Social features include feed syndication, social network buttons, user votes, followers, blog directories, and polls. One of the goals of these features is to get more feedback, more visitor participation, more comments, and finally inbound links to your site. What you'll get is more traffic and more traffic means ads on your blog sell for higher prices.
One of the goals are links. Inbound links, also called backlinks, are any links on some other blog or web site that points to your blog. The amount of inbound links from highly ranked sites to your site is one of the most important criteria used by search engines to rank your pages. In a poll of webmasters, these search engine ranking factors were ranked as most relevant:
The wikipedia article on social media optimization cites Rohit Bhargava's 5 rules for social media optimization:
- Make tagging and bookmarking easy
- Reward inbound links
- Help your content travel
- Encourage the mashup
- Get communities connected
Use one of the many widgets to allow social bookmarking, such as the addthis button or the social bookmark script, or addtoany. You might want to put direct links to more relevant social bookmarking sites such as digg or twitter and others. An efficient way to do so which allows a lot of customization is a social networking toolbar. Additionally On top of your posts you can add a "tweet this button" and the "digg this" button.
Having success in social networking sites depends on many factors. Among these factors is sheer luck, however some factors are well-known and studied. You might want to read my summary of published scientific studies on how to submit your articles to digg.
Feed syndication can help to build your regular readership. People will see that you blogged a new post and will come to read it if they see it's interesting to them. Regular readers are more likely to leave comments and probably more likely to leave good comments. Feed syndication is easy for a blog. On most blogging platform, including blogger, you have several feeds. On blogger this includes a post feed, all different labels, comments, and comments to particular articles. You can put up links to your feeds and some easy link to subscription. If you use feedburner (or any other feed syndication platform) you can get ready widgets to plug into your site.
Getting feedback for your writing can be rewarding in itself and makes people enjoy your site more. More feedback will improve content and in turn attract more visitors. As studies show, Comments are very useful to build social connections with other bloggers which can lead to incoming traffic, backlinks, and inclusion in blogrolls.
Therefore it is an imperative to make it easy to write comments and answer comments. You may want to see my post about attracting more comments.
What I found very useful is the widget to display recent comments. Another widget that you can easily find on the net and that can stimulate commenting is the top commentator widget that shows people with most comments.
Another interesting feature is to allow people to vote your posts. There are many different widgets with this functionality, among them the popular outbrain "rate this post" widget, which links to posts with highest evaluation. Other alternatives are the adrating widget, or to use blogger's own rating feature, which you can find in the blogger layout page (post properties).
A note of caution at the end: as Kevin Marks remarks in his post how twitter works in theory, social networks follow their own rules. In the end many people may show up to create traffic to their own sites, without contributing at all neither to content not to your advertising click-rate.
What are your experiences with social features on your website?