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Social media can be a powerful tool for marketing a website and its products or services. This is a big topic which we can only address briefly in this course, looking at some basic steps which should be taken by someone managing and promoting a WordPress website.

Choose your platforms and be prepared to put in time and effort

It takes time to use social media, and using it for serious purposes is no exception. So you’ll need to decide how many social media platforms, and which ones, to spend your time on.

At this point in time, the overall most influential platforms are Facebook and Twitter. But any platform where you have a following is a good place to engage.

Whichever social media you focus on, you’ll need to spend time on that platform, posting useful and interesting stuff and interacting with other people. There is no benefit to just signing up for an account and having the associated buttons and links on your website. It takes time and effort. The word “social” in this context is key: it’s all about interacting with other human beings. So be realistic about what you have time for. And be honest about what you have the inclination for. For example, if you just don’t “get” Twitter, or you can’t stand the atmosphere on Facebook, you’re not likely to get much promotional benefit from it. But try not to write any of them off until you’ve given them a good try. Google Plus, in particular, is new and unfamiliar to a lot of people. But make no mistake about it: Google uses Google+ in the algorithms that determine search engine ranking, so it pays to engage on Google+.

Your posts and interactions on social media

Promoting a website and the organization it represents requires a different type of presence on social media than the way it is used for personal reasons: you need to be a giver. This may seem obvious, but it’s important enough that it’s worth stating: people will only be interested in your social media posts if they offer some genuine benefit. Your posts and interactions should offer information, tips, or at least good-quality entertainment or humor. This is the only way that people will follow you and share your content.

Include your website URL in your posts — maybe not all of the time, but frequently. You’re looking for a balance here, providing people with interesting stuff to keep them following you and sharing your posts, but not forgetting that you do really want them to visit your website.

Connecting social media with a WordPress website

Now let’s look at how your WordPress website can be a useful part of this promotional machine.

Essentially, you want your website to be a link in the big web of people you’re connected with online. You want to draw new people in and have them follow your social media posts, and you want them to take your content and spread it across their own people-networks.

There are two basic ways to make these connections on a website.

1. Encouraging website visitors to follow you on your social media accounts

This is pretty simple: you provide links, usually nice matching buttons, that invite your website visitors to click through to your social media profile screen, where they can see information about you and follow you. Of course, there should be buttons only for the social media accounts you actually use regularly.

Some themes include a feature allowing you to present these button-links. If your theme doesn’t, the easiest way is with a WordPress plugin. We recommend some plugins which are current, well-reviewed and well-supported in the Resources list below, but you’ll want to try them out for yourself and see which work well for you. In particular, the appearance of the buttons that are displayed by a given plugin may or may not work well with your website. If one plugin just doesn’t suit your website, remove it and try another.

2. Encouraging visitors who like your website content to share it on their own social media platforms

When people share your content on their own social networks, that’s a huge benefit for you, marketing-wise. That blog post or infographic or video that someone shares is a backlink (a link back to your site) which helps to boost your site’s ranking with Google. So producing content that people will want to share is crucial.

If you think your website may be lacking in this kind of content, you should be thinking about how to begin adding some on a regular basis. Blogging is one ideal way to do this.

Share buttons are also easily added to a WordPress site via a plugin. See the Resources list below for our current recommendations. Because plugins can become outdated quickly, as always, please check for yourself that any plugin you install has been updated recently by the author, is getting good ratings, and offers some type of support in case you run into problems.

Stay current and check your site’s social media features often

With anything involving social media platforms, please keep in mind that you’re working in a technological frontier where things can change rapidly. In using social media for serious business purposes, we need to stay current.