Turning your website into a hub for social interaction used to involve linking your site's visitors to a long list of external social media websites, or adding lots of widgets and buttons to your web pages. Now there are better ways to make your website more interactive and easier to manage.
A social media toolbar consolidates your entire social media presence into your website and displays buttons that allow your visitors to interact with your content in a toolbar on the bottom of the browser screen. That way, your visitors can like, tweet, share, discuss, review and read all of your social media content without navigating away from your website.
Social media toolbars are available from several companies, and they are easy to add to your website, even if you're a do-it-yourselfer. I like Meebo and Wibiya, but you can find other toolbar applications to suit your needs.
To add a toolbar to your site, sign up for an account with your favorite application provider, and then follow the instructions for copying the toolbar code into your website. Once the code is in your website's HTML code, the toolbar will display at the bottom of the screen. (You can see an example here.)
This list shows you the features you should consider adding to your toolbar, along with a description of what each feature does. Make sure you choose only the features that are likely to promote awareness and immediate sales. As with any website content, less is usually more.
Feature: Facebook Interactions
What it does: Enables visitors to like, share and discuss your website content on Facebook. Also pulls your Facebook fan page feeds into the toolbar so website visi-tors can read your wall, register for events and interact with other applications such as contests and coupons.
Feature: Twitter Feed
What it does: Allows visitors to view tweets from your Twitter page, lists and searches without the need to devote a lot of space on your website to a Twitter widget.
Feature: Content Sharing
What it does: Allows visitors to share an entire page or drag content such as a photo to share on Facebook, Twitter, Buzz, Yahoo! or via e-mail.
Feature: Blog Feed
What it does: Pulls your blog's RSS feed into your toolbar.
Feature: Instant Messaging
What it does: Gives your visitors access to a chat room where they can have live discussions with you, your employees and others using any instant messaging ser-vice, such as Yahoo!, AOL, Facebook Chat, or Google Talk.
What it does: Puts important links in a toolbar menu that's easy for people to see and stays on every page without taking up too much navigation space.
Feature: Commenting and Recommendations
What it does: Allows your website visitors to leave comments that others will see when they visit the same page.
Feature: Watching Video
What it does: Pulls videos from YouTube and other sites to your website.
Feature: Viewing Photos
What it does: Pulls images from Flickr or other photo sites so your website visitors can view pictures without navigating through a clumsy or space-consuming website photo gallery.
John Arnold is a Boulder, Colo.- based consultant, speaker and trainer specializing in marketing advice for small businesses. He is the author of three marketing books in the 'For Dummies' series including Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference and Mobile Marketing for Dummies. Follow him on Twitter: @ArnoldMarketing