The idea of your digital properties following the mantra of being "social by design" has been around for several years. But the process of living, breathing, and most importantly, executing on this vision is one that companies don't always undertake; it requires planning, technology, and creative work. But making your website social doesn't necessarily require rebuilding your entire website, and it doesn't need to look like it was slapped on at the last minute.
Below are three things you should consider when attempting to make your website social.
Make Sharing Easy
Social sharing on websites is nothing new, and it's certainly not rare. What's rare is social sharing done well. It's not enough to give people the option to share something, whether it's an article, a poll, an image, a video, or something else worthwhile. Making the barrier to entry as low as possible is the best way to increase the likelihood that someone will share. That means filling out share fields within share buttons and making the share story look good, so that the user doesn't need to spend a lot of time editing fields just to make the share story presentable (because they won't).
Weather.com has several fields auto-populated when sharing alerts to Facebook to minimize the barrier to sharing.
This might mean limiting the number of share buttons you have on your website, which is OK. Think about which social networks your audience uses most often, and focus just on those.
If your business is building a new website, or overhauling an existing one, and you are already planning to include social functionality, this step is much easier. But if you're adding to an existing site, the design and flow of your social content should not stand out like a sore thumb, or to use a better analogy, like a horribly obtrusive banner ad.
Instead, create the social content within the design of your overall website. Build in features that look and function just like the rest of the site. Many share buttons can be customized, for instance, to take on the look and feel of a website. The best socially integrated websites are those that provide indistinguishable social and non-social content to users; the social aspect should be built into the rest of the site.
Add Value with Content
Being social for social's sake is fine, but if you really want to take advantage of the power of integrating social media with your company's website, do something to add value to your site. Share buttons are great for spreading content, but there are so many other things you can do.
Recipe.com, for instance, used socially enabled content to build collections of categorized recipe recommendations for various get-togethers, such as football tailgates. Recipe.com then gathered the recipes and allowed visitors to vote for their favorite. After voting, a Facebook share prompt allows them to share their vote and the recipe with their friends.