SOCIAL MEDIA is a verb in my world. SOCIAL MEDIA happens when a digital media source engenders a social activity between business and user. In my world this means, 9 times out of 10, getting a user to take part in a conversation or action on a website.

And this is why I am a web designer’s worst nightmare.

The first thing I tell any client is that social media isn’t just posting stuff to facebook and twitter. In fact these “icon networks” as I call them are last on my list of priorities when designing any campaign.

Sounds funky, right? Well, consider your product. Unless you’re selling status updates a facebook page or twitter account isn’t really going to get you a whole lot of revenue. Where does revenue come from? For my clients, from their website or brick and mortar store.

So for me, social media begins on a website where I join with the marketing team and business owner to define what actions a user should take when they are on that website. All the “icon networks” are there to support that action.

Thus, a web designer may come up with a beautiful looking website full of wonderful graphics, powerful links and the world’s coolest logo. Then I walk up behind them, nod sagely and ask: So what does it do?

Then they get mad. Then, when I start suggesting ways to make the website “do something” they get irate. My ideas come from the perspective of “function” which often jacks up a designer’s concept of “form”. Well- too bad. We’re in the business of making money.

An anecdote: This weekend I had a long discussion with one of my major clients. The “action” they wanted on their website was for people to sign up to their mailing list (Why? Because unless someone accidentally googled this company they would not ever end up on the website, so they needed a way to retain users off site and engage in email marketing tactics).

Well the site was getting six figure traffic but collecting zero emails for the mailing list. I put on my, “Think like a user” cap and looked at the site. The mailing list function was a small box somewhere behind the fold (they had to scroll down to see it) that just said, “Sign up for our mailing list”

Well that’s a weak call to action! Call to actoins involve VERBS! And, believe it or not, “signup” is not a verb (source: See?

So I had them move the Signup form to a more natural and prominent place on the page and “socialize” it.

This began with a new call to action- now instead of “signup” it says, “Get involved”. Ok, get is an “irregular” verb, but at least its a verb! But to make the signup form more social I had them add a bit of text on the privacy policy. A simple, “We will never share your email” is sufficient. That little text now makes this a two way conversation that goes like this:

They land on the website.

A powerful message explains why the website is there.

A simple call to action requests that users get involved.

The user looks at the signup sheet and the company says, “We won’t share your email.”

The user thinks, “Oh, good- but what ARE you going to send me?”

Well, the website replies, “Updates on simple ways you can support the cause without leaving your computer.”

The user goes, “Ok, that’s good. I’m game.” and signs up.

This is much different than the original “conversation” happening between website and users. That conversation went like this:

“Sign up for our website.”


What I’m saying here is that your website needs to be optimized to anticipate these imaginary “conversations” between user and site, and be ready to convert visits into sales. If you don’t have that, you’re wasting your time with every single twitter or facebook post which drives people to that site.

So look at your own business’ website. What roadblocks are there between the user and the action you want them to take? How can you solve them? What’s more important- form or function? Which makes more money?

Let me know if you have a website that needs a juice! I’m happy to drop advice on blog readers and friends.

Stay social,


English: YOKOSUKA, Japan (Nov. 24, 2009) Chief...

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