March 02, 2010
Getting website visitors to share your content on social networks is a great way to boost traffic. But what’s the best way to promote social sharing to your visitors?
Find out how a travel insurance company doubled the amount of content visitors shared on third-party networks with a simple site redesign. We offer five insights they gleaned from this simple, eye-opening test.
World Nomads sells traveler’s insurance in 150 worldwide markets, and relies heavily on user-generated content to attract visitors to the site. Some 8,500 travel bloggers have published more than 55,000 stories and 600,000 images through the team’s platform.
The site’s blogs are free to create, and this content provides a wide funnel to introduce visitors to the company -- typically through travel-related searches. But social sharing is increasingly helping them fill their funnel.
"We recently noticed that people were getting far more connected in their social media lives and their social networking, and we just did a tiny little redesign in how our share tools were displayed," says Christy McCarthy, Community Manager, WorldNomads.com
A simple redesign -- making social sharing a more prominent option -- doubled the amount of the site’s content shared through social networks like Facebook and Twitter. If you’re offering social sharing tools on your site, you may have a similar opportunity to increase usage.
Here are five insights about how to encourage sharing that McCarthy and her team gained through the test:
Insight #1. Content and audience required
The team has welcomed travel bloggers to their site for about five years. The steady stream of content developed an audience, and the presence of an audience was required for their redesign to have impact.
- Existing tool had some traction
The team had offered social sharing on its blogs for about 18 months prior to the redesign. The tool was a single grey "share" button that contained very small images representing three popular methods of sharing, such as via Hotmail or social bookmarking network Delicious.
Once clicked, the tool presented a longer list of networks from which users could select. The tool automatically prepared the core information users wanted to share, such as a post’s headline and hyperlink.
"We knew that people were using it somewhat," McCarthy says. "We thought if we made it easier for them that they might use it more."
Insight #2. Strive to simplify
The team’s new creative director mentioned that the share feature likely could be redesigned to improve performance, McCarthy says.
So the team made simple changes:
- They replaced the single gray button with several separate icons, each representing a network through which readers could share content. For example, if a reader wanted to share on Facebook, he or she would click the Facebook icon, login and share the content (see creative samples below).
The new design simplified the user experience by one click. Previously, users had to click to share and then select a network. The redesign combined these steps.
- They added sharing buttons to the bottom of each blog post. Previously, the single share button was offered in a right-hand navigation column alongside blog posts, but not at the bottom of each entry.
Insight #3. Use data to select networks
The team tracked their audience’s use of the older share button for 18 months. By examining the data, they identified the most popular networks, and those which brought the most traffic to the site.
The team selected the following icons to feature:
o Favorite (in a Web browser)
o Google bookmarks
Here’s what they saw in the data:
- Facebook accounted for more than half of all sharing.
- Email was popular but declining.
- Digg was used by a minority of people, but was a powerful traffic driver when used.
The team also added a "+" button to reveal dozens of lesser-known networks through which users could share.
Insight #4. Anticipate snags
For example, the team launched the new buttons in a short time, but they quickly noticed the tracking did not work. According to reports, no one was using the buttons.
"It took us three cracks to get rid of the bug. But it also wasn’t the highest priority," McCarthy says. "I knew we were losing data, but of all the data across the whole business, losing the amount of people sharing is something I could live with."
Insight #5. Look for optimization and research opportunities
The team achieved a twofold increase in content sharing with the simple redesign. But the process left an opportunity for further growth realized through A-B and/or multivariate testing.
The team’s redesigned buttons have been live for less than a month. McCarthy is looking forward to crunching the new data her team is gathering to examine:
o Which networks the audience prefers
o Types of content they prefer sharing
o Types of content are most likely to arrive on networks with the biggest impact
Useful links related to this article
Creative Samples from World Nomads’ social sharing redesign
Share-to-Social Buttons Increase Newsletter Interaction
Sherpa 101: How to Use Digg to Go Viral -- 10 Strategies to Making It Part of Your Marketing Strategy