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Nov 10, 2009
How To

Adding Social Media Features to a Website: 6 Tactics to Enhance Traffic and Retention

SUMMARY: Social media can enhance your website, but you need to choose social media features that will provide a significant impact. Ineffective tactics can waste time and money, and might lessen internal support for the idea.

See how one social media site thrives off interactive features, and how they’ve used these features to increase visibility without spending funds for advertising.
Adding social media to a website requires a significant investment in technology -- a tough task considering the sheer amount of available options. And testing each option’s features would be far too time consuming and expensive. These decisions need to be well-researched and carefully-chosen.

Geoff Cook, CEO, myYearbook, and his team have chosen well. The teen-focused social networking site received 5 million visitors in July, according to comScore, and has since eclipsed the 10 million mark per month. More notably, they achieved this growth without once paying for advertising during the company’s four-year history.

MyYearbook’s members predominantly visit to play games and meet other people -- common activities within social media networks. But, by strategically designing the site to better accomplish these goals and attract new users, Cook’s team has created high-volume inventory to sell advertisers.

Below, we outline the key social media tactics Cook sees as vital to myYearbook’s success.

Tactic #1. Develop proprietary applications

Cook’s team created nearly every application available on myYearbook. The apps are unique to the site, and are not currently available on other social networks. The team strives to make these apps "best of breed," Cook says, which has become a strong draw for new users.

Cook likens myYearbook to a television network that pushes for creative, original programming.

"We are both the network and the programming options of the network. And it’s the programming options that really define the network," says Cook "It’s the games -- the applications themselves that define the network. It wouldn’t make sense for two networks to compete with all the same programming options."

Cook also stressed the importance of finding a balance between quantity and quality. He believes offering a wide variety of custom features won’t bring returning customers if the content isn’t compelling.

Tactic #2. Create lower social barriers

One of the keys to effective social media is communication. MyYearbook’s apps often serve as icebreakers to connect users who’ve never met, Cook says.

For example, the site’s BlindDate app asks users to answer a series of questions. The results are then compared to those of other users, and a compatibility score is generated based on similarities from a range of user tastes and preferences.

This score is viewable throughout the site, so users can easily determine whether a person is a match. Seeing these similarities makes users more likely to reach out and respond to one another.

"You might make a connection and that connection might be rich," Cook says.

And rich connections equal repeat traffic.

Tactic #3. Offer virtual currency

MyYearbook offers virtual currency, called Lunch Money, which is central to the site’s operations. Many of the available apps either cost or earn users Lunch Money.

Members can either purchase more Lunch Money via credit card, PayPal, cash or check transactions; or can earn additional currency by playing games and completing sponsored offers. The team began monetizing Lunch Money last year, and it now accounts for about 33% of the team’s revenue.

Cook feels the use of virtual currency encourages more interaction, and can make games more enjoyable.

One example of how Lunch Money enhances user experience is in the app Battles. In this game, two players place a virtual wager on challenge questions such as, "who is the best looking?" or "who is a better dancer?" Their friends then have 48 hours to vote for their choice, during which time they can view an image or video of the contestants to make their decisions.

Tactic #4. Use widgets

The team offers seven widgets, each of which are tied to the site’s most popular apps. These widgets are often integrated with MySpace, and also have sharing options with Facebook and Twitter.

Whenever a member is using an application, a corresponding widget updates their actions in real time. For example, the team’s myMag widget shows which articles a member is reading from the site’s user-generated content magazine.

These widgets help draw users from other networks -- in a similar fashion as display advertising.

Tactic #5. Send email notifications

When members reach out to one another via apps or messages, email notifications are sent to alert recipients. This feature helps keep conversations from going stale, improving repeat traffic and user interest.

Tactic #6. Update features

Cook considers continual site improvements important to myYearbook’s success. The team provides consistent release of new apps, and creates enhancements for existing apps to keep members returning to the site.

Useful links related to this article

Creative Samples from myYearbook

How to Grow a Customer Forum into a Social Media Site: Add Hands-On Tools

New Chart: Best Social Media Use -- Boosting Brand Reputation, Awareness

How to Use Social Media to Boost SEO: 5 Strategies

comScore Top 50 U.S. Websites July 2009

See Also:

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