.

Hopefully, before long, we’ll be reaching further out across the social web than ever before and will see an increase in our site traffic and overall impact.

3 Responses to “Social Media Review”

  1. Chris Abraham Says:

    We’ve been discussing this on our internal water cooler. One issue being discussed is whether to use facebook share or like buttons. See http://rustwire.com/2011/06/22/caution-to-cities-dont-overly-focus-on-increasing-degree-share/

    It has both at the bottom of the post but the Like button is infinitely more tempting.

  2. Chris Abraham Says:

    Here’s another example of good use of the Like and Tweet buttons http://thesource.metro.net/

  3. Chris Abraham Says:

    Wow, check out how this site does it http://goo.gl/xV3CU