How to Redesign Your Site with Social in Mind

Today, the first part of a two part series on site design and social media from our good friend and savvy techie, Juliette Reynolds.  I am sure many of you will recognize Juliette’s name from her time and great work at Miles Media.  Excited to have her unique perspective on such a popular topic.  Thanks for the guest post Jules.

So you’re about to undertake the greatly anticipated redesign of your website. In this, the first of two parts, we’ll show you how to create a new site that takes social media into consideration before you begin. We’re using social media with a broad brush to include comments and Q&As, in addition to separate platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

The site – the nexus of your online presence
Your new website has to work very hard: attract potential visitors, travel professionals and meeting planners, provide information about your destination’s geography, move the leisure traveler from dreaming to booking his or her stay, present industry information in an easy-to-sort-and-digest fashion and provide a way for visitors to connect with you by ordering a visitor’s guide or signing up for an e-newsletter. Oh, and please stakeholders and your industry constituents.

And now it has to be aware of, and contribute to, the conversation and community around your destination, your brand.

So how do you design a site with social in mind?
I’m assuming you already have a fabulous social media plan that includes blogs, video production and a presence on YouTube or Vimeo, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter, FourSquare and, for your b2b efforts, social media serving business folk, such as LinkedIn (If you don’t, please see me after class).

If you’re small, and can manage a couple of these channels, and you’re leisure focused, I recommend a blog and Facebook. A blog to deliver detailed information about your destination or timely updates about your services and Facebook to address the specific questions of your audience.

Content worth reading and sharing
I’m also assuming you have relevant content (text, photos, the aforementioned videos, audio, slideshows, industry listings etc.) with which to entice the vacation-bound to your spot of paradise.

I’m assuming you have content users want to read and interact with, and a program to add to your shiny new site over time. Repeat visitors love to see new information about experiences, food, attractions, tours and resorts as they’re planning their trips. And search engines have always favored sites that are continually being updated.

And after all, you’re going to have to link to this luscious content from your social media efforts. So solid content must be part of your plan.

Harnessing the collective wisdom
But don’t forget there are robust communities whose collective wisdom – and valuable content – can be harnessed to great effect. TripAdvisor provides useful reviews from travelers and Virtual Tourist is a community of users passionate about broadcasting the ins and outs of travel to and details about their communities. And potential visitors trust the opinions of those who have experienced your destination first hand over one-size-fits-all copy that may please your industry.

Sure, it’s risky to link out to potentially unfavorable reviews, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, I say. Your audience is already looking in those places for information. It’s time to facilitate the conversation.

Many of these communities have applications that connect their content to your site, thus extending the content to your site visitors. Powerful stuff, when you think about it. Hundreds of people poised to help your customers find their way around, make the right hotel choice and have a great vacation, to boot.

For an example, check out pioneer Visit London’s efforts using TripAdvisor’s API. You can access the TripAdvisor search from most pages on the site or encounter it by chance when viewing particular property details.

Some content is free and some requires you to be a licensed partner, but it’s certainly worth looking in to as a way to provide further, qualitative details about your destination.

Or, you could link out to selected members on a site such as Virtual Tourist; look for contributors who provide that inside scoop on your destination or service offering. Or perhaps there’s a superb food blogger in your city or state whose work you can link to from your site.

Check out the communities around your location and be selective about your partner and judicious in the incorporation of these elements to the site. One or two will do.

The book of face – “Like” button
Facebook’s like button on your site’s pages works a couple of different ways that are significant to you as a DMO. Much like ratings, they communicate the efficacy or popularity of content so that site visitors view the content more favorably (or not, as the case may be). They can also link Facebook users’ friends to your site, thus increasing the link love and extending your reach.

Next Tuesday: Delving deeper into the local knowledge and designing for flexibility.

Juliette Reynolds is an award-winning digital strategist specializing in user experience design and content marketing. During the past eight years, she has designed programs for some of the United States’ largest city and state DMOs.

Have a question or digital conundrum? Drop her a line and pick her brain.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.