The Proper Care and Feeding of Social Media Icons

social-icon-postThey live on countless websites, aiding in content sharing all across the internet. Some people adopt them from existing websites, while others prefer to design their own. No, we’re not talking about some new digital pet game; we’re talking about social media icons, and how to use them.


On Your Website: the Natural Habitat of Social Media Icons

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Social icons are a vital part of your website’s ecosystem; they make it easy for visitors to find and share the content you create. If you decide to open your site to these lovely creatures, you’ll be far more likely to see the likes, follows, shares, and tweets that we know you’re looking for.

Two kinds of icons you will find on a website

  1. Connect icons are used to direct site visitors to your social media pages. These playful creatures are often found frolicking by a site’s navigation bar; however, they can also hang out near author bios, or  page footers. Wherever you decide to place them, make sure that your connect icons are easy for visitors to find – we typically put them near the rest of a company’s contact information.
  2. Share icons may look similar to connect icons, but they’re actually a completely different species. When clicked, these icons prompt a user to share content within their social circles. This typically involves a pop-up window, showing editable text that the user can then post to their social network of choice.

You’ll only need one connect icon for each of your social media accounts (i.e. if your company is not on Facebook, you will not have a Facebook connect icon). However, you should have share icons for all of the major social media sites, even if you don’t personally use them. As a general rule, you should always try to include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google +. To cover all your bases, we also recommend adding icons for Pinterest, Reddit, and Buffer.

Adding Icons to Your Site

Connect icons are really just images that link to your respective social media profiles. On WordPress sites, we typically place these links in a widget, which we then style to fit the layout. If you prefer, you can also choose from a variety of plugins to do the job, many of which come with their own built-in icon sets.

Share icons use slightly more complicated coding, so we typically use a plugin to accomplish the job. Our current favorites are Share Buttons by AddThis and Simple Share Buttons Adder.

In Print Media: Home of the Domestic Social Icon

The number one problem with putting your social media information in print is that you can’t click a printed icon, and listing all of your profiles as URLs makes for a messy ad. Many social media sites, like Facebook, allow you to choose a shorter vanity URL for your profile. However, this isn’t the case for every site, and even then, who wants to type in a long URL to visit you on Facebook?

The Solution: Socialize Your Print Marketing with a Devoted Connection Page

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Print-based social media icons need a little online care. Instead of including a list of every URL for each of your social profiles on your ad (or worse, just marketing Facebook and Twitter with their logo’s on YOUR ad), create a single page on your site with your social profile links, and use it in your ad. Give the page a short and sweet URL, like www.MySiteHere.com/connect. Place icons for all of your profiles next to this single URL, and voila! Your print piece is now visually appealing and functional.

Now that you have a dedicated connection page, and brand styled icon display with a single URL, let’s take it a bit further and leverage our connect art to some tracking!

  • Run your connection page URL through a URL shortener, like bit.ly . This will allow you to track how many people landed on your connection page from your print ad!
  • Use a QR code to allow people to point and tap to your connection page from their mobile device. Some QR code generators allow for tracking, or you can use the bit.ly URL in your QR code.

The beauty of this method is that you only need to create the connection page once, and use new shortened URLs for each print use. Now, you are geared to track the results of including this information in your print materials!

A Brief Word on Social Media Profiles and Print Media

This guide tells you how to link to your social media profiles, but that doesn’t always mean you should – especially in print media. There are no hard and fast rules, but in general:

  • Avoid putting links to social media in your stationary designs. If social media information is important to a memo, put it directly in the text.
  • Don’t overload your business card with profile information. Your name, title, email, and phone number should be plenty, especially if you aren’t a heavy social media user. If you really want to include it, try using a connection page for each employee, or just give information for the profile you use most often.

Put It into Practice with Our Social Icon Sets!

Now that you know how to properly use social media icons, you’re probably itching to adopt a fancy new set for your site. Luckily for you, we a great selection of print and web-ready icons sets available for download.

Good luck, and happy tweeting, posting, liking, and any other new social verb that has developed since we typed this.


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