A Facebook Icon is Not “Social Integration”

A wise man once philosophised that those who don’t know what they’re saying hide behind big words, while masterminds can explain a subject matter in a way that even a child can understand. It’s often true, and I think the same applies to so many areas of design and web development.

By now, I’ve gotten used to various ‘gurus’ popping up all over the place and taking advantage of clients who are simply a little less informed than they are. The most recent of these guruhoods is the web-designing social media guru who not only “designs websites”, but also “integrates social media”. Meaning they place social media icon sets in your header and footer. Funny.

Well, in a sense, an icon that can be clicked to take you to a company’s social media profile has indeed “integrated” social media. But how’s that different from a simple text link? If that’s how we define social media integration, then are photo links “visual media integration” and email links “communication media integration”? Get the drift?

There is much more to social media integration than just icons. Having done this for a while, it’s become clear to me that true social media integration happens at the API level.

The Next Web makes use of several API’s and is a good example of meaningful social integration. The custom experience is worth the extra effort and time.

With API’s, the possibilities are endless. Here are a few random ideas:

  1. Use social login options for your web app
  2. Use bitly’s API to automatically shorten links that exceed a given character length
  3. Use API’s to create custom sharing and analytics experiences
    (as seen on our site, if I may say so myself)
  4. Embed tweets directly onto web pages
  5. Add follow buttons on your author profiles
  6. Build a Facebook app or game for your cause/campaign
  7. Allow users to see what their Facebook friends are currently reading on your news website

Like I said, the possibilities are endless, so don’t be contented with copy-pasted widgets and free icon sets. Anyone can do that.

Push it to the limit.

Signed. Martians.