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Social Media Plugins - What are they, and what can they do for your site? By now, you're probably familiar with the explosive popularity of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Posted by josh on - Read

By now, you're probably familiar with the explosive popularity of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. These sites allow you to keep up with what your friends and family are doing, network with your colleagues, and share your favorite pictures, videos and websites. Companies have "fan pages" on Facebook where they can distribute exclusive information and offers to customers, or "fans". Social media is now a ubiquitous part of the Internet community, with millions of users on each site. But did you know that you can now bring the sharing and communication functions of these sites right to your own website?

Social media plugins are special pieces of code created by the developers of various social media sites that create little pockets of interactivity on your site. I'm going to focus on three of these sites and the plugins they offer: Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Each offers different functions that you can easily include on your site to increase your visibility within the social media community and interact with your users and customers.

Facebook

Facebook Like button

A big part of Facebook is the "Like" button: someone makes a comment or shares a link that their friends think is worth spreading, they "like" it, then their friends "like" it, and so on and so forth. The more people like something, the more likely it is to get attention. It's a quick and easy metric of how popular something is on the Internet. And with Facebook's new developer tools, the "Like" button can now be added to your own website. The code can easily be added to your news postings, or a hot new product announcement on your home page. Visitors can then click the "Like" button; if they were logged into Facebook at any time during that browsing session, even if they're not currently on the Facebook site, the plugin will record their action and show that they "like" your content. It will even show them how many of their friends liked it, too. Get the Like Button plugin >

Facebook Comments plugin

Facebook also offers a Comments plugin that allows you to add a place for users to comment on your site content, no matter what it is - news entry, photo, product page, etc. The plugin creates a text box for users to make comments, and allows them to choose whether to keep their comments just on your site, or to post them to their personal Facebook profile, as well. This is very much like the comments system that is generally employed on blogs, but the content is hosted on Facebook instead of your own site. And there is no database programming required, just a few lines of Javascript. Get Comments plugin >

Facebook Activity Feed

One final plugin offered by Facebook that I find interesting is the Activity Feed. This plugin shows the most interesting recent activity on your site from Facebook users. It will show who has recently "liked" your content, and what pieces of content from your site have recently been shared on Facebook. If visitors to your site are also logged in to Facebook (just as with the "Like" button), the Activity content will be customized to show what activity has come from their friends. The Activity Feed will also show Recommendations to your visitors if there is not enough Activity content to fill the whole box. This plugin, if used wisely, could give visitors to your site an instant and easy way to determine what they might find most interesting on your site. Get the Activity plugin >

LinkedIn

If, to use a rough metaphor, Facebook is the cafeteria of the social media community, where everyone talks about their favorite TV shows and where they ate dinner last night, LinkedIn is the conference room, where people gather to share business links and network. In the business world it's all about who you know, and LinkedIn makes it easier to know more people. And now, there are three LinkedIn widgets you can add to your site to help your visitors network and share your information.

LinkedIn Company Insider

Company Insider — this widget allows you to add a small LinkedIn icon to any company name in your content, including your own. If visitors to your site are logged in to LinkedIn, clicking the "in" icon will bring up a floating tooltip with the names of people at that company to whom they are connected. They can then click on those people's profiles to connect to those people and expand their networks. Get the Company Insider widget >

LinkedIn Profile

Profile — adds an "in" icon like Company Insider, except that this widget shows information about people instead of companies. Add this widget to your name or the name of anyone else on your site, such as regular content contributors or the people on your Contact or Management page, and visitors to your site can see a popup with that person's LinkedIn profile, as well as more options to connect and network. Get the Profile widget >

Share on LinkedIn — this adds a quick and easy way for users to share your content with their LinkedIn networks. Clicking the link this widget creates on your site will bring up a small popup that allows users to comment on and share your content to all their connections, which those connections can share with their networks, and so on. This could easily bring your site to the attention of thousands of people who might not otherwise be aware of it. Get the Share widget >

Twitter

Twitter couldn't be simpler. 140 characters to comment on whatever you want - no photos, no videos, just text. If other people find your messages, or "tweets", interesting enough, they'll follow you. Some influential Twitter users have hundreds of thousands, or even millions of followers. But until recently, you still had to go to use the Twitter website, or a third-party application, to publish your tweets. Now there is Twitter @anywhere, a set of tools created by Twitter to allow website developers to integrate Twitter functionality right into their sites.

Twitter @anywhere

Twitter @anywhere allows you to add Twitter functions to any piece of content on your site. The names of your content creators can be linked directly to their Twitter feeds, and visitors to your site can follow them without ever having to leave your site. Users can tweet about your site and discover new Twitter feeds all while staying right where you want them - on your site, sharing your content. Get Twitter @anywhere >

Conclusion

The Social Media revolution has completely changed the way we use the Internet, and these plugins and widgets are just a few of the new and exciting tools being developed to help that change evolve even further. There are dozens of other social media sites out there with their own developers, all looking to create tools that you can use to integrate your site and make it easier for people to connect to each other. Contact Aztek to discuss adding some of these plugins to your Social Media strategy.

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