We’ve got a widget that needs some global share functionality added to it, so I got in touch with the company (Gigya) who’s helping us to do that. I went to their blog, which had some interesting insights and a ‘social bar’ at the bottom of the browser page. This is similar to the couple of examples I had in the deck I sent round the other day and could include any other number of social ‘connections’, such as QQ, RenRen, Orkut etc. I’ve heard rumors that Facebook will be launching their own in weeks.
In a nutshell, this and various other announcements, such as Facebook’s Social Plugins, bring into focus the idea that websites can now apply the latest open social technologies – like Facebook Connect, OAuth with Twitter, those provided by Yahoo, LinkedIn and more – to their own sites to drive traffic and highlight other social platforms where clients have a presence.
Re-dressing the balance
Most companies have learned to meet their customers on social networks, creating Facebook fan pages and Twitter pages, or integrating basic sharing, but only a few have made their own sites social in a way that truly takes advantage of the opportunity. Making the corporate site experience seamlessly connect to users’ social networks is the way things are moving. According to industry analyst Jeremiah Owyang of the Altimeter Group, “In the future, consumers will be challenged to differentiate between corporate sites and social networks” because “destinations won’t matter, social context will”.
Many prominent publishers and retailers are buying traffic only to send it away to a social network. The next generation of social technologies – like Facebook’s Open Graph – differ from their predecessors. Facebook launched the changes on Wednesday with over 75 partners and partners are applying those technologies to their own sites to enable site visitors to help drive friends to those sites.
The various different social tools that Facebook and others have enabled can be collectively described as Friendcasting – Tools such as the ‘like’ button and Twitter’s @Anywhere solution enable customers to broadcast their comments to their 150 friends (the average number of friends/followers that social network users have these days).
5 best practices
There are 5 best practices for applying this “next generation” sharing (Friendcasting):
1. Keep users on your site
2. Build sharing into the activity flow
3. Use one single system for registration and sharing
4. Offer simultaneous sharing options
5. Track sharing results
Many of our clients still don’t fully appreciate how impactful social can be – it’s not the old packaged good mentality now. Technically – it’s more that there are many agencies and people involved, so “Keep it simple stupid” is best. For many clients, making the functionality different or flashy instead of keeping it as clear and simple as it should be will be a great challenge.
The movement towards openness
Microsoft will be launching its new Windows Live platform soon and with it a raft of new social features, including the first version of Office in the Cloud. Microsoft will be placing Friendcasting at the very centre of their launch, in the same way as they have shown in their recent partnership with Facebook, http://docs.com.
These tools increase conversion on your own site because users can register in just a couple of clicks. Often, you’re not going to capture a full conversion upfront, but that doesn’t matter because you are getting permission to have a relationship.
The data that is provided varies by the platform and the visitor’s personal security settings, but Facebook now provides an email address if they have approved sharing it. Both demographic and psychographic data is often available. More will be offered as Google and Microsoft join in with their own social services for 3rd party websites.
More things to consider soon…