Generally, when online marketers discuss social media marketing, we straightaway start thinking about headlines, content quality, and content marketing strategy. While those three are definitely all very important factors of a successful social media marketing strategy, there's still one important component we often forget to consider - blog design.
Yes, believe it or not, your blog design does have an impact on how many social shares your posts will get -- and a rather significant one at that. Here are 15 ways to ensure that your design is as social media friendly as possible.
1. Social Sharing Buttons Should Be Prominent
This really should go without saying, but, unfortunately, it doesn't. All the time, I see bloggers with real potential, who output high-quality content who don't place social sharing icons in prominent places.
Instead, the buttons are stuck somewhere way beneath a post or an author bio. That's not the way it should be -- make them as prominent as possible.
2. Encourage Multiple Networks...
Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are no doubt the big 3 of social networking, but that doesn't mean they are the only networks that should have share buttons in your blog design.
Lots of people are sharing blog posts on Pinterest, Reddit, Stumbleupon, and even Inbound.org (the latter only if you're in the inbound marketing niche). Make sure that you have multiple buttons that allow readers to share to multiple networks.
3. ... But Not Too Many
Yes, yes, I realize I just told you to have multiple share buttons, but a lot of bloggers often take that advice too literally and go overboard with the number of networks they create buttons for.
Nobody uses MySpace anymore. Buttons for Yahoo! Buzz, Topsy, WebBlend, and SerpD aren't too likely to amass many shares either. By showcasing too many share buttons in your blog design, you could be repelling potential shares because readers have a great selection to choose from too. Unable to make up their mind about which network they should share to, they often decide not to share at all.
4. Be Sticky
Digg Digg is my all-time favorite share button plugin for one very good reason: it displays the buttons in a sticky bar. If the readers scroll down, so does the bar with the buttons. That ensures that readers always have the bar in their peripheral vision, which serves as a constant reminder to them that they should share the post.
5. Make the Buttons Stand Out From the Background
To increase the visibility of your buttons, try darkening/lightening the background of your blog design. If your share buttons are coloured vibrantly, they will stand out all the more.
And, as Derek Halpern of Social Triggers says, "What stands out gets remembered".
6. Use Highlighter
Highlighter is a free tool from Noah Kagen's Sumo Me that allows you to create tweetable phrases in your blog posts. To get more shares, you can link a specific phrase so that when clicked on, visitors are redirected to a page where they can tweet the phrase with a link back to your site.
What Highlighter looks like on AppSumo.
7. Embed Tweets in Your Posts
Twitter's awesome embed feature allows you to embed a tweet into a blog post quickly and easily. What's more, people can retweet, favorite, or reply to it -- right from the blog post in which the tweet is embedded.
Pre-write tweets relevant to a blog post, embed them in the draft, and your posts will be more tweetable once they go live.
8. Pinnable Images
The image-centered social network Pinterest has come a long way since its first conception, with 70 million users, 80% of which are women (Expanded Ramblings). By allowing users to pin images in your blog posts easily, you'll be able to leverage that huge user base to your advantage.
Free plugins like "Pinterest Pin it Button for Images" will do the trick quite nicely.
9. Social Follow Buttons
Of course, we've all got social share buttons in our blog designs, but how many of us have social follow buttons? Not many, I'm willing to bet.
Social follow buttons, when clicked on, make the clicker's social media account. So, for instance, if I were to click on a social follow button for a specific Twitter account, I would automatically start following that account (provided that I am already logged in).
It's a great design hack that will help you exploit your blog audience for your social marketing (and social proof) advantage.
10. Social Icons in a Background
Including the icons of social network in your blog design background, can work in the reader's subconscious to make them more aware of your social media presence. It will subtly suggest to them that they should share your post.
11. Complementary Button & Blog Designs
Your blog design should complement your share button design. For example, the plugin we use at WrittenT, Digg Digg, complements our overall blog design and background very well.
Flare (another very popular share button plugin), on the other hand, would work better with a design that is slightly more fluid and rounded. The bottom line is to make sure that your button design complements your blog design.
12. Hoverable Buttons
Your share buttons should be hoverable -- i.e. they should change color when a user rolls his mouse over it. Not only are rollover effects attractive, but they encourage user interaction with the buttons.
13. Show Numbers...
It's a good idea to include the count of shares alongside your share buttons. This works as social proof -- it lets readers know that they aren't the first ones to share the post, which makes them more likely to do so in the end.
14. ... Only if You Have the Numbers to Show
Like with tip #2, showing numbers can also have a downside if you have no numbers to show. The social proof (or rather, lack thereof) can work against you.
15. Look Appealing
This is basics, but let's face it -- nobody ever wanted to share something that looked absolutely despicable to their friends on social media. Make sure that your blog design looks appealing so that readers will have no qualms about letting their social media followers see it.
Of these 15 tips, which ones do you think will be most valuable to your social media marketing? Let us know in the comments!