That little row of social media buttons has become a ubiquitous feature of most websites. After all, it’s good to show off that you’re social, and that there are channels where you can interact directly with stakeholders.
But is your website header or sidebar the best place to show that off?
Here are five reasons why having social media buttons on your nonprofit’s website might do more harm than good:
1) They send visitors away from your website
Honestly, I could stop here.
Just think about this empirically for a moment: you spend a ton of time and money driving people to your website. They arrive on your homepage or a landing page, only to have multiple exit paths via a social media button. Is leaving your website really what you want them to do?
Yes, the buttons could be configured to open a new browser tab or window, but they’re still not looking at your website.
And yes, they could visit Facebook or Twitter and follow/like you, giving you the ability to communicate to them, but that’s quite a large leap to assume that conversion is going to happen, even if that is the conversion you want.
2) They distract visitors from where you really want them to go
Websites are built for one purpose: generate a conversion from the visitor. That’s it. For nonprofits, it could be a donation, an event RSVP or an email sign-up form.
Anything that distracts from that purpose is a bad thing. Think of your website as a funnel, with the homepage or landing page representing the top or opening. Every page element should move the visitor through the funnel toward your desired conversion. Social media buttons represent holes in your funnel.
That’s why some conversion rate optimization experts also recommend removing navigation options from pages with forms (like a donation page, for example). The less options you have to navigate away, the better. Having too many options can risk what Unbounce calls The Toothpaste Trance, where a website visitor is given so many options that they end up choosing something at random that will end up being meaningless to them (kind of like when you stare at all the options in the toothpaste aisle).
3) It’s hard to communicate a reason to click them
Look at these buttons:
What do they communicate?
Pretty much the only thing they communicate is that “we are on these networks.” They give no expectation of what kind of content will be found there, or why you should care about that content. They are completely passive calls-to-action.
4) They are non-native to the design of your website
If you have a custom-designed website, those little blocks with varying colors and letters can stick out like a sore thumb. Granted, you can customize them to adhere to the style of your website, but that’s one more thing that you need (to pay) a designer to do.
5) They could send visitors to dormant social media accounts
If your social media accounts aren’t updated regularly with unique and engaging content, they may send a negative signal to a website visitor who navigated away from your site only to see a Facebook page that hasn’t been posted to for a year. If you insist on including social media buttons prominently on your website, be sure to only include your most active networks.
Where you should put social media buttons
There are, of course, appropriate and useful locations for social media buttons on your website and beyond. Here are a few:
- Website footer (where they won’t distract, ideal if you’re concerned that someone might visit your website for the sole purpose of identifying your social media channels)
- Share buttons on content like blog posts (where users can share content that they just consumed)
- Follow/Share buttons on donation confirmation pages (share their philanthropy)
- Follow/Share buttons on donation confirmation email receipts (follow you elsewhere for future updates)
If you’re using Bloomerang and don’t have a dedicated donation confirmation page, you can easily add social media buttons to your donation confirmation message:
Notice that most of these examples are post-conversion. meaning the website visitor has already taken some action on your site. You’ve gotten what you want out of them; now give them the option to follow you elsewhere.
Does your nonprofit’s website buck the social media button trend? Or do you think I’m off my rocker? Let me know in the comments below!