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Google +1 and Twitter Follow Buttons – what are they and how should you use them?

The last few days have seen a bit of a flurry in activity around the release of buttons that can be added to websites. I thought I’d take a little bit of time to explain what these buttons are, and why you should think about putting them on your website.

What is a button

First of all let’s talk a little about what a button is. A button for a website is essentially a pre-built bit of code that a company can create which makes it easy for a website owner to put a tiny bit of another website onto their own site. It’s really just a link but it’ll have a fancy image or logo on top of it. The advantage of them is that a company who creates a button can ensure that website owners add a standard button to their websites that their users will recognise, for example the Facebook ‘like’ button is now recognised by Facebook users on any website, and they know exactly what it will do if they click on it. Twitter and Google are jumping on the same band wagon.

Twitter

The Twitter button is important because, until now, if you owned a website and wanted to promote the fact that you were on Twitter too, you had to provide a link to your Twitter feed on your website. The problem with this was that in order for a visitor to your website to ‘follow’ you on Twitter, they had to leave your site and go to Twitter in order to do so. Inevitably, a percentage of people who do that will get distracted by what’s on Twitter and fail to return to your site. You could counteract that a little by making the link open in a new window, but the new button is much better. Essentially if someone clicks on it while signed in to Twitter they will automatically add your Twitter updates to their news stream.

Google +1

Google +1 is Google’s attempt to join in the social web (former CEO Eric Schmidt admitted yesterday that he’d not done enough to get Google moving down the social route before, so they’re playing catch up now with Facebook). For those of you not familiar with the terminology, ‘+1′ is a shorthand way of saying ‘I agree’, used by slightly nerdy types, usually in emails or on web forums. Google is trying to open this up a bit to the not-so-geeky world and get us all recommending websites and news stories to our friends. It’s a good idea I think, but it’ll be interesting to see if it can catch up with the Facebook like button which has just become absolutely ubiquitous.

As a website owner or administrator, what should you do?

My first recommendation is that if you have a Twitter feed (and keep it up to date and fresh!) you should implement the Twitter follow button. Instructions for doing so are here: add Twitter follow button. You don’t need to be particularly techy, but you do need to be copy and paste code into your site. If you can’t do it, the person who manages your website will be able to do so, or contact us and we’ll be able to help. You can customise what the button looks like, e.g if you have a dark background on your site you would want the lighter version of the button, and you can choose a few other options such as whether to show how many people are following you or not. If you already have a link to your Twitter feed, you can simply replace this with the new button. If you have embedded your Twitter feed into your website already and you feel it’s working well for you, you may not want to replace this with the Twitter follow button, but it might be worth using it somewhere else on the site, such as on the ‘contact’ or ‘about’ parts of your site.

With the Google +1 button, if you feel like being an early adopter and also feel that you have space on your site for the button, by all means go ahead and add it. It won’t do any harm, but I’d hazard a guess that it’ll be several months before it gains much traction, particularly outside the U.S, so it’s not desperately urgent. I’m going to put it on the Bread & Butter Marketing site and will let you know if I get any further insights that make me think that it should be an absolute necessity for every website.

Here are the instructions for adding the Google +1 button.

If you have any questions or comments, do leave them below or get in touch if you need some help! And please do Follow us on Twitter or +1 our site! (NB if you’re a Google Apps user they haven’t yet released the functionality to allow you to do +1ing -grrr!).

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