Balance Social Media to Enhance Your Product, Not Distract From It

I don't think social media is a predominant source of traffic or a great generator of sales, but I do think it can be a good extension to already-solid customer service. Social media is icing on the cake; you need to have a tasty cake first.

Does it feel good when I see my tweets favorited and retweeted, when I rack up the likes on Facebook, when I’m rolling in +1s? Yes. But not everything that feels good is good for your company. — Lucidchart

Social media buttons look like warts on your design

I recently worked on a project where the client hired an SEO company to come in and "optimize" their website. The first thing they wanted to do was slap garish, high-contrast, social media logos all over the page, add likes, tweets, shares, and counters to every blog post listing, add advertisements, highlight all keywords, and "link build". I immediately lashed back and did my best to defend the integrity of the website I had just helped build and design. In my opinion they were ruining the user experience, diluting the visual hierarchy, and confusing the messaging. It just didn't make any sense to me.

Your product should be the highlight, not your social connections

We had built an online service for our client's customers that was working, it was easy to use, and it didn't require any instructions because the interface was intuitive. That was all being thrown out the window by these "social media enhancements". My thinking was that the actual product, the thing doing the selling and earning money, is more important than social media. I wasn't convinced that the idea of adding these buttons and counters all over the website's interface (in competition to that interface) was going to help make our client more money (which was their goal). I certainly and quickly saw those social buttons because they're bigger and brighter than all the other text on the page, but I didn't see how that helped me use the website better, or convince me to buy into the client's product. If anything these things were going to catch my interest and draw me away from the interface, or at best, make the interface more confusing.

Balance your goals

Don't get me wrong: I don't think social media is completely worthless, but it needs to be balanced. I don't come to your website to find your Facebook page (although I might be interested in that too). I come to your site because I think you might have some sort of value that can help make my life better. I think your website should be optimized to do that. Sweep the sleaze and engage your customers seriously. Give them real value and they'll give you real money for the opportunity. But if it's too confusing, hard to look at, or difficult to use, that value may be diminished and result in lower sales.

We don't see social media as a major traffic source, let alone sales source, but it is useful for engaging our current customers and communicating with them. — ebbv

Social media is just an extension of customer support in its most effective use case. — bhanks

When I ask companies 'Do you generate revenue via social media? Facebook, Twitter, G+ or anything?' the answer is always no. — no_gravity

The thing is, you don't need social media. It won't make your business successful. But it can certainly help you engage your customers more effectively and efficiently. I think you need to keep your social media integrations under control, balance them with your other (usually more important) goals, and use them to enhance those goals rather than deter them. At the end of the day your customers care about the value you're delivering to them, not how many social networks you're connected to.