You’ve seen them everywhere. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Myspace icons have found their way onto almost every Web site. These icons are the 2010 equivalent to adding your email address to your 1990′s era business card. Once you added that address, it showed you were on top of the new trend. But is adding all of these bright icons helping or hurting your business Web site?
First of all, let’s address what the point of social media marketing is: it’s a way of connecting with your user using the tools they use to connect to their friends. For example, when a user “likes” your page on Facebook, they will see your messages in their “feed” between messages from other businesses they “like” and other people they are friends with. These icons help users find your social media pages on other sites. Adding these icons only helps those businesses that have compelling content on those pages. So just creating a Twitter account without using it doesn’t help — you actually have to post something on a regular basis.
This all sounds great, what could go wrong? Sometimes these icons can get relatively large and bright. When that occurs, it might distract your users from doing whatever they came to your site to do. For example, if a user wants to purchase a widget from you, and they are bombarded with a huge Facebook icon that steals their attention, they may not buy.
So what’s the answer — should businesses add social media icons? Yes, they should as long as they have content on the social media sites for users to see and as long as the icons aren’t too distracting. See ibm.com (bottom right) for a great example on how to make the icons be less distracting.