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Social Plug-ins – Making Your Website Social

It has taken the better part of a year for Facebook to get their open graph and API stable to such a place where our developers are no longer blood-shot eyed, mimicking the same level of unpredictable instability as the developer platform that they’re trying to master.

Nevertheless, things have been better of late and I am also eternally grateful that Facebook has simplified their Promotional Policy & Guidelines because it really crushes my morale when I strive to educate and inform clients about this (coupled with Consumer Protection Act in’s-an-out’s) and I get the narrowed, twitching eyelids of mistrust. At least I can now just send a link to their own summary of their Competition Guidelines because – truth be told – I half nodded off reading through previous oceans of their “recently updated” legalese, trying to spot the actual update.

Lately, websites that are using social plug-ins seem to be going for the birdshot approach, slapping every “Like” / “Tweet” / Send / Share / Digg / SU / Email / Reddit / 20 other social publishing icons onto every snippet of info on their site. The result: what I call “SLUTTER” – “Social + Clutter”.

If your website is targeting a South African audience, then use the tools that have proven successful amongst South African Internet users. Facebook Social Plug-ins are an obvious choice as most website visitors are simultaneously logged into Facebook. You’ve got a couple of options to choose from: “Like” / “Share” / “Send” / “Recommend”.

When it comes to Twitter and “Tweet this”, you can preload the message it will share to Twitter by specifying it in the metadata (assuming that your Content Management System is geared for working correctly with Social Platform Meta Data). Twitter is also a nice micro-blogging application, allowing you to publish your Twitter stream or latest Tweet back into your website, which makes for a snazzy little newsflash on your website.

Beyond Facebook and Twitter, email is still going to play a crucial role in referral mechanisms and sharing and including an “Email this” button will never be a wasted effort. South Africans have become used to this sharing tool years before MySpace and Facebook dawned on the scene. The importance of old school respect has become particularly evident in campaigns where sharing by various platforms has been enabled. The majority still chose to share / refer by email and the average age of such was approximately 10 years more than the average age of those sharing to social channels, although the ratio is beginning to shift more and more (target market dependent, of course).

The Comment Social Plug-in is another nice one to include but be careful if you’re planning to pull this into your website as it can become a bit of a stone-throwing conduit. In my opinion, it is far better to use this plug-in in your 3rd party applications on your Facebook Page. And once again, there needs to be a reason for this inclusion.

The “Connect” Plug-in is a great one, albeit trickier to implement with your databases and access privileges, contact your friendly local web development company to do this for you in such a way that doesn’t breach your database security (and induce the rage of the CPA). The plug-in allows people to register and login to this admin zone with their Facebook details. This makes great sense in the SA landscape as the majority of the active Internet browsing population has a Facebook account already. Gmail is also a good one – utilise their Open ID and you no longer have to frustrate the end user with asking him to register with yet another username and password.

At the end of the day, it’s important to think about the kind of information that your website houses and choose the Social Plug-in that makes most sense and don’t neglect the “tradigital” sharing mechanisms, such email.