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The Definitive Guide to Social Sharing

By Michael Olson | Posted on September 12, 2012

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This is the fourth in a series of blog posts outlining best practices for integrating social technologies on your site.

For marketers, generating quality site traffic is crucial. Digital publishers determine CPM rates and revenue models based on quantity and quality of site traffic, and retailers rely on generating high-converting traffic to product pages to drive purchase behavior.

Social networks are a veritable gold mine to generate referral traffic, but many brands have struggled to achieve visibility within the news feed. Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm can be a tough nut to crack – we know how you feel. It is designed to promote relevance by favoring news feed posts from friends with whom you frequently interact. While your brand page may have plenty of fans and likes, your Facebook posts could get lost in the news feed unless consumers frequently interact with your messages or visit your page.

Social sharing helps circumvent this challenge by tapping peer recommendations to promote your site content in social feeds and drive quality traffic to your site. It lets consumers promote content or activities from your site (such as comments, purchases and reviews) to their friends on multiple social networks, which fosters brand advocacy and drives qualified referral traffic to your site. Some Janrain customers generate as many as 25 qualified referral visitors to their site every time content or activities (such as comments, purchases or reviews) are shared to a social network.

Social sharing harnesses the high EdgeRank affinity scores that your site visitors already have with their friends, and uses those friends as a channel to promote your content through word-of-mouth marketing. Social posts that originate from consumers are more likely to filter to the top of the news feed than those from your brand.

Planning for Success:

Enable Sharing to Multiple Networks

People carry multiple personas online, and their sharing tendencies are a reflection of that. We use Facebook to share personal updates for friends, Twitter to share content about our interests to a broad audience, and LinkedIn to share professional content. Your social sharing tool should allow people to share content with multiple networks, all from a single interface. This broadcasts your content across multiple social streams and casts a wider net for your brand.

Increase Utilization with Contextual Sharing

Many sharing buttons are presented as a game of hide-and-seek on a page. Users need to seek out a button hidden on a page and click it to initiate a share. There is a better way. Prompt users to share content or site activities contextually – immediately after posting a comment, purchasing a product, writing a review, or achieving a game milestone.

Improve Relevance with Targeted Sharing and Refer-a-Friend Programs

While social sharing puts a megaphone in a consumer’s hands, sometimes a whispered conversation is a more appropriate way to share. The most effective sharing tools let users browse a list of their social network friends or email address books and choose recipients for a shared message. Users want to share relevant content and site activities with selected friends via direct message (Twitter), to their friends’ wall (Facebook) or privately via email, and targeted sharing makes it possible to create highly effective refer-a-friend programs.

Access Profile Data When Users Share

Most sharing tools only provide an anonymous view of who is sharing content from a site. As digital marketers become more sophisticated about understanding their online consumer for targeting and personalization, your sharing tool should allow you to collect detailed and accurate profile information about the sharer. Prompting users to connect their Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn identity enables users to opt to share (no pun intended) access to their profile data when sharing content from your site.

Don’t Redirect Users Away From Your Site to Share

Lots of free sharing tools redirect a user away to a social network to complete a share action. Why would you want to send away your hard-earned traffic? Browser redirects create a jarring experience for your users and increase the likelihood that they will bounce from your site altogether. An effective social sharing tool contains the entire sharing experience on your site.

Case Study:


To learn more about social sharing as well as other social technologies, check out our Definitive Guide to User Management.

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About the author

Michael Olson

Michael Olson

Senior Product Marketing Manager

Michael Olson joined Janrain more than five and a half years ago and has experienced the explosive growth of the digital marketing technology landscape. Previously, he managed demand generation programs at Janrain. Currently, as the Senior Product Marketing Manager, Michael drives go-to-market strategy for product launches as well as positioning and messaging to communicate the value of customer profile management solutions to companies. Michael's writing has been featured in publications such as GigaOM, Adotas and iMedia Connection.

View all posts by Michael Olson