Each day social media becomes more and more integrated with our digital lives and as such web interfaces that doesn’t incorporporate social media elements are already starting to feel old.
However, in many ways social media is still seen as a marketing or PR tool and often bolted on at the end of the user experience and user interface design as an afterthought.
Here’s a few tips on how to consider social design as an integrated part of user experience design.
Social media as social proof
There are several places to put social elements such as sharing tools, displaying how many comments a page has and associated profiles of authors or the company itself.
But depending on where they are placed on the page they serve different purposes.
For example adding Google+ or a Tweet buttons to the top of the page serves as much as social proof assuring the newly arrived reader that several others have read (and enjoyed) the content beforehand with the numbers the buttons display.
Social media as engagement
Adding social elements after the main content serves as an option for the reader to share the content and engage further by commenting, joining groups.
As the main content is read, don’t be afraid to expand on the social elements. For example instead of just adding a Facebook Like button why not write: “Did you like our article? Sharing is caring. Thank you for sharing. It encourages us to write even more.”
Or instead of an anonymous comment box why not invite readers by writing: “So this was our view on pea farming, but what do you think? Please tell us your pea story.”
Social media as part of content
The last example touches on how content can be optimized for social sharing, because the call-to-action text specifically refers back to the content (pea farming), which makes it directly associated and as such more relevant.
Other ways to make content more social is to make content shareable. A classic example is writing good headlines and lots can be learned from traditional newspaper copywriting. Good headlines are by definition short and memorable which makes them ideal for social sharing especially with character count constraints.
A lesser known trick is to make quotable sound bites in pull-out quotes during the main body copy and add social sharing buttons to the pull-out quote, which uses the actual quote as the shared copy rather than the headline copy.
And don’t forget social as part of mobile
This is what made me think about social design as part of user experience design in the first place: Why is social sometimes forgotten as part of the mobile user experience?
Many mobile optimized interfaces do not have the basic social sharing buttons forcing users to switch to “Full site” as it is even harder to copy and paste from a web page to social tools on mobile devices.
And some are even missing the commenting facility as well as other readers’ comments losing valuable user-generated content.
Social design as part of the bigger pervasive user experience
User experience doesn’t stop at page level. What happens after the reader shares content to her Twitter account or joins the Facebook group associated with the author? I will look at that in a future article.
How do you see social media as part of user experience as a digital professional? What do you you rely on (or miss) as a user yourself?