Add Social Networking to Your Website - Part II

Written By: Elliott Kosmiski
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With a couple of new tools, anyone (yes, even you) can add social networking features to their website! If you're not sold on the idea, imagine going to a Starbucks in the morning and everyone being invisible. No talking, no meeting someone new… just empty silence. THIS is the standard world of visiting a website today. What if you could create an atmosphere of community by allowing your visitors to see who else is there? Allowing them to interact in a similar way that they would in the real world gives people the opportunity to feel connected - to others, your site, AND YOU!

Let's touch on three of the primary options you have for integrating some social activity into your site. For each method, I'll also discuss how I use it and why: Your Options

Google Friend Connect

My current favorite, Google Friend Connect allows easy copy-paste code for you to integrate social modules right into your site. Recently, they added an option to have a "social bar" - instead of using a standard box that might go in your sidebar. Although it seems the colors can't be customized yet (social bar only), I prefer this bar over a box because of how it seems more integrated into the site. Now, if you haven't yet, look down and join us!

Comments can be left between users and people can see who else has become a member of the site's community. Google allows you choose whether you have comments exist for each page, or the entire site. I've opted to have comments carry through the entire site simply because on a blog, people are used to commenting on a post the old fashioned way.

Google Friend Connect is also integrated with your Twitter friends. If someone you follow on Twitter is a member of the site you're on - you'll see them listed as a friend in Google Friend Connect.

If you go the sidebar/box method, you have an option to also display a rating box. This box allows the user to rate the page or site (again, your choice). I'm not using this, but considered it for post ratings.

Facebook Connect

Facebook Connect is a little more complicated right now. There are some plugins to make parts of integrating this into your site, but for some people it might just be too much. Essentially, you can allow user's to log into your site, post comments, and have those comments sent to their Facebook stream. This is a very in-depth integration and it becomes obvious why it can get more complicated.

The plugin Good Plum is using for this is by Sociable. The WordPress Facebook integration plugin provides a sidebar that displays all the members that have connected to your site through Facebook (we're not using this part anymore), allows users to leave a comment using their Facebook login, and then optionally sends that comment into their Facebook stream (great for virality).

The bottom line with the Facebook Connect system is that until they make it easier for people without coding experience to implement, it's not going to be taking leaps and bounds into the average person's site.

MyBlogLog by Yahoo!

The easiest of the easy, MyBlogLog is the oldest and easiest way to add basic social networking features to your site. After creating an account, you grab a widget to post into your site. Then, other logged-in MyBlogLog members who come across your site will be listed, as well as people who choose to "join" your site.

You likely see these boxes on many blogs across the internet (including one here to the right). The reason it's become so popular is because it's very easy on the author to implement, as well as the user to use. Simply log-in if you're not already and click "join." Instant community!

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