Writing Right for the Web… naming links to social media

Writing Effective Website Links: Simple, Clear Language Wins the Day

Earlier this year a college creating a mobile website had a dilemma: what to name links from the website itself to social media sites that included Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube.

So an enterprising fellow went along to the University Web Developers listserv and asked the folks who create and maintain websites for suggestions on how they would handle the task. 
The answers received nicely illustrate the urge to get creative with website language vs. the desirability of using terms that visitors (in this case, current students were identified as the primary audience) will immediately recognize.
When “Writing Right for the Web” it is almost always best to stay with conventional expressions that are in wide use. When you want people to make a right turn, just say “Make a Right Turn” rather than invent new ways of describing the desired action.
It was a popular query. Here are the 11 responses received:
  • “Socialize With Us”
  • “Connect With Us”
  • “Social Networks”
  • “Social Media”
  • “Social Media Directory”
  • “Get Social with (initials of school)”
  • “Connect With Us”
  • “Stay Connected”
  • “Social Media @ (initials of school)”
  • “Social Media”
  • “Connect to (initials of school) Social Media”
I’ll cast my vote with the two people who recommended the most simple solution possible: “Social Media.” That advice came from Eric Stoller and Andrew Bauserman at College of William and Mary. Clean and simple and immediately understood by anyone visiting the page. Click on that and you expect to arrive at a list of the available social media sites. 
“Social Media” was one of the first thoughts of the person who asked the question, Paul Dempsey, director of electronic communications at Dickinson College. Paul asked the question for use on a planned mobile website. This is a case where the same solution works equally well for both traditional and mobile sites.
“Connect With Us” doesn’t work nearly as well. That might mean a place to email, call, or write someone on campus. Initials of the school probably are not needed either. Most people will assume a link to “Social Media” is to sites sponsored by the school operating the website.

May 19 & 26: “Writing Right for the Web: Traditional, Social Media and Mobile Sites”

Review what’s planned for the next “Writing Right for the Web” webinars as we explore content, style, and presentation to boost the effectiveness of your online content 

Visit the session description and registration pages.

Join me for the next two-part webinar session with Academic Impressions. 
That’s all for now.

One Comment

  1. I consider myself a plain language proponent, and always advocate for calling a right turn a right turn. However, this particular presecription seems counterintuitve to me because being “connected” seems like the simpler, plainer expression. Does everyone who uses facebook, twitter, etc., realize that we web professionals refer to it is “social media”? (To me that’s inside baseball terminology, akin to calling Mass.Gov a “portal” or our information and services “content” – these terms make sense internally, but not necessarily with the general public we serve.) I recognize though that the academic world may be quite different.
    Regardless of audience, I am not sure I agree with segregating “social media” from other ways of “staying connected” in the first place – it seems like siloing the channels of access.

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