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-PLACE YOUR BUTTON
Now it's time to place button, and there are multiple placement options depending on what you want your visitors to share and in what context item to be shared appears. Remember that your button is a call to action, so best placement is at point in your process where your visitors are most engaged, and motivated. The number one location for a product referral is page where product appears and appears by itself or differentiated from other products. Not only will your visitor not yet be preoccupied with billing addresses and credit card numbers, you also do not run risk of losing a referral opportunity because you placed button deeper in ordering process, where likelihood of an abandoned shopping cart rises.
If you provide a referral tool for an article or white paper, best spot for button is at beginning of article or white paper for shorter pieces and at both beginning and end for pieces more than a page in length. Like most surfers do not read every line of text on every site, it is likely many of your visitors will also not be reading every single sentence and paragraph of what they might send on, especially if they're doing preliminary research or idly surfing.
Other prime locations for referral buttons, depending on your site and on your needs, are your home page, your product or service pages, and on any special offers. Ask yourself what it is you want visitors to your site to pass along and place buttons accordingly. Place button close to names, icons, or logos that you expect to catch attention, while also keeping important basics as close to top of page as possible. Web sites, like newspapers have a "fold" (i.e., what's seen before user has to scroll) and anything considered of paramount importance should be placed above fold.
-OPTIMIZE YOUR LINK
A link is a link is a link. Not exactly a lot of design flexibility, is there? The best you can do, and what you should do it if you can, is to create links that carry at least a part of your message. A very simple example would be http://www.xyz.com/share. The real key with links is to accompany them with a short, clear, and compelling message. Also, underline or color text of your link so that it is obviously a link.
-PLACE YOUR LINK
Again we go back to our earlier point that call to action works best when visitor has been fully engaged. If you want people to share an article or white paper, link goes at both beginning, when they're first interested about material, and at end, when they've read it. If it's in an email, you put it at whatever point in your message that you've given your reader strongest incentive to act. Place it too early in process, (before that special offer or promotion), and it is like suddenly demanding money from your customer when they are only halfway through purchasing decision process. You not only won't gain a customer, you will lose one customer with exceptional word-of-mouth potential.
-THE SECRET INGREDIENT
Consider Three Scenarios:
1. People love your site, but you don't give them any tools, much less any incentive, to share it.
2. People love your site, and you give them an easy and obvious way to share it.
3. People love your site, and you not only give them an easy and obvious way to share it, but you actually reward them for doing so.
Which scenario will result in most referrals? Which scenario would you yourself respond to best? Adding referral tools is a great start, but when you also add an incentive, you've given your visitors no reason not to act, and your response rate will skyrocket accordingly. As e-sales guru David Weltman, successful CEO and former IBM advisor, says, "What you get is referrals on rocket fuel."
But before you start handing out incentives, consider what your target audience will value and appreciate. To a tech-savvy audience, an offer of a free "Outhouse Construction for Numbskulls" manual will be less compelling than, say, free shipping or entry in a contest to win a new monitor.
When used properly, nothing can match power of viral marketing. It is so effective because it is based on personal opinion, much same way an editorial carries more weight than an advertisement because it's coming from a trusted source. You trust your friends and colleagues to send you material that is interesting, useful, and pertinent to you personally. Trust will always be more powerful than flashy design and expensive ad campaigns, and when information comes from someone you trust, it is much more powerful.
You can employ a team of designers and programmers and copywriters to build you a beautiful and functional site. You can pay for content, buy advertising, and even purchase lists of email addresses. The one thing you can't buy when growing your business is trust of your users and recommendations from current customers to potential new ones. That's achieved only with viral marketing.
I hope this helps in your future marketing decisions.
David Bell is Manager, Online Marketing, at http://www.wspromotion.com/ , a leading Search Engine Optimization services firm and Advertising Agency.