Working in social media, I often find myself going to company websites in order to find out about their social media presence, so it can be very frustrating when companies and organisations hide the social media icons away or make them so minute that they’re impossible to see. It seems so counter intuitive to me – surely you want people to click through to your Facebook or Twitter profile and follow your company on social media. Why hide the icons away? They should be large and placed at the top of every web page.
At least, that’s what I thought. However, I came across an interesting argument the other week that had me thinking twice about my previous stance on social media icons. The argument goes that because your website is the central focus of your online presence and you want to drive traffic to your website, not away, social media icons shouldn’t be prominently displayed because people will simply click straight through to Facebook and before they’ve even looked at your Page they’ll be distracted by the pictures of cute cats that their friends are posting. Therefore, social media icons should be placed at the bottom of your company’s web pages, not the top.
It made me think twice, but I still wasn’t convinced. In my experience, unless a website is rich in content such as video, blog posts or items to buy, once I’ve read the about page, I will probably leave and may never have reason to visit it again. Even if a website is rich in content and is regularly updated I still might never visit it again. What will keep me coming back? Facebook and Twitter will. If a person or organisation is doing a decent job of social media and has interesting content on their website – I will be driven back to it again and again.
An article I came across on social media icons makes a similar point:
By making your site one part of the chain of shared connections, not only do you provide a path to [social media] from your site, you stand a much better chance of garnering traffic back from them, as well.
Social media icons are not just about directing people away from your website and towards Facebook and Twitter. Once someone is following you on your social media channels they will be directed back to your website again and again. What’s more, as this article points out, when someone searches for you on Google, they will not only see a result for your website, but they will also see results for your social media accounts. Even if you try to keep your social media profiles hidden away, when someone searches for your organisation on Google, what’s to stop them bypassing your website all together and going straight to your Facebook or Twitter account? It’s like people who say they don’t want to join Twitter or Facebook because they can’t control negative comments about them or their company. Yes, but that’s going to happen regardless of whether you’re on social media or not. You can’t hide the fact that you’re on social media and trying to make your social media icons difficult to find simply makes it harder for people to engage with you or your product.
Of course, all of this assumes that a company is doing social media properly and that they have compelling content to drive people to. If a company’s social media presence amounts to posting a link to their website’s home page once every three months, then of course they wouldn’t want to drive people away from their website and on to Facebook.
I wondered what some of the most successful companies are doing with their social media icons and so I had a look through a list of the top 100 websites. Unsurprisingly, Facebook and Twitter both feature in the top ten – which I think only confirms my argument that hiding your social media presence away is a bad idea. If Facebook and Twitter are where people are spending most of their online time then it makes sense to promote your social media presence. Interestingly, some of the top websites – such as Amazon and Wikipedia – don’t link to their social media accounts from their websites. Social media isn’t a catch-all solution. If you don’t have a good product and you don’t translate that product into great content, then social media isn’t going to fix that.
Since I’ve started thinking about this issue, I’ve become much more aware of social media icons and I’m starting to revise my position a little. I don’t think icons necessarily need to be large and placed at the top of a website. I’ve come across a lot of great websites where the social media icons are still visible, but are placed half way down or at the bottom of the page. And of course there are some companies that are so successful they don’t even need to bother with social media icons. Social media isn’t going to fix a broken business model, but if you have a strong foundation, great content and your doing social media right, there should be no reason to hide your social media presence away.