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How to Use Websites and Blogs for Social Media Engagement

You may not think of websites in relation to online community and social media engagement, because websites are often considered static destinations and repositories of information rather than engagement tools.

Engagement isn't only a means of attracting someone's interest and attention, though a website can be attractive and attracting. To make a website more interactive, you have to add features to it beyond static HTML pages in order to turn a site visitor or reader into an active community member or customer.

To understand what drives people to interact and to know how the tools you have at your disposal provide for engagement, you should understand a little of the history of the tools many people now use for social media engagement. In the early days of the web, "interacting" on a website was limited to clicking an e-mail link.

Then came the guest book, a web-based submission form that posted a message publicly on a web page under the guise of signing a guest book for the website owner. In some cases, people realized that others were signing the same website's guest book at nearly the same time.

Even in those primitive days, people wanted to make contact and communicate with one another, so they began talking to each other by leaving comments to each other on web-based guest books and refreshing the pages until they saw responses.

Early on, people could share an article from a website with a friend via e-mail. Soon they could leave comments on articles. Then came blogs, and with built-in features such as comments. People commented on not only a blogger's content but also on one another's comments. Blog comments weren't feature-rich, but they turned websites into online communities.

Now you can build your website on a blog platform and instantly have an easier way to manage content and updates as well as embed more social features into your site.

Comments on blogs are no longer confined to websites. Social commenting tools, such as Facebook Connect comments, and third-party software add-ons, such as Disqus and Livefyre, let people log in to your website to comment using their social media accounts or identities. Add social networking triggers to your site to increase the likelihood of people engaging with you — and with each other — when they visit.

Here are some of the basic ways people typically engage on websites:

One Way Two Ways Multiple Ways
Signing up for an offer N/A N/A
Filling out a feedback form Finding live help Supporting the community
Sharing with a friend N/A Clicking a Like or Favorite widget
Answering polls (private results) Answering polls (public results) Answering polls with sharing
E-mailing site owner Adding comments to site Adding social comments
No matter how many interactive tools and features you place on your website or blog, people are increasingly inclined to move the conversation to their favorite social networks. That's why you should embrace social networking for stronger and more consistent engagement than your website can provide and to integrate your social networks into your site to make the transition to those networks easy and seamless.

Your website content may be interesting, and people might return to read it, but if you cannot engage site visitors in dialogue, they're less likely to convert to prospects — they'll be avid but inactive readers.

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