Angie Schottmuller identified 13 of the top barriers to on-site social media engagement, noting that some were more evident than others. I won’t have room to discuss them all here, but I will cover many of the ones guaranteed to pull a visitor up short. I’ll also talk about the ways you can fix these problems.
Let’s start with social sharing buttons. These are the buttons that make it easy for users to post a link to your item in their Facebook feed, Pinterest board, or what have you. The problem here is when you go to extremes, according to Schottmuller: offering your visitor either too few or too many options. She recommends putting two to four of the most active sharing buttons at the top of the post, and then including a full group of share links (up to six) at the very end. If you’re worried about leaving any options out, you can always set this last group up to expand and show more options. Ideally, though, you should limit the entire selection to the sites “that align with your social media goals,” according to Schottmuller.
If you’re trying to encourage visitors to leave comments on your articles, don’t force them to create a full-blown account! I can’t tell you how often I’ve run up against this wall myself. If I have to fill out some kind of long form, it’s enough to make me decide not to bother posting a comment. Don’t lose an opportunity for engagement from your readers. Schottmuller notes that getting their name, email, and message should be enough to let them post. She also recommends using OpenID and other social sign-on tools to avoid issues with forgotten passwords, which could stand in the way of on-going online engagement.
Now I’m going to mention something that might surprise veteran SEOs: meta descriptions. Yes, meta descriptions do not affect your rank in the search engines. But I’ll tell you what they do accomplish: write a really good quality description under 150 characters, and you just might increase your click-through rate. Don’t think so? Then remember this: the meta description shows up with the link when your article is shared on social media sites. You’ve already convinced someone to share it; why not entice their friends to read it, too, so they can continue the conversation? (Who doesn’t want to encourage others to say cool things about them?)
Next, have you ever tried to surf the web on a mobile device? It’s gotten better over time, of course, but you’re still dealing with relatively large fingers on a relatively small screen. Don’t assume your visitors will all be at big, comfortable keyboards using huge mice. Make all of your share buttons a minimum of 44 by 44 pixels; that’s what Apple recommends, and their iPhone all but wrote the book on easy-to-use mobile web devices. Separate these buttons and other clickable actions with a reasonable margin so you don’t need tiny fingers to avoid misclicks.
The last item I’m going to discuss in this piece is your call to action. If you want your reader to comment on your article or share it with others, why not tell them? Or as Schottmuller puts it, “now that they’ve read the content, what should they do?” Limit your suggestions to one or two actions; you want to encourage your readers, not confuse them. Make the call to action the last thing your reader sees in your article, so they can do it immediately.
Check your blog for these issues, and fix them. Your readers will thank you with greater engagement and more shares. How have you successfully encouraged your readers to comment on your articles and spread them to their favorite social media sites? Share your tips and tricks in the comments!