I’m eating the company dogfood, as it were, by selling my house through an estate agent that is a client of ours. I have become the use case.
So here I am, on a page featuring the particulars my house, faced with Tweet and Facebook ‘Like’ buttons.
My first thought is: I’m not putting the link on Twitter. Mainly because my followers include hundreds of people to whom my house is completely irrelevant. Why would people I’ve connected with, loosely speaking for professional reasons, want to see inside my house? That would be a bit weird.
Facebook though – that’s mostly my real friends. Or at least people I have really met and who have probably been inside my house at some point. It’s nice to throw up the odd conversation starter on Facebook, so I click the button.
Within an hour two of my wife’s distant friends text her about how tidy our kitchen looks. When she picks the kids up from school another parent is concerned that we are going to remove our son from her child’s class. I get a message on Facebook from a friend I’ve not seen for some time, asking where we are moving to. Others comment on the post.
All this is fine – but a bit strange. It feels like we are not in control of the conversation about our moving plans. I’m not so bothered about people scrutinising the pictures and the price (you can’t afford to be too precious when your underpants are visible on Google Streetview) – although I know others who would be. But I probably wouldn’t do it again.
It turns out my house sale is not something I actually want to share via social media.
The sharing buttons are there for other users too, not just vendors. But, more generally, as we pursue fans and followers across sundry social media platforms are we forgetting to ask the question: why on earth would anyone want to share this anyway?
Do people really want to share your thing?
There are still things that people want to keep quiet. Britons selling houses might be one example. We don’t want people to know that we want to move. Nor how much our houses are worth. Nor what colour our bed sheets (or pants) are.
People like to share trivial personal news, funny items, coupons and offers, and interesting articles. After that there is such a thing as too much information, and a whole slew of content that is too boring or pointless to share.
Are all social platforms equal?
I shared my house on Facebook but not Twitter because I use those two platforms differently. I don’t really use Google+.
Which social networks would be best for your users to share items from your website? Do you know how they are using the different networks? Has anyone yet found a good reason for a business to be on Facebook?
Do people really want to share every part of your site?
It must be a fallacy that the more social media buttons you put on your pages the more people will share your content. Apparently the main way of sharing content is still cutting and pasting the URL, rather than clicking a button. That suggests that offering more ways to share is not the most effective way to get people to do so. They’ll share (or ignore) the content that they want to, regardless.
I dislike the sight of a rack of social media buttons on every page of a website, and also the hassle of having to edit auto-sharing options, such as a formulated tweet. Others in the office distrust those auto-share widgets from a privacy point of view, because they are unsure what is being tracked.
Let’s keep the user experience healthy and exercise some restraint. More importantly, let’s try to understand what and why our customers want to share and on which platforms.
When might users want to share?
Also, at what point in a process might your customers want to share? One of my favourite sharing examples is when the Wiggle website invited me, just after I had submitted a review of a product I bought from them, to share the review on Facebook. One little click of a button pushed the work I had just done out to a whole new audience without any further effort on my part. (Yes, that’s the writer talking).
Most of this understanding, like my experiment with the estate agent, comes through giving it a go and seeing what happens. Overall, it is not a given that it is better for people to share your stuff and follow you on social media. Ask anyone who has had their fingers burnt by a miscalculated Groupon deal. But if you do want to encourage sharing of your content, the key is not the buttons but creating content that people want to share in the first place.