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Tuesday November 9, 2010 8:22 pm

Why your site needs Facebook and Twitter share buttons

It doesn't matter if you run a Fortune 500 company, or if you just have a personal blog. It's also not about whether you like Facebook or Twitter, or if you're active on the social scene. The simple fact is that the world is moving to social, and in a big way. Facebook has over half a billion users, growing every day, with Twitter following behind. Where people used to look up things on Google or Yahoo!, now they look it up on social networks. Instead of getting stories and links from news sites, they get them on Twitter. Instead of writing an email to a friend asking how he's doing, they sit on their Facebook walls and see what they're up to.

A lot of companies saw this early on and went all in, betting it all on social. Zynga, the maker of Farmville, is a good example of a small company that started from nothing, making small web based games for Facebook. Now they are worth over $5 billion, rivaling the gaming giants like Electronic Arts. With each new service that the big social sites introduce, such as Facebook or Twitter Places, Groups and the ads networks, a crowd forms to create value added services. The reason is simple. Eyeballs, or the amount of views, is crucial to any business. Whether you're selling insurance, or just sharing a funny video, the amount of people your post reaches dictates how much influence you have, how much potential revenue you can make, and how many friends will react to it.

Following all that, it's no wonder every site is looking at how they can participate in the great social revolution. And why shouldn't they? Adding a simple, small Like button to a post can have a vast impact on viewership. It's a well known fact that a tiny percentage of users participate in any community. If you run a site, you can easily see this for yourself. Out of 100 people who view something you write, only 1 or 2 will leave a comment. The Like button is great because it reduces the barrier to entry for the viewer. In simple terms, it takes a lot less time to click Like than to login and write a comment. So right there, that's a plus for any site.

But it doesn't end there. Whereas a typical blog comment would stay on the blog, a click on a Facebook Like button goes further. It posts the action on the user's wall, which in turn gets seen by all their friends. And that's where the power and value of these is. It's not in the single action, but in the potential for more viewers.

So now that you've decided you want into the action, how hard is it to add such buttons to your site? First, there's many themes out there with everything set already. If you want to keep your customized site however, it's very easy to add. Most sites, even if you use a hosting service or blog engine, such as Wordpress or Blogger, allows you to add custom HTML. All you need to do is find the place in your site where you want to add the code, and then go to the URL to customize the code you want.

For Facebook, you'll go here and get the code you need. You simply fill in the blog name, and the type of button you want. Then, you copy the piece of code it gives you and you can then insert it into your site's template. Twitter has a similar page here. Once that's done, there are more features you can add. For example, you could add an option where people can share custom comments about your posts on their walls. If your site has a feature where viewers login, you can add an option for them to use their Facebook or Twitter credentials instead.

As a last word, I would say that there really is no negative that I can see in adding the ability to connect and share on social networks. However I would caution against those who use Facebook as their sole user management system. For example, if you are creating a web based service, it's fine to allow users to sign in using Facebook, but they shouldn't have to. You should still have your own comments system, user database, and so on. With that said, share away!

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